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Training, Education, and Career Issues

Government Schools

The primary type of government school is the formal TSCM programs offered by nations to members of their military or intelligence agencies.

In North America ITC (United States) and CSE (Canada) offer the most popular TSCM courses. If you are interested in either of these courses you will need to pursue them via "appropriate channels."

Department of Defense Instruction (DODI) 5240.5, Enclosure 1
Technical Surveillance Countermeasures (TSCM) Survey Program


The minimum qualifications required for entry into the TSCM field are as follows:

Completion of high school or equivalent and completion of a comprehensive course in electronics fundamentals.
(added jma note: The basic electronics training is usually 16 weeks long for someone with no college training in electronics fundamentals. Those with an electronics background normally can bypass the electronics fundamentals).

The TSCM applicant must be certified by the DoD Component concerned and authorized as qualified to perform TSCM functions at the professional level.
(added jma note: Which means the TSCM applicant must complete a formal 6-8 week TSCM course taught at the IATC)

Each TSCM representative must undergo a thorough background investigation to qualify for all special clearances required to permit access to those areas requiring technical security services.
(added jma note: Most will hold only a Secret security clearance, but a small number will hold a higher TS level).

E-5 or higher, or an equivalent civilian position.
(added jma note: It takes 3 to 4 years to reach this level for active duty military, and two years for civilians or reservists)

The TSCM representative shall be physically fit and meet the physical standards set forth by each DoD Component.
(added jma note: Can the person lift and carry a fifty pound piece of test equipment, and can they climb a ladder?)

-- Department of Defense Instruction 5240.5

All warfare is based on deception.

Therefore, when capable, feign incapacity;
when active, inactivity.

When near, make it appear that you are far away;
when far away, that you are near.

Offer the enemy a bait to lure him; feign disorder
and strike him.

When he concentrates, prepare against him;
where he is strong, avoid him.

Anger his general and confuse him.

Pretend inferiority and encourage his arrogance...

-- Sun Tzu, The Art of War

Government Schools - Aptitude

Keep in mind that the defense and the intelligence community have a tier system of occupations. New recruits are placed on a tier that depends entirely on their technical aptitude and level of basic intelligence.

When a recruit first joins the military or intelligence agency they're given a series of standard aptitude tests (ASVAB, AFOQT, EDPT, etc...) These tests tend to be brutally honest regarding the recruits intelligence level, and aptitude. The tests are used to determine what occupations the new recruit will be best suited for.

Recruits who score high on the pattern recognition and mechanical aptitude tests are ideal for either analysis or technical positions (depending on their level of formal education). Someone recruited to work at this level will normally receive at least six months of technical training within the first year. Often, the recruit will attend multiple six-month schools back to back.

A recruit with high scores on the pattern recognition section, but a low score on the mechanical aptitude sections will be recruited for programmer positions. Someone recruited to work at this level will normally receive only two to three months of technical training within the first year of duty.

A recruit with low scores on the pattern recognition section, but high scores on the mechanical aptitude sections will generally be recruited for a flight crew, mechanical, and occupations where a lot of "wrench turning and hammer banging" is involved. The training involves months of school, but usually limited electronics training.

Recruits who score poorly on both the pattern recognition section, and the mechanical aptitude sections will generally be recruited for equipment operator positions. Someone recruited to work at this level will normally receive less then six weeks of technical training within the first year. However, several extended SIGINT courses taught by the Army and Navy tend to run as long as six months because of the complexity of the systems.

If a recruit scores low on all areas of the examination, they'll be recruited for a position in either security or law enforcement. Someone recruited to work at this level will normally receive little or no technical training.

To most men, experience is like the stern lights of a ship,
which illumine only the track it has passed.
-- S.T. Coleridge

Sadly, many DOD and DOE TSCM people enter the field from either a security police, law enforcement, or equipment maintenance background (except AFOSI). It's extremely rare to find someone in the field who has come from an analysis or technical background. Typically, a DOD TSCM student attends a three-month investigators school, followed by a short TSCM course at the IATC, plus a limited amount of follow-on training.

