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Basics of Diplomatic Security & Getting Into the Field

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Becoming a diplomatic security agent takes a lot of time, dedication, and skill, and it’s definitely not for the faint of heart. It’s a title that’s going to require a lot of hard work, and only a handful of candidates even make it through training.

But if you want to have a dynamic work schedule, travel the world, and work with the best agents, it’s a dream job. Today, we’re going to break down all the aspects of diplomatic security, as well as a few backups you should keep in mind.

What Is Diplomatic Security?

Diplomatic security (DS) is an umbrella term that encompasses various responsibilities and duties. However, the people working in DS are in charge of protecting diplomatic assets, information, and personnel. Also, they are the ones combating passport and visa fraud.

In the States, the department that handles all DS business is called the United States Diplomatic Security Service (DSS). It’s the federal law enforcement and security branch of the Department of State. Their most visible activity is providing security to U.S. Ambassadors, senior diplomats, as well as the Secretary of State.

The Bureau Diplomatic Security

After bombings of the U.S. diplomatic facilities in Beirut in 1985, the State decided that the security needed to be elevated. In turn, they created the Bureau of Diplomatic Security, and to this day, the Assistant Secretary of State for Diplomatic Security always heads it up.

What Do Diplomatic Security Agents Do?

As we mentioned earlier, a diplomatic security agent will wear many hats during the course of their career. By definition, a Special Agent is a sworn federal law enforcement officer, as well as a Foreign Service security professional with special training. 

If the agent is working overseas as a Regional Security Officer, they will advise ambassadors on all security matters. What’s more, they will manage an intricate range of security programs. These programs are designed with the intent to protect all facilities, personnel, and information.

Other responsibilities of a DS Special Agent will include:

  • Protecting the Secretary of State;
  • Protecting visiting foreign dignitaries;
  • Investigating visa and passport fraud;
  • Conducting personnel security investigations;

What It Takes to Be an Agent

Becoming a DS Special Agent is no small feat, and the State requires a lengthy list of qualifications. The DSS minimum requirement list goes as follows.

You need to be a U.S. citizen who is available for worldwide service. You also need to hold a four-year degree, be at least 20 years old, but not older than 36. What’s more, you need to pass a physical exertion test, along with a pre-employment physical readiness test.

At the time of your application, you should be able to obtain and maintain TS/SCI and Top Secret Security Clearance access. You should also be able to secure a favorable Suitability Review Panel determination and the appropriate Foreign Service Medical Clearance.

Training to Be an Agent

Once approved for training, the DS applicant will have to complete an intense 28-week Basic Special Agent Course. Also, upon entry on duty, all candidates have to attend a three-week orientation, followed by an additional 12 weeks of training. 

That all culminates with 13 weeks of specialized training in Washington D.C. At the final course, applicants will do introductory training, learn about tactical medicine, leadership, and personnel recovery. They will also cover small unit tactics, deliberate planning, and static security procedures.

diplomatic security

What to Expect Once You Become an Agent

For the first three years as a new Special Agent, you’d most likely be assigned to a domestic field office. However, after the initial duty assignments, you would be expected to serve the majority of your career living and working abroad. What’s more, you will probably have to rotate between overseas assignments and domestic offices every few years.

That is why DS Special Agent should be willing to travel extensively and on short notice. Sometimes, that means having assignments in remote areas where medical facilities and traditional comforts are limited. It could also include traveling to places where conditions are potentially hostile or where the assignments need to be performed under hazardous circumstances.

Other Positions Within the Department

It takes a specific type of person to become a DS Special Agent and rise up to the challenges that this job poses. With that said, if the road to diplomatic security doesn’t seem right to you anymore, there are alternatives you should consider. The job opportunities we’re about to list all fall within the Bureau and are a vital part of the work that goes on there.

Security Engineering Officer

A security engineering officer is someone who provides technical security support to foreign service posts, as well as domestic locations. What’s more, that officer will provide their engineering expertise to the government branch.

Some of the responsibilities a security engineering officer is tasked with include:

  • Designing and developing security systems;
  • Analyzing, installing, and testing those very systems;
  • Conducting security assessments;
  • Implementing computer security measures;
  • Supporting dignitary travel;
  • Performing technical surveillance countermeasure inspections;

Security Technical Specialist

If cybersecurity and tech, in general, are more your speed, you’re probably better suited to be a security technical specialist. As a specialist, your job would be to provide support and assistance in various technical security programs all over the world. You’d be working on programs that protect the state from acts of terrorism, crime, and espionage.

Now, the work of a security technical specialist is incredibly varied, which means that no two workdays are the same. The range of duties will include:

  • Supporting dignitary travel;
  • Exploring and implementing new technology systems;
  • Installing, maintaining, and repairing technical security equipment;
  • Managing projects;

Bottom Line

Meeting the requirements to be a diplomatic security agent is just the first step to a long and arduous process. The training alone takes months to complete, and if you make it, you’ll be ready for a challenging and dynamic career. If the travel and responsibilities sound like your dream job, don’t wait to apply.

However, if all the duties feel overwhelming, try looking for a different position within the Bureau or DSS. You can even look into diplomatic protection, and see if that better aligns with your professional goals.

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