While serving in the United States Air Force, L. Eric Patterson was introduced to the world of intelligence. “It intrigued me,” the 59-year-old says of the work he did with the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, which conducts criminal investigations and counterintelligence inquiries. “You’re always chasing bad guys.” Patterson retired from the Air Force as a brigadier general in 2005 and took a job with consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton, providing support to the Department of Defense. Three years later he received a call about an opening at the Defense Intelligence Agency. “I loved Booz Allen, but as a contractor, I just wasn’t part of the fight,” Patterson says.
The “fight” Patterson speaks of is the DIA’s core mission: providing military intelligence to those who are fighting wars and defense policymakers. In September of 2008, Patterson accepted the position of deputy director of the Defense Counterintelligence and Human Intelligence (also known as HUMINT) Center. “Counterintelligence professionals look for people who are trying to steal our secrets and harm our nation,” says Patterson. “Every time you read about a terror suspect being caught, quite often it’s not by accident. We look for indicators and as we see them, we pass the information on to the FBI or civilian law enforcement.”
While the DIA has been around since 1961, “it has been a closed community for a long time,” says Patterson. Most people had no idea what the organization did “unless you see Jack Bauer on [the television show] 24, but then you’ve got to figure out where to go to become that Jack Bauer kind of guy.” But the DIA has opened its doors to newcomers partly because the nation now faces threats that require new technologies and skill sets. Opportunities exist, but knowing national security trends and possessing valued proficiencies can make all the difference in securing a position at the DIA.
Finding the Opportunities
Positions at the DIA fall into three main categories. The vast majority are intelligence analyst positions since they represent the agency’s core mission. The next largest category is information technology, which reflects the growing impact technology is having on intelligence gathering. Administrative positions, which support the day-to-day functioning of the agency, encompass areas such as human capital, financial services, and acquisitions.
The agency posts vacancies on its Website and advertises on the federal government’s official jobs website. “Sometimes the window [of opportunity] is very short. There may be an ideal job for you but if you don’t check the sites every day, you can miss
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