Robins’ Information Protection Office: On guard 24/7

  • Published
  • By Kisha Foster Johnson
  • 78th Air Base Wing Public Affairs Office

Information is power. Having it and protecting it plays a critical role in guarding this installation and the Air Force overall. And that is the mission of the Robins Information Protection Office, which falls under the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center.

“Every person hired for a job with the federal government must submit to being fingerprinted and having an employment background check,” said Champion Johnson, Robins IPO chief. “Personnel security checks are a must to obtaining and keeping a security clearance for all positions at Robins and in federal government.”

Johnson said the IPO also covers two other major programs. One is Information Security, which is the protection of classified information that could potentially have an impact on national security or defense. It is categorized into different levels based on sensitivity: Top Secret, Secret and Confidential. The other program is Industrial Security, which focuses on protective measures to safeguard critical infrastructure, assets and information within industrial settings from cyber threats and physical risks.

“Every 30 days, over 22,000 Team Robins employees undergo an automatic background check, which covers credit reports and criminal history,” he said. “We get all of that information through continuous vetting, and it’s constantly changing because you are dealing with people from all walks of life.

“Personnel security checks are the most important, heaviest workload we have and most important because no one can do their job unless they are cleared first,” Johnson continued. “The specific details of the background check depend on the job, particularly the level of access to sensitive or confidential information.”

Johnson, a former Security Forces defender, retired from the Air Force after 28 years of service and has worked in the Robins IPO office nearly 20 years.

He said insider threats are a real problem and background checks are crucial for national security because they help ensure the integrity, trustworthiness and reliability of individuals working in sensitive government positions.

“Our goal is to protect national security and the well-being of everyone on base,” he said. “For example, if we have someone on base with financial issues, they could use their access to classified information and try to sell it, and we want to prevent that.

“It’s eye-opening how desperate people can do desperate things,” Johnson continued.   “Some people enjoy power and position. Unfortunately, over the course of my job, I’ve had to read some high-ranking folks their rights because they broke the law.”

By law, federal workers are required to report any life events or incidents that could impact their security clearance. According to the Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency, the self-reporting categories are:

– Change in Personal Status - Marital status (marriage, divorce), cohabitation (living in spouse-like relationship, intimate relationship, or becoming engaged), and change of name.

­– Foreign Travel - A security briefing before any foreign travel, whether for personal or business reasons, clearance for travel to hazardous countries for Sensitive Compartmented Information (SCI)-cleared individuals.

– Foreign Contacts ­- Contact with individuals of any foreign nationality, either within or outside the scope of your official duties, in which illegal or unauthorized access to classified or otherwise sensitive information is sought, personal concern that you are a target of an attempted exploitation, all close and continuing relationships between SCI-cleared individuals and foreign nations.

– Loss or Compromise of Information - Inadvertent or accidental loss or compromise of classified or other sensitive information because the first priority in such a situation is to regain control of the classified material.

– Financial Problems - Filing for bankruptcy, garnishment of wages, having a lien placed on your property for failing to pay a creditor, eviction from a residence for failure to pay rent, or simply your inability to meet all your financial obligations.

– Arrests - Any arrest, regardless of whether or not charges were filed, other involvement with the legal system (such as being sued), any circumstance where you were sworn under oath to testify about your association or involvement in questionable activities.

– Psychological or Substance Abuse Counseling - When counseling is needed, you are encouraged to seek assistance from your employer-sponsored Employee Assistance Program or other counseling service. Counseling for certain situations need not be reported if you sought the counseling on your own initiative to help you cope. Counseling must be reported if you were advised to seek counseling because of work performance or other undesirable behavior.

“We get alerts across the spectrum to keep us aware and in turn we can alert commanders to a potential problem,” said Johnson. “It is always better for a person to own up to their troubles first than for us to approach them regarding the troublesome matter. While no one is perfect, we have to be vigilant in our duties to protect the installation and country overall.”