GSPIA: Are You Trainable?

By Timothy W. Coleman and James R. Lint

Editors Note: This is part of a series of articles that highlights the importance and availability of professional training. It is intended to benefit GSPIA students and aims to illustrate the availability of supplemental information sources that complement rigorous academic studies. The inclusion of specific training programs does not necessarily constitute or imply endorsement.

To quote the Greek philosopher Aristotle, “Excellence is an art won by training and habituation […] Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.” This important observation is especially relevant because it demonstrates that securing knowledge isn’t an end unto itself, but rather the basis for a behavioral augmentation and an ingrained approach to pursuing excellence in whatever we chose to achieve.

As such, it is important to view yourself as a perpetual trainee so as to never allow yourself to become complacent and sedentary. If not for self-betterment purposes alone, because (especially within the intelligence and security community) we know full well that our adversaries aren’t sitting idly by and twiddling their thumbs as new ways for improvement become available.

How trainable are you?

From an employer’s perspective, training is vital for a multitude of reasons. The first and foremost advantage is that it ensures an employee constantly grows their skillset and is challenged to learn more applicable skills of use. This knowledge can be developed into a sustainable skillset and adds value not only to the individual, but also to the entire enterprise.

Training serves to improve an employee’s overall job performance as it builds confidence and allows the individual to assess where and how job functions can be improved. Additionally, providing an individual with real world, practitioner oriented training enables the employee to better appreciate and comprehend the governing policies and regulations that comprise job responsibilities. This helps the employee grow and increases their successful consistency in terms of achievements.

Let’s take a step back and place you in the position of hiring manager for an important government department or agency. You receive a candidate’s resume and it’s from a recent graduate of a prestigious school, such as the University of Pittsburgh. You like what you see, but what does the degree mean and what is the value of that education to your organization?

Clearly, it demonstrates the candidate is learned and most likely capable. Even so, you are hiring for a position in the intelligence and security field. No student will walk in on day one of the job and be fully capable of carrying out their duties without any training. Indeed, what you most likely want to see and need to know is that the candidate is smart, capable, dependable and trainable. As a hiring manager, you need to know that whoever you hire will be able to learn and implement their job duties successfully.

In turn, next time you are looking at your resume with a critical eye, ask yourself – what about my resume drives home the training and being trainable narrative? If you can’t find it, you should do something about it. Having something on your resume that highlights your ability and proclivity for learning and implementing evolving job tasks is what will place you among the best applicants – not to mention, training is a tremendous help for those applicants that are filling out those much dreaded KSAs (Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities) for a USAJobs application.

Embedded Benefits of Training

The embedded benefits of training are overwhelming clear. A well-trained employee has a higher level of productivity, provides an increased quality in service and in products delivered, and requires less supervision from superiors, which allows them more time to focus on other priorities.

To that end, we would like to highlight another free training and course completion certification resource available that will help build your KSAs, bolster your resume, and perhaps even instill Aristotle’s habituation of excellence.

FEMA’s Emergency Management Institute

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) offers a wide-ranging series of training course completion certifications through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). FEMA’s Emergency Management Institute (EMI), as the Website notes, “serves as the national focal point for the development and delivery of emergency management training. This training enhances the capabilities of the Federal, state, and local government, volunteer organizations, and the private sector to minimize the impact of disasters on the American public.”

With over 2 million students receiving training annually, EMI provides more than 185 training courses that span the breadth and scope of FEMA’s core mission areas such as Incident Management, Continuity Programs, Operational Planning, Public Disaster Communications, Disaster Logistics, Integrated Preparedness, Emergency Communications, Hazard Mitigation, and more.

In fact, the course offerings for Independent Study Program cover a lot of ground, with training courses that include: Surveillance Awareness, Continuity of Operations Planning for Pandemic Influenzas, and Radiological Emergency Response – just to name a few.

Additionally, EMI offers more focused and tailored training programs that hone in on specific functional job areas. Specifically, there are courses that explicate core elements of what is expected of a Geospatial Information System Specialist and another for Public Information Officers.

From a user’s perspective, it is incredibly easy to sign up and start taking training courses. The materials are online and all you have to do is pass a final multiple-choice exam by correctly answering 75 percent of the questions. If you don’t get it on the first try there is no penalty for taking it again. More conveniently, EMI is accessible to mobile users and students can take the multiple-choice exam on a mobile phone during a coffee break or while waiting for a class to begin.

