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Portable careers: agency cooperation lets eligible family members fill employment needs.

Through creative management, the Department's Office of Personnel Security and Suitability and the Office of Personnel Management have forged an alliance that exemplifies efficiency in government, while also benefiting Eligible Family Members.

The program involves hiring family members at missions abroad to fill the gap in employment opportunities overseas.

Faced with the challenge of meeting the provisions of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 for timeliness in processing security clearance investigations, the Bureau of Diplomatic Security and OPM combined resources to allow the processing of security clearances overseas to proceed faster, more efficiently and at reduced cost. The Economy Act of 1932 allows federal government agencies to purchase goods or services from other federal government agencies when it is deemed to be in the best interest of the government.

Donald R. Reid, DS senior coordinator for Security Infrastructure, and Kathy L. Dillaman, associate director of the Federal Investigative Services Division at OPM, orchestrated this dynamic partnership. They hired 18 overseas EFMs as DS special investigators who directly contribute to faster security clearance investigations.

DS and OPM entered into a Memorandum of Understanding, which outlined this collaborative arrangement. It was determined that OPM's greatest investigative needs were in the high-volume areas of London, Frankfurt, Seoul and Tokyo/Naha. A job announcement was posted for the EFMs at these embassies and consulates. After resumes were reviewed and selections made, the new investigator candidates were flown to Boyers, Pa., to attend a two-week DS/OPM investigator training program.

Most of the training was conducted at OPM's training facility in Boyers, a former limestone mine converted into office space 250 feet below the ground. The investigators attended lectures, trained in report writing and participated in mock interviews to hone their interviewing skills. OPM instructors taught the course, with DS instructors providing State-specific training.

Sixteen special investigators graduated from the program in November and were issued Department credentials authorizing them to conduct personnel security investigations for the federal government. Two others had already met OPM standards to perform security clearance investigations. As they transfer to other posts, they are qualified for continued employment with the Department and OPM.

"Identifying a talented pool of candidates overseas who are qualified to perform security clearance investigations was the cornerstone to this innovative solution," said James C. Onusko, director of the Office of Personnel Security and Suitability.

EFMs constitute a wealth of work experience. According to Ann D. Greenberg, director of the Family Liaison Office, a demographic study of EFMs serving at U.S. embassies and consulates found that more than three-quarters possess a bachelor's degree and more than half of those have a master's or other professional degree.

"This program will provide spouses the opportunity to develop a portable career that they can carry with them as they move from post to post around the world," she said.

A more efficient process for security clearances will soon become a reality for military and civilian personnel assigned overseas. In December, EFM special investigators participated in orientation sessions at military installations in London, Frankfurt, Seoul and Tokyo/Naha to get an overview of the Defense Department environment, as well as an introduction to the security contacts on the bases. The program is slated to expand to other locations.

"This newly formed State and OPM partnership is a win-win situation for the federal government and the American taxpayer," said Onusko. It also responds to Secretary Rice's goal of employing EFMs to increase retention and boost morale among Foreign Service employees.

RELATED ARTICLE: Who are the EFM Investigators?

The Bureau of Diplomatic Security asked the Eligible Family Members to complete a questionnaire during the course of the training program to learn a little about them.

The group has more than 94 years of cumulative federal government service. Of the 18 investigators, 16 have bachelor's degrees, seven have master's degrees and one has a Ph.D. Three have past law enforcement experience; one did background investigations in the U.S. for the Office of Personnel Management before moving overseas.

Many of the EFMs said they had given up careers in the States to accompany a spouse overseas and expressed frustration at not being able to find steady employment, given the limited job options for trailing spouses. One investigator retired from the Foreign Service and is now accompanying his Foreign Service wife. He said this position has provided a "new vista" for him.

Most said they decided to work as investigators because the job seemed challenging. They also cited the independence and flexibility. One said the flexibility will allow him to stay at home with his one-year-old son.

The author is an executive assistant in the Office of Personnel Security and Suitability.
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Author:Gehan, Margery
Publication:State Magazine
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 1, 2007
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