Monday, June 2, 2014


When I was a LT, I transferred from one of our Mobile Units to the Group Staff after a brief one year hiatus aboard a Tank Landing Ship in Long Beach. The Commodore and I knew each other fairly well because he had commanded the Mobile Unit when I joined it and had, after promotion and tours at other commands, newly returned as Commodore of this particular Group after leading it in the Middle East during Desert Storm. He called me the day after I reported aboard and asked me to represent him at a demonstration being held the next day by Naval Research and Development Command who were going to demonstrate our new surveillance systems. Needless to say, I made arrangements to do just that. I faxed my security clearance to NRAD. (Yes, words about that at another time).

Something odd happened shortly after that dog and pony show at Point Loma. I had faxed my Record of Security Clearances to NRAD, as required, in order to get on the installation and thought no more about it for almost 10 years. The next three years at that Staff, I never managed to get access to their unclassified computers. They were all password protected by some little tool their Intelligence Specialists and Intel Officer used to control access to their unclassified (and hopelessly inadequate) network and nobody would give me a password.

This was going on back in the heady days of personal computers (early 90's) and I didn't much care. I was commissioned into a Navy which did not require its officers to be clerks and admin staff and I was prepared to keep it that way. I handed in paperwork and clerks typed it up.

I was selected and appointed to that Staff as Assistant Operations Officer and immediately after reporting was also assigned duties as Special Projects Officer. After 2 months I was also designated Weapons Officer for the Staff and 14 Mobile Units. I wasn't bothered by the inability to get onto the Staff's unclassified computers and network because we, OPS, did classified work on computers at another command/location and unclassified machines were pretty much useless to me. The one exception was the weapons office where I had my Gunner's Mates handle all the data entry and admin.

Periodically, the earth would move and it would be time to turn in annual reports and evaluations. I would usually prepare them at home on my computer and bring them to work where I would furnish them as hard copy to the command's administration office which was stuffed with clerks. The first time I brought in a package of evaluations, one of the officious junior petty officers grandly informed me that I had to hand in my work on a floppy disk. The next day I gave him a floppy disk with the information on it. His boss tracked me down hours later and complained that my disk didn't work.

I didn't really think it would. In fact, I knew it wouldn't. I said the only machine I had was a Mac and if he had problems reading the data off my disks he could always do his job and type it in off the hard copy (which was the way the Navy worked and which was the way that office was staffed at the time). He said it was a problem. I grieved with him and then told him, "it isn't my problem."

I spent most of my three years while attached to that command, cross-assigned to other commands in Korea, Thailand, Kuwait, and Bahrain. The ridiculous computer nonsense never rose above the level of weak nuisance to me. Imagine being totally unable to whip up a powerpoint presentation...

About 10 years after I transferred to SPECBOATs, I came back. I was working at Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command when I was ordered in as Operations Officer for the Group. About a year after I reported aboard, one of my senior Intel Staff brought me a memo from the files they had been going through, and showed it to me.

In a hand written Memorandum For the Record, an Intel Specialist 10 years earlier had written that, "it had come to his attention that I had personally touched my own Record of Clearance Form 5520/10 and was thus, maybe, a security problem." He forwarded it to the Intel Officer of that time and he forwarded it to the acting Chief of Staff who had concurred with their finding that I should not be allowed access to the command's unclassified computers even as I was using SPECWAR's classified networks up the road in Coronado.

I laughed out loud when I read the memo. All the mystery and stupidity explained after 10 years. The funny thing for me was that prior to reporting back then I was the Security Manager at my previous command and the one before that. I was the cryptographic security officer at the previous 3 commands. I was the person that handled sending clearance requests when we visited other commands. Doing so was as natural to me as breathing.

They never even thought about discussing it with me at the time. These were the good old days when no clearance data was valid unless it was transmitted via navy message. Faxing clearances was, on the face of it, a really stupid breach of security since anybody could send a fax. NRAD broke the mold and only required faxed clearances. You remember up at the top where I said I'd mention this later, right? I called NRAD about getting their Plain Language Address to transmit a clearance message to and was told, "just fax it."

Every real command transmitted a message request to the Department of the Navy Central Adjudication Facility (DONCAF) requesting the security clearances of personnel assigned to the command. THAT was the only basis for granting a clearance within the command. In the same file we were laughing at was a copy of the message from DONCAF dated a week or two later saying my clearances matched the files in my service record. I was spared a thousand hours of power-pointing by incompetent fools.

Someday I'll post my rules for successful people management. High on the list is finding ways to incorporate the fools BUPERS has issued you. In this case, it really did work out, all for the best. The fools were gratified to leap into the "security breach", I was really happy to be spared the Admin fools and their games and NOBODY ever asked me to power-point anything.

Oh, and "Sir? Do you want a Blackberry? Just fill out this little form and we'll arrange to issue you one."

So fools can reach me 24/7.

I don't think so.


Buck said...

The funny thing for me was that prior to reporting back then I was the Security Manager at my previous command...

Lucky you (he said, with his tongue FIRMLY in his cheek). While I never was a Security Manager I "owned" the only safe in our squadron headquarters building (there were others down in Ops) which contained... among other things... all our war plans and stuff like that. I held my breath for three solid years as a result... coz if anything went missing it was gonna be MY ass. The AF didn't look kindly upon discrepancies in accounting for the classified and I don't think I would have enjoyed a tour at Leavenworth.

HMS Defiant said...

At crypto school the running joke was that we would play volleyball at Leavenworth with the disbursing officers. There is a terrible fate for the flawed officer. It is mostly confinement at hard labor in Kansas for those who handle money and crypto.

100% of the safes under my control could only be accessed by me. I always changed the combination to any safe or vault under my control. I lived in Leavenworth and never want to do it again.

There. Fixed it.