Addressing FSO Travel Concerns for Peace of Mind During PTO, Leave or Holidays (Risks, Best Practices, and Safety Tips)

Even Facility Security Officers (FSOs) need a break every once in a while. With everything they do for defense contractors, including helping secure our nation’s most sensitive information, they deserve peace while taking time off for Summers or holidays.

To get the most out of their vacation and prevent a leisure trip from spiraling into a national crisis, FSOs and their cleared personnel must become aware of security risks during holidays, Summer trips, and other out-of-office travel.

Here, we cover the risks and travel threats for FSOs, how to best prepare for an upcoming trip as a cleared contractor, and safety tips to follow during domestic and overseas travel.

Understanding the Risks: FSO Travel Concerns to Consider

Whether staying in the United States or going abroad, you’re going to a place you’ve never been. A new destination comes with uncertainty. Between violent or high-crime areas, turbulent weather, political unrest, and other unknown risks, traveling outside your home area could come with unique threats if you aren’t diligent in your planning. 

Also, consider the risks during travel itself. Trying to find your way through a new city or navigating a crowded airport is often chaotic. Items get lost, stolen, and broken in transit. Imagine if one of those items were a laptop computer storing highly classified national security information. 

Finally, let’s address the risk of leaving a home base, specifically for FSOs in crucial positions. Assuming the travel isn’t work-related, you’re leaving your organization in the hands of colleagues, hoping they can steer the ship in your absence without anything significant going wrong.   

Unique Risk and Travel Threats for FSOs

FSOs and cleared personnel have even more to worry about while traveling, particularly in foreign countries. By holding a Facility Clearance (FCL) and having access to sensitive information, they could easily become direct targets of adversaries abroad — adding additional risk of theft or a potential hostage situation. 

Preparing for Travel and Security Risks During Holidays: FSO Best Practices

The travel dangers might sound scary, but fear not! You can mitigate these risks and best keep your organization prepared with some pre-travel preparations: 

Steer Clear of the Dangerous Areas

This goes without saying, yes, avoid places that could cause you or your family harm. But how do you know where those places are? The Department of State has its own travel advisories page you can use as a resource. It provides a list of countries to avoid or exercise caution when visiting, and tips to follow if you’re in each country. 

Plan the Itinerary and Arrangements

Even if you’re in a place deemed “safe,” you should still have an itinerary of what you’ll be doing, when, and where during the travel period. Ensure all the arrangements, such as lodging, transportation, meals, and other activities, are pre established so you don’t have to do any on-the-spot planning.  

Avoid Posting in Anticipation

In today’s social media age, even traveling for work is something people want to post about in excitement. As a cleared personnel, you should never indicate where and when you’re traveling somewhere on a public website. If there is an adversarial threat, posting these details just tells them where they can find you. 

Set Security Controls While Away

Specifically for the facility, ensure you have your automated security systems activated while you’re out for the weekend or holidays. Your organization should fully deploy physical controls like cameras and in-person security personnel and cybersecurity controls like a 24/7 IT monitoring system or outsourced security operation center (SOC) to maintain a secure posture while away. 

Assign a “Deputy” and Team Expectations

If you’re an FSO temporarily departing from the facility team for travel, make it clear what you expect from each team member and cleared employee while you’re gone. Also, assign a trusted interim leader as your main point of contact and the person to take the helm as primary decision-maker.  

Get Your Compliance Reporting in Order

Don’t forget all the rules FSOs must follow. Per the National Industrial Security Program Operating Manual (NISPOM) 32 CFR Part 117, cleared personnel must report planned foreign travel in accordance with the Security Executive Agent Directive 3 (SEAD 3). They need to submit their planned itinerary and undergo travel safety training as part of the requirements.

Portal Commander Logo. Mock request demo button. Text says Portal Commander™ makes SEAD 3 reporting a breeze.
Cleared employees can use the self-service platform to submit and track foreign travel requests.

Travel Safety Tips for Security Professionals and FSOs

After careful preplanning, follow these safety tips to protect you and your organization while taking your well-earned travel:

  • Leave your “sensitive” items, such as devices or files containing classified or controlled unclassified information (CUI), at your secure office; there is no need to bring them out of the country.   
  • Protect your belongings at all times, such as your phone, wallet, and other essential items, by keeping them in a secure bag, pocket, or locked room when not used.  
  • Adhere to the preplanned itinerary, but if you need to make changes, stick to reputable transportation sources, dining locations, and lodging establishments well-known by the community.     
  • Journal all activity while on the trip to make it easy for your FSO to report details to the Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency (DCSA) per SEAD 3, which requires FSOs to do a debrief with cleared personnel within five days of returning from foreign travel.    
  • Keep in contact with someone trusted at home so they can stay up-to-date on your location and activities.

Travel with Peace of Mind Through MathCraft  

Taking time off and staying compliant with foreign travel reporting requirements shouldn’t have to be stressful. But we can help! Contact us today to learn how our industrial security software allows FSOs to seamlessly maintain compliance through the self-service portal — letting employees take ownership of their foreign policy reporting requirements.