Perhaps most importantly, EMI Independent Study Program training and course completion certifications are free of charge. For course offerings and to register, check out:

The Department of Homeland Security offers a variety of additional training opportunities for DHS personnel, partners and citizens, including home and business owners.

DHS offers training that includes:

  • Boating and Marine Safety
  • Chemical Sector Training and Resources
  • Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Training
  • Cybersecurity Training & Exercises
  • Electronic Crime Training and Resources

And DHS offers more focused training on Emergency Management and Preparedness Training:

  • Business Preparedness Training
  • Emergency Management Training
  • Emergency Preparedness Training
  • Law Enforcement Training
  • National Infrastructure Protection Plan
  • School Safety Planning and Training

To learn more about such DHS training opportunities, please check out:

There are also training programs available through DHS for Industrial Control Systems Cyber Emergency Response Team (ICE-CERT) that require physical attendance and some of them include:

  • Web-Based Training
 OPSEC for Control Systems
  • Introductory Level
Introduction to Control Systems Cybersecurity (101)
  • Intermediate Level
Intermediate Cybersecurity for Industrial Control Systems
  • Intermediate Level
Intermediate Cybersecurity for Industrial Control Systems (202)
  • Technical Level
 ICS Cybersecurity (301)

For more info, visit:

The Discipline of Training

With the current budget uncertainty and recent training cuts, it is imperative that prospective intelligence and security professionals take the initiative to find and complete free training. It shows your “trainability” and is a crucial indicator of your drive to excel.

Training helps prepare you to work in important public and private sector roles. Training also helps ensure that you don’t repeat past mistakes in the industry. Ultimately, the objective remains to learn from the last generation and to move forward, armed with the best and most relevant practices of today.

In the end, training is a gift and a means to stay ahead of bad actors. And like all gifts, if you fail to use it, it is your fault but becomes America’s problem.

The views expressed in this article are those of the individual authors and do not necessarily reflect official policy or the position of the Department of the Army, the Department of Defense or any other department or agency within the US Government.

GSPIA –Train, Maintain, Sustain

By Timothy W. Coleman and James R. Lint

Editors Note: This is part one in a two part series highlighting the importance and availability of professional training for GSPIA students. It is intended to illustrate the availability of supplemental information sources that complement rigorous academic studies. The inclusion of specific training programs does not necessarily constitute or imply endorsement.

“Train, Maintain, Sustain” is the unit crest and motto of the 81st Regional Readiness Command of the U.S. Army Reserve. According to its official page, The 81st Regional Support Command “provides essential customer care and services to Soldiers, Civilians and their Families in the Southeast Region and Puerto Rico, enabling supported commanders and leaders to maximize resources and meet global requirements.” Their motto is a poignant reminder that training requires maintenance to be sustainable.

Logistics, Logistics, Logistics

Napoléon once quipped, “An army marches on its stomach.”

It’s a truism that even Alexander the Great, the Macedonian King whose unprecedented military campaigns through Asia and Africa forged one of the largest empires the world has ever seen, knew all too well. A military leader of world renown, Alexander was a gifted strategic planner and one who capitalized on a seemingly obscure element – logistics.

Indeed, Alexander supposedly planned his military campaigns across Asia to coincide with upcoming harvest seasons. His reasoning was simple: a harvest season made fertile supply routes for a hungry army on the march and provided enough substance to feed both his troops and the pack animals that accompanied the army.

Fundamental Truisms

At the core, many truisms and similarly relevant historical adages boil down to confirm fundamentals. There is, after all, a reason they’re called “truisms.”

Attention to seemingly insignificant details can make or break an endeavor. But such cognizance does not just serve the head of the spear or the commanding general of an army. The true value of consequential particulars touches all those involved; once a best practice is identified, it must be learnt down the ranks through training to truly become an operational staple.

Utility of Best Practices

The utility and applicability of training best practices remains at the core of both intelligence and security professional disciplines. These best practices, however, are constantly evolving within a competitive market and what worked yesterday or today, won’t necessarily work as effectively tomorrow.

To stay abreast and ahead of competitors requires continuous self-education. All businesses seek to create differentiators between competitors; similarly, you, as a prospective job applicant, need to find, highlight, and hold your own individual competitive advantage.

