THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL
A veteran special agent and leader of Diplomatic Security discusses
what it takes to serve the United States overseas today … and tomorrow.
SECURING DIPLOMACY FOR THE
Gregory B. Starr became assistant secretary of State for Diplomatic Security in November 2013. He previously served as director of
the Diplomatic Security Service from April 2007 until his retirement in May 2009. He returned to the bureau in February 2013 as
principal deputy assistant secretary, director of the Diplomatic Security Service and acting assistant secretary. From May 2009 un-
til January 2013, Mr. Starr served as United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Safety and Security. Other domestic assignments
included deputy assistant secretary of State for countermeasures (2004-2007), director of the Office of Physical Security Programs (2000-2004)
and division chief for worldwide local guard and residential security programs (1995-1997), as well as assignments to the Secretary’s detail,
technical security operations and the New York Field Office. He has served overseas as the senior regional security officer (RSO) in Tel Aviv,
Tunis and Dakar, and in the RSO Office in Kinshasa. He began his FS career as a special agent in July 1980 and joined the ranks of the Senior
Foreign Service in 2001. Before his retirement from the State Department in 2009, Mr. Starr held the rank of Minister Counselor.
merican diplomats over the
next quarter-century will likely
continue working in a world of
complex security challenges that
have no quick, easy fixes. As a
result, the State Department and
the United States will have to
make tough decisions about how
we pursue diplomacy and U.S.
government programs through overseas engagement.
Serving most recently as assistant secretary of State for
Diplomatic Security from 2013 until early 2017, I have spent my
career focused on threats to the people who are charged with
implementing our nation’s foreign policy. Part of this work has
included trying to peer into the future to assess what the world
might look like over the next quarter century.
Frankly, I am seeing some ominous warning signs.
We as a nation will remain focused on counterterrorism.
But we also face numerous other challenges to global stabil-
ity, challenges that may include military dimensions but also
require diplomacy, interagency initiatives and close working
relationships with international partners and nongovernmen-
If we want to continue protecting our citizens by having a
positive influence in a dangerous world, we need to find ways
to maintain a meaningful presence in increasingly unstable
situations. Those who answer the call to serve our nation need
to know what they’re buying into. The Foreign Service of today
is not the Foreign Service of 40, 20 or even 10 years ago.
We will need to keep recruiting and developing the best and
most devoted people who can solve myriad diplomatic issues.
Security is a responsibility not just for DS agents, but for every-
one; and it requires a clear-headed mindset about what it takes
to serve the United States overseas.
BY GREGORY B . STARR