June 22, 2007.
Not enough experts, hmm? Nobody can speak the languages? The government needs people with area knowledge? Well, of course they do. And there is of course a shortage of available people with the required skill set. So why are so many experts being turned down for employment? You can find this debate discussed ad nauseum elsewhere. Instead I will share a little story about an acquaintance who was turned away by the bureaucracy of the United States government.
The person in question is at the same intensive language program I am in and agreed to have their Q&A session put on Afghanistanica after being allowed to edit the text. So here it is:
Q: What’s up? Why are you not in Afghanistan?
A: I failed the security clearance process. The “SF” in SF-86 [the security clearance form] stood for “Seriously F***ed” in my case.
Q: OK. Back up a little. Describe your “skill set.”
A: I have a Master’s degree in an area studies program that includes Afghanistan. My thesis was on Afghanistan. I have three years of classroom study in one language of Afghanistan, and two years each in two other regional languages. I’m currently working on a second language of Afghanistan.
Q: What jobs did you consider in the past?
A: I had two different Department of Defense contractors contact me through a mutual friend and offer me jobs as a linguist. The first one offered me $125,000 per year for a job located in northern Virginia. The second one offered me $85,000 and all living expenses covered to work at Guantanamo Bay and in Afghanistan. I turned both of them down. In all honesty I thought it would be immoral to make that kind of money when my brother was being paid chicken-shit to fight in Al Anbar [Iraq].
A little later the CIA [Directorate of Intelligence] asked if I was interested in starting the clearance process to join them. But the bureaucratic tribalism in that organization scared me. I consider CIA employees to be patriotic as individuals but when it comes to their Group Think and turf wars they are near-treasonous in their actions. Most of them are cowards who don’t want to rock the boat. That might cost them their job. They’ll just wait until they retire to write a critical book. The guy who was trying to recruit me gave up after three telephone conversations. I told him I was enlisting in the Army.
Q: Enlisting? In intel?
A: Yes. As a 96b [intelligence analyst]. I had failed the medical before college and was rejected for enlistment. They lowered the enlistment standards so I was technically qualified after college. I tried a second time and was failed by MEPS [Military Entrance Processing Station] for the same reason despite the rules having been changed. It was obvious that they made a mistake so they sent my file to some Army doctor in Kentucky who rejected the waiver request for a condition that was not even disqualifying anymore. So I sent letters to three different Senators and 6 months later my waiver mysteriously appeared in a manner which my recruiter could not explain. So I went back into MEPS with a waiver and a maximum score on [the aptitude test]. I was qualified for every single MOS in every branch of the military. I signed a contract for 96b and was given a guaranteed date at Ft. Leonard Wood and at intel school in Ft. Huachuca.
Q: So what happened?
A: Well, you have to get by the civilian who does the security clearances. I need a top secret clearance. I was totally clean but I was not born in the United States and I technically have dual citizenship with [a friendly NATO country]. So the security clearance person rejected me on the spot. I offered to renounce my citizenship in exchange for the clearance. But it was like “You failed. Go home.” The funny part is my brother is in the same situation as me and he has a top secret clearance. I even met a fellow dual-citizen from the same country recently who was in Army intel until last year. So much for consistency.
Q: Can you do any other jobs for the US government?
A: No. I’m disqualified security clearance-wise from working for the military, CIA, NSA, FBI, State Department and Department of Defense contractors.
Q: What are you going to do?
A: I really don’t know. I have no NGO experience and all their jobs require field experience or a technical skill, not an in depth area knowledge.
Q: So you are f**cked?
A: Yes. But wallowing in self-pity is not going to pay back $85,000 in student loans. Maybe I’ll go back to school.
Q: Speaking of school, I hear that a lot of people in your program have failed their background checks. True?
A: Yes. From the time I started until now 11 people I know were offered jobs requiring security clearances. Nine of them failed. Only one of them deserved to fail. It’s pure insanity.
Q: So what were all those people doing? Snorting cocaine off a toilet seat in a brothel before the first of their five daily prayers in the general direction of bin Laden?
A: [Laughs]. Yeah, I actually did that this morning before heading into the language lab. No, actually they don’t always tell you why you fail. We can only guess the reasons such as foreign travel, foreign friends and good times with Lebanese girls.
Q: OK, this Q&A is now firmly in the gutter. I’ll see you later.
A: Yeah, I’ll meet you at the Al Qaeda club house. Allahu Akbar.