The Facility Security Officer role is key to company and national security. Learn how to succeed as one
The security industry is becoming known for plenty of opportunities to break into and climb the corporate ladder. Security is not limited to law enforcement but is needed in a variety of other branches like Homeland Security, FBI, DoD, the Department of Energy, etc. and for companies who contract with them. For many hoping to break into the high-security industry, becoming a Facility Security Officer (FSO) can be an ambitious goal to shoot for.
Whether you’re just starting out as a security professional or are transitioning into an existing FSO position, there are a series of steps and tools you can utilize to help you succeed. Anybody can be an FSO; your success in the role depends on how dedicated to the job you want to be. Get started early and plan accordingly with these helpful steps.
STEPP Up and Get Your Training
For a new FSO at a start-up company…
The first thing you’ll need to do is get your Personnel Clearance (PCL) to the same level as your Facility Clearance (FCL). In order to get those two clearances lined up, you’ll have to take the STEPP (Security Training, Education and Professionalization Portal) training through the Center for Development of Security Excellence (CDSE) website.
Possessing or Non-possessing?
STEPP is free if you register There are two trainings you can take: non-possessing or possessing. Non-possessing means the company you work for does not hold classified material at the company. Possessing means the company you work for has confidential, secret or top-secret information at their location. Non-possessing training is 28 hours and possessing training is 36 hours. The training you take is determined by the level of clearance that your company possesses (possessing or non-possessing). For FSOs at both non-possessing and possessing facilities, trainings include an intro to industrial security, understanding Foreign Ownership, Control or Influence (FOCI), and developing a security education training program. FSOs at possessing facilities also need to take trainings on topics including safeguarding classified information and marking special categories of classified information.
You have to pass your STEPP training with a 75% or higher and will be sent a certificate upon completion. That certificate along with a formal letter of appointment from your Senior Management Official (SMO) must be sent to your company’s government representative from the Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency (DCSA). Once those forms are sent in, you’ll be good to go step into the FSO role.
For a cleared employee transitioning into their company’s existing FSO position…
Even though you already have your PCL, as an FSO, it will be necessary to make sure your clearance matches your company’s level of FCL. So, if you need to take further STEPP training, you’ll follow directions as indicated in the previous section.
Prior to your transition into the existing FSO role at your company, your company’s SMO will have 72 hours to appoint a new FSO. The SMO must write a formal letter appointing the new FSO, send all info to the DCSA’s National Industrial Security System (NISS) portal and do a change condition package which entails uploading the formal letter and necessary government documents (such as a DD441). Once that information is uploaded, you’ll have six months to finish the STEPP FSO training and send your completion certificate from STEPP to your company’s DCSA government representative.
Feeling confused by the process? Follow these tips and tricks.
The whole FSO approval process can be daunting, but if you’re maintaining deadlines and keeping on track with your training, you’ll be there in no time.
Here are a few quick tips to keep in mind once you’re cleared:
- Save a copy of the STEPP certificate to your desktop or email it to yourself. It can be difficult to get a copy if you lose it.
- Stay organized. You’re not just managing your PCL but everyone else’s in the company too. Add important dates, like periodic reinvestigations or when someone needs to submit paperwork by, to your calendar so you don’t miss any deadlines.
- If you’re at a start-up company, do your time and due diligence. Most major companies require at least five years of experience in the FSO position. If you’re wanting to move up and expand your opportunities, get the most out the job you’re in at a start-up or smaller company. Larger companies may also have an assistant FSO, or AFSO position you can use as a launching pad into the FSO role.
FSOs often wear multiple hats within their company. Whether you’re a SMO or HR representative, maintaining the FSO duties and staying organized on top of your other responsibilities can be difficult. Here are some tips to make your life easier.
Utilize the DCSA Website
This website is dedicated to all things in the FSO realm. From clearance forms to government contracts, this place will have the best resources to help you to stay up to date on changes within DCSA.
Read the newsletters from your DCSA government representative
Reading the newsletters from your DCSA representative and maintaining a relationship with them will help you keep all clearances and contracts organized and up to date. While the National Industrial Security Operating Manual (NISPOM) might not change very often, it is of greatest importance you’re aware of your company’s clearance and contract requirements.
NCMS, the Society of Industrial Security Professionals, is the best place for you to stay connected to other FSOs and security professionals. It’s like the LinkedIn of the security world. As a member of the NCMS, you can receive additional in-depth training, mentoring and certification. Out of the 13,000 companies within the U.S. that have a facility clearance, around 6,000 of them are members of NCMS. From asking questions to simply finding a network of people who understand the work you do, NCMS is a great resource for an FSO.
In need of support? Consider outsourcing FSO work to consulting companies, like Adamo.
As an FSO, you will be handling multiple government contracts, all cleared employees’ PCLs, policies and procedures and appropriate training based on your company’s government contracts. The sheer amount of work to maintain these moving components is a lot for one person, which is why it may be wise to outsource some of the work.
Here are some things to consider when looking at FSO consulting groups:
- Make sure the FSO consulting group has a clearance of their own. They should have an FCL and a certified FSO.
- Ask for some examples of policies they’ve written for other clients.
- Inquire about ways they make annual refresher trainings engaging and interesting for cleared employees. All cleared employees at your company must attend at least two annual refresher training sessions.
- Share what government forms you might need assistance with and determine whether they have experience with those forms.
- Ask them about their 32 CFR Part 117, NISPOM knowledge. That handbook is essential to making sure your company remains in compliance with the government.
At Adamo, we have on-staff experts in security who can help you succeed in your role as an FSO. We’ve ticked the boxes on the above bullet points and are here to help you and your company. Check out our FSO support services today.