During the early eighties, the USAF and Navy found that it needed more computer technicians than it could recruit. However, it was found that they had recruited too many security police and law enforcement specialists. To resolve the problem, they waived the aptitude requirements and allowed the security people to retrain into the computer maintenance field.

The result was a nightmare, During the next one year period over eight hundred security and law enforcement personnel were sent to computer maintenance schools. Almost 50% of the students could not complete the basic electronics section of the course, even after multiple repeats (most of the students who failed were permitted to retrain as computer programmers or operators).

Of the 386 students who passed the initial basic electronics training (8 weeks), only 140 completed the secondary part of the training (digital and computer fundamentals, 16 weeks). The program was considered a failure as only 34 students actually graduated from the advanced portion (17 weeks) of the training. Of these 34 students, 28 had to be removed from their positions within one year because of their inability to complete on the job training. The cost of this "experiment" was estimated at over 185 million dollars, and the program was cancelled after only two years.

The bottom line is that you need a strong electronics aptitude and background to perform well in the TSCM business.

Cry Havoc, and let slip the dogs of war.
-- W.S. (Julius Caesar, III:1)

The U.S. Secret Service runs a good school at the Rowley Center, their graduates are in very high demand. If an agent gets to attend FLETC, IATC, Rowley, and Indian Head schools they'll be in very high demand.

The FBI/DEA runs several schools for their students at Quantico and FLETC. The training is similar to that taught at AID, and is designed for agents with virtually no technical background. FBI/DEA trained TSCM people are not in very high demand in the private sector resulting from incidents because of poor training.

The Department of Energy (DOE) has several TSCM courses that make up their training program (which is recognized by the TSCM community as "The 1990 Rain Dance Course"). The course is 60 percent policies, and paperwork, 35 percent basic electronics, but only 5 percent is actually TSCM related.

E-Systems, Watkins-Johnson, Condor, Rockwell, Boeing, Lockheed, TRW, Kodak, LTV, RCA, Bell Labs, and IBM all teach "special" classes for various intelligence agencies. The Lockheed and TRW courses are the best -advanced classes available.

    In a vacant corner of our land, off rutted gravel trails,
    There is a watchful breed of men, who see that peace prevails,
    For them there are no flags, no blare of martial tune,
    there is no romance in their job, no glory at high noon.

    In an oft' repeated ritual, they casually hang their locks,
    Where the wages of man's love and hate, are restrained in a small red box.
    In a world of flick'ring colored lights, and endless robot din,
    The missile crews will talk awhile, but soon will turn within.

    To a flash of light or other worldly tone, conditioned acts respond,
    Behind each move, unspoken thoughts, of the bombs that lie beyond.
    They live with patient waiting, with tactics, minds infused,
    and the quiet murmur of the heart, that hopes it's never used.

    They feel the living throb, of the mindless tool they run,
    They hear the constant whir, of a world that knows no sun,
    Here light is ever present, no moon's nocturnal sway,
    The clock's unnatural beat, belies not night nor day.

    Behind a concrete door slammed shut, no starlight skies of night,
    No sun bleached clouds in azure sky, in which to dance in flight.
    But certain as the rising sun, these tacit warriors seldom see,
    They're ever grimly ready, for someone has to be.

    Beneath it all they're common men, who eat and sleep and dream,
    But between them is a common bond, of knowledge they're a team.
    A group of men who love their land, who serve it long and well,
    Who stand their thankless vigil, on the brink of man-made hell.

    In boredom fluxed with stress, encapsulated they reside,
    They do their job without complaint, of pleasures oft' denied,
    For duty, honor, country, and a matter of self-pride.

    - Missileer, (Author Unknown)

Advanced TSCM Signals Detection and Analysis
TSCM - Sweeping the Spectrum for Eavesdropping Devices

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