The security check continues

I ran into a neighbor at the gym today. She said that our Diplomatic Security investigator contacted her. That was a little curious, because although I had given him a list of all the people who live on our street, I didn’t specifically tell him that she would be a good contact. It seems that he wants to get contacts from contacts. We give him a name, and he asks that person to give him another name. Maybe the idea is that this is a way to get unrehearsed or unprepared responses from people.


I sent in the medical forms for Stacy, Ian and Evan’s medical clearance, and I forgot to sign Evan’s form. It was bounced back yesterday.

That’s the bad news. The good news is that I have noticed that the speed of responses from the State Department has been encouragingly fast. I read somewhere that there was an initiative to reduce the time needed for clearances. Maybe it’s working.

So I have to sign and re-submit Evan’s forms. It’s all done electronically: I email a PDF file to State with a scan of the forms. Good thing I have a scanner at home.

With this delay, Evan’s medical clearance will take a little longer than Stacy’s and Ian’s. My clearance came through in a matter of days. So maybe by the end of next week, we will all have medical clearance. Knock on wood!

Background check status

The investigator who is doing the local background check is almost done. Tomorrow he will talk with my current boss, then he will be all done with his information-gathering.

This process has been more time-consuming than I thought it would be. I thought he would talk with me and a few people, then write up his report. Instead, he is asking very detailed questions about my past activities, trying to understand exactly what I was doing when. He is being very meticulous. If I were trying to hide something or lie to him, it would be hard to keep my story straight. Maybe that’s part of the point of asking so many detailed questions.

Although it’s taking more time than I anticipated, the investigator is a nice guy, a retired Secret Service agent. He has called me about a half-dozen times with follow-up questions, and every time he apologizes for being so nit-picky. His pleasant demeanor prevents the experience from being unpleasant.

I’m starting to get anxious. I want to get cleared, to be put on the Register, and to get The Call. I want to start the next stage in my life. I want to start a new career in the Foreign Service. Many other people have written that this part of the application process is hard, because there is little you can do to help speed the process along. I feel helpless.

Tom Petty was right: the waiting is the hardest part.

Telling the boss

In order to be eligible for employment, Foreign Service officer candidates must be able to be granted a Top Secret security clearance. As soon as I passed the Oral Assessment in February, the State Department began its investigation of me. Part of the investigation involves interviewing friends and coworkers of the candidate.

It’s a good idea to give some advance notice to people who might be interviewed. If a a G-man knocks on your friend’s door and starts asking questions about you, you’d want your friend to have some idea what the questions were all about.

The same goes for your boss. You wouldn’t want your boss to get the wrong idea about the interview. But there’s a dilemma: to tell your boss to expect a security interview is to let your boss know that you are actively seeking employment elsewhere. That can be awkward.

One person on a bulletin board reported that she was fired immediately upon telling her boss about her candidacy for the Foreign Service. Since most of us in the working world are “at will” employees, we can be fired for any reason that isn’t a violation of a legally-protected status. Your boss can’t fire you for being a certain race or gender, but he can fire you because you have an annoying laugh, or you dress funny, or you like the wrong sports team. Or if you have applied for a job elsewhere.

After reading that person’s story, I felt the need to share my own experience about telling my boss. Here is what I wrote:


My experience with telling the boss was wonderful. About a week after I passed the OA, I told my boss that I was pursuing a career in the Foreign Service, and that he could expect to be contacted by investigators.

I was anxious about telling him, because a few years ago, when I was still a university faculty, I was awarded a Fulbright, and my boss was not only not supportive, she was angry with me. Being a Fulbright Scholar damaged my academic career. 🙁

Fast-forward a few years. In a new career in the financial sector, I was anxious about telling my boss about the FS. When I broke the news to him, I was careful to remind him that there are no guarantees, it wasn’t going to happen soon, and that any number of factors could, as the renowned reproductive scientist Todd Aiken infamously stated: “shut that whole thing down.”

To my surprise, my boss not only knows what the FS is, but he also had a very positive reaction to my news. He smiled, congratulated me, said that he was proud of me, and promised to do everything that he could to help. In short, his reaction was a polar opposite of how my previous boss reacted to the Fulbright.

It was hard to believe that he was really supportive, but a few days later, he asked me to be the point person on a new long-term project. I told him that I would be happy to work on it as long as I am still working there, but I reminded him that my future was a little uncertain. He said he remembered, and that he would be happy to have me as long as he could.

A few days later, his boss (VP) popped his head into my office and congratulated me, too. I am very pleasantly surprised at the level of support and encouragement that I have received from the management.

To make a long story short (too late), although Marti’s experience doesn’t surprise me, not every boss will have the same scumbag reaction. I guess I’m one of the lucky ones (this time).

TL;DR: my boss didn’t fire me when I told him about my FS aspirations.