Getting the security scoop

A director at the Department of State gave out top-secret information to GW students Wednesday night. But this was not a dark alleyway exchange. It was an event hosted by the Career Center.

Jim Onusko, director of personnel security for the Department of State and a GW graduate, spoke to several dozen students in the Marvin Center about working for federal agencies or private companies associated with the federal government.

“Most people don’t get this information, so today you guys will get pretty good insight into this line of work,” Onusko said.

The presentation, “The Secrets of Security Clearances,” included information on basic security clearance, how applicants are evaluated and what keeps them from being accepted.

Onusko emphasized the three main qualities that government employers look for: “Good judgment, trustworthiness and reliability.”

Records and references from where applicants have lived, worked and studied are all reviewed when they are considered for employment. Such background checks help to determine if the applicants live up to the standards of judgement, trustworthiness and reliability that Onusko said are crucial. The checks cover the applicant’s allegiance to the United States, sexual behavior, personal conduct, financial consideration, alcohol use, drug involvement, psychological condition, criminal conduct and outside activities.

When it comes to these influential factors, Onusko said there are some areas of leniency, including the age at the time of an indiscretion, the amount of time that has elapsed since, and the frequency and likelihood of reoccurrence.

Students applying for internships or jobs at government agencies and companies should keep in mind that grades are secondary; honesty is checked first, Onusko said.

Onusko’s advice when it comes to applying for an internship or job is to be on your best behavior around co-workers and friends, because they will be your references. Just being around drugs without taking them, he said, can negatively affect your reputation. He also encouraged the audience members to be aware of their social habits and to be punctual and respectful of rules at work.

One thing students do not have to worry about is the review of private Internet sites such as Facebook, which are off-limits. But anything that comes up on a public site, such as Google, can be used.

The forum is held annually, with about 50 students attending each program, said Chris Ray, a Career Center employee. It will be held again next semester due to popular demand by students.

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