Be a Better Fish

Your academic studies at the University of Pittsburgh set you apart from your peers and illustrate that education matters, qualifications count, and that you likely rank right up there with the most qualified job seekers on the market. Even so, this just makes you a bigger fish in a smaller pond (or a well-qualified candidate in a pool of other well-qualified applicants).

So how, then, do you make your application stand out? It’s a challenge that has many solutions but no definitive and universally applicable answer. Nevertheless, if you reach back and think about the importance of fundamentals, it becomes clear that supplemental training goes a very long way.

Take the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) as a case in point. In a ‘frequently asked questions’ segment of its Website, the CIA explains, “The Agency places a high priority on preparing officers for increasing levels of responsibility and leadership over the course of their careers.” Adding later in another section, CIA states, “The world of intelligence is increasingly complex, making continuous learning an imperative.” They’ve made it clear that initial and continuing training is imperative to the operational success of the CIA.

Continuous Learning

The role and utility of training within the intelligence and security community should not be dismissed, ignored, or underappreciated. It’s a vital component for both those currently in the community as well as those seeking to enter it. It can be a stepping-stone for career development, or the differentiating factor of the bigger, brighter, and better fish in the applicant pool.

To that end, we would like to highlight a free training and certification resource that will help build your KSAs (Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities), bolster your resume, and perhaps even be the key indicator of a diligent applicant who knows the values of continuous learning and therefore holds themselves to constantly improving standards.

Defense Security Service:

The Defense Security Service (DSS), an agency of the Department of Defense (DoD), under the direction of Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence, provides training and education services via its Center for Development of Security Excellence (CDSE).

The CDSE’s mission is to “Provide the DoD with a security center of excellence for the professionalization of the security community and be the premier provider of security education and training for the DoD and industry under the National Industrial Security Program (NISP). The CDSE provides development, delivery, and exchange of security knowledge to ensure a high-performing workforce capable of addressing our Nation’s security challenges.”

The training and certification programs offered by DSS run the gamut of core elements of security disciplines. Course offerings are broken down by specific functional and operational areas and include: Counterintelligence, Cybersecurity, General Security, Industrial Security, Information Security, International Security, Operations Security, Personnel Security, Physical Security, and other areas of interest. Most of the training and certifications that are publicly available are Unclassified. Note: most courses require a DoD affiliation, but GSPIA may be able to secure access for students. This is something worth inquiring about at the Ridgway Center.

Training programs and certifications are the gold standard for DoD security professionals in both civil service and contractor fields. The curriculum is rigorous and the material is challenging. Web-based training videos and course materials are readily available online 24-hours a day.

From a user perspective, DSS training courses should not be taken on a whim. After registering for a class and successfully completing a course there is a multiple-choice exam that one is required to complete in order to receive full credit. There is an important caveat to note to prospective participants: if you fail an exam three times, you cannot register again for the same exam, and the passing grade is 75 percent.

Perhaps most importantly though, DSS CDSE training courses and certifications are free of charge. To review training courses that may be of interest and to register, check out: Note: most courses require a DoD affiliation, but GSPIA may be able to secure access for students. This is something worth inquiring about at the Ridgway Center.

The goal of taking and successfully completing DSS CDSE courses is to one day qualify for entrance into the Security Professional Education Development Program (SPēD). The goal for DoD is to use this four level program as a future hiring requirement. Future promotions will likely require SPēD certification for DoD security positions so it’s a good idea to started early.

A Key to Victory

Training is a gift. It is intended to be tool of substance and the foundation on which to build a viable skillset for real world application. To excel in the world of intelligence and security, either as a member of the civil service or a contractor, you need to take advantage of the opportunities that provide the right tools for achieving the mission at hand.

Leaders realize this. They provide opportunities for their employees and team members to garner the knowledge that will enable ultimate victory. Good leaders embrace training, but greater leaders instill continuous learning as both an operational imperative and a strategic value – not because it’s easy, but because they know, as General Matthew B. Ridgway observed, “If an army fails, it is because its leaders have failed; if it succeeds, it is because they have succeeded.”


The views expressed in this article are those of the individual authors and do not necessarily reflect official policy or the position of the Department of the Army, the Department of Defense or any other department or agency within the US Government.