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The business of national security: once shrouded in mystery, the DIA opens up in search of new employees.

WHILE SERVING IN THE UNITED STATES AIR FORCE, L. Eric Patterson was introduced to the world of intelligence. "It intrigued me," the 59-year-old says of the work he did with the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, which conducts criminal investigations and counterintelligence inquiries. "You're always chasing bad guys." Patterson retired from the Air Force as a brigadier general in 2005 and took a job with consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton, providing support to the Department of Defense. Three years later he received a call about an opening at the Defense Intelligence Agency. "I loved Booz Allen, but as a contractor, I just wasn't part of the fight," Patterson says.

The "fight" Patterson speaks of is the DIA's core mission: providing military intelligence to those who are fighting wars and defense policymakers. In September of 2008, Patterson accepted the position of deputy director of the Defense Counterintelligence and Human Intelligence (also known as HUMINT) Center. "Counterintelligence professionals look for people who are trying to steal our secrets and harm our nation," says Patterson. "Every time you read about a terror suspect being caught, quite often it's not by accident. We look for indicators and as we see them, we pass the information on to the FBI or civilian law enforcement."

While the DIA has been around since 1961, "it has been a closed community for a long time," says Patterson. Most people had no idea what the organization did "unless you see Jack Bauer on [the television show] 24, but then you've got to figure out where to go to become that Jack Bauer kind of guy." But the DIA has opened its doors to newcomers partly because the nation now faces threats that require new technologies and skill sets. Opportunities exist, but knowing national security trends and possessing valued proficiencies can make all the difference in securing a position at the DIA.

FINDING THE OPPORTUNITIES

Positions at the DIA fall into three main categories. The vast majority are intelligence analyst positions since they represent the agency's core mission. The next largest category is information technology, which reflects the growing impact technology is having on intelligence gathering. Administrative positions, which support the day-to-day functioning of the agency, encompass areas such as human capital, financial services, and acquisitions.

The agency posts vacancies on its website, www.dia.mil, and advertises on the federal government's official jobs website, www.usajobs.gov. "Sometimes the window [of opportunity] is very short. There may be an ideal job for you but if you don't check the sites every day, you can miss opportunities," says Denise Byrd Carter, the agency's senior diversity expert. The agency, which has employees across the country and around the world, has also increased its recruitment efforts. Job fairs and recruitment events featuring the federal government not only put candidates in a position to learn about vacancies, they also provide a forum for networking. The odds of securing a position in intelligence increase if you "make it a point to meet people who work in these agencies," Byrd Carter adds.

College students should look for opportunities through the Intelligence Community Centers of Academic Excellence Program, in which intelligence agencies work with partner colleges such as North Carolina A&T State University and Florida A&M University to create a curriculum that prepares students for careers in national security. The DIA's Undergraduate Training Assistance Program also provides scholarships and internships to high-achieving students of certain foreign languages, international studies, and/or political science.

EDUCATION AND TRAINING

The level of education and professional experience needed to pursue a career at the DIA varies depending on the position, but typically an undergraduate or graduate degree is required. For those seeking intelligence-related positions, "we want those that have degrees in international studies, foreign language, research and development, or some of the hard sciences," Byrd Carter says.

Fluency in foreign languages, especially Arabic, is preferable. Currently there's a need for applicants who know Pashto, Urdu, and Dari, three languages spoken in middle-Eastern countries such as Afghanistan and Pakistan.

All intelligence professionals will also need to submit a writing sample as part of their application process since they must be able to communicate their findings about potential threats. "You have to be able to write reports in a coherent and cogent manner so anyone can understand them," Byrd Carter explains. "You have to be an excellent writer."

SECURITY MATTERS

DIA employees are dealing with matters of national security. Byrd Carter says every job applicant must receive top-secret security clearance, a process that can take anywhere from two to nine months.

During this time, investigators will verify an applicant's previous experiences through interviews and research. Nothing is off-limits, including social networking sites. "With Facebook and Twitter, you have to be careful about what you're putting out there because it wilt be scrutinized," Byrd Carter advises.

To expedite the clearance process, applicants should include multiple references for various periods in their lives, says William H. Henderson, author of Security Clearance Manual: How to Reduce the Time It Takes to Get Your Government Clearance (Last Post Publishing; $19.95). "Investigators want peer references like college roommates or fraternity brothers," Henderson says. "They want peers who can truly talk about your behavior." Some applicants may also have to submit to a polygraph test.

Once you've secured a position, security concerns dictate that you keep classified information secret and that your personal life be reviewed every five years to make sure nothing has compromised the security clearance. "You have to be committed," offers Byrd Carter, "and understand that if you don't follow through with these regulations, you compromise the national security of the United States."

Hot Security Jobs

With more than

800

IT positions vacant at the Defense Intelligence Agency, having IT proficiency is one way to get your foot in the door. Cybersecurity experts in particular are in demand. "That's going to be a boom area not just for government agencies but for private industry as well," says Denise Byrd Carter, the DIA's senior diversity expert.

Those who can detect and prevent hack attacks can transition to other intelligence-related work. "We've come to the realization mat it's much easier to tram someone who's got a passion for cyber work to be a counterintelligence person than it is to take a counterintelligence guy and make him a cyber person," says L. Eric Patterson, deputy director of the Defense Counterintelligence and Human Intelligence Center.

Sorting the SALARIES

Unlike other federal agencies that use the General Schedule pay scale, the DIA uses a Pay Band structure with five pay grades that vary with experience. According to Byrd Carter, a majority of employees come in at Pay Band 3, which this year ranges between $50,287 and $97,9S3. Here's the salary breakdown:

Pay Band 5: $99,628--$136,159

Supervision/Management--Level 4

Professional--Level 4

Pay Band 4: $71,674--$115,750

Supervision/Management--Level 3

Professional--Level 3

Pay Band 3: $50,287--$97,953

Supervision/Management--Level 2

Professional--Level 2

Technician/Administrative Support--Level 3

Pay Band 2: $33,979--$62,557

Professional--Level 1

Technician/Administrative Support--Level 2

Pay Band 1: $17,803--$46,442

Technician/Administrative Support--Level 1

Work Levels

Level 1: Entry/Developmental

Level 2: Full Performance

Level 3: Senior

Level 4: Expert
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Title Annotation:WHERE THE JOBS ARE; Defense Intelligence Agency
Publication:Black Enterprise
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 1, 2010
Words:1207
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