“Of 70 convictions related to the 2002 Bali bombings,” she went on, “only 13 remain incarcerated. Now their estimated force is 300.”
Defense intelligence analyst boot camp started this fall at Piedmont Virginia Community College, in a rural area where recent military realignment has brought jobs that require expertise and security clearances. Students are hoping their $10,000 investment might pay off with a coveted top-secret career.
A variety of options are available for people hoping to study or do intelligence work or advance their careers, including the military and academic programs such as those at Georgetown or Johns Hopkins. There is extensive training within the federal agencies that do the work. The National Intelligence University, based in the Defense Intelligence Analysis Center at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling in Washington, has been educating analysts and others working in the field for decades; students must have top-secret security clearance even to apply.
But this 10-week class on a small campus in the hills near Charlottesville has a twist, one that has brought together an unusual mix of students — from new graduates, to people with decades of military service, to people with intelligence experience, to relatives of those working in the field. The class includes a counselor of troubled kids, an optometrist, an architect, a saleswoman, a real estate agent, a beat cop turned stay-at-home dad and a contractor who spent a break in class barking exasperated directions into a phone. “No, left. Left! You’re looking for a BARN. You can’t miss it.”
The class is a partnership between the Ohio-based nonprofit corporation Advanced Technical Intelligence Center for Human Capital Development (better known, not surprisingly, by the nickname ATIC) and the community college. It’s an attempt to train local residents for an emerging employment market and to avoid a common catch-22 for people trying to enter the field, said John Donnelly, a vice president at the community college. Employers would prefer to hire someone who has a security clearance, he said, but an employee must be sponsored by an agency to go through the slow process.
This class offers students, most of whom have a bachelor’s degree, the opportunity to go through the clearance process as they study. They hope to enter the market with a valuable asset in hand.
One student said she heard about the class because her husband, who works in military intelligence in the area, learned about it from his boss. After quite a bit of research — she was nervous about plunking down so much money, especially because she just finished college — she thought it was her best shot. If you don’t have clearance, she said she has learned from potential employers, they’re just not interested.