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MARCH 2017



national security policy development. As already noted, DS

is a key policy and operational leader within the U.S. govern-

ment’s personnel recovery program. The bureau is also a voting

member of the National Explosive Detection Canine Advisory

Board, which establishes policies and standards for explosives

detection K9 programs at the federal, state and local levels. In

addition, DS is a voting member of the State Department’s Avia-

tion Governing Board, which determines policy and oversees

State’s air wing, the largest

non-military air fleet operated

by the U.S. government. All of

these roles have emerged over

the past 10 years.

The strongest measure,

however, of DS’s emerging

role in policy development

and value to the nation’s

leadership is illustrated by the

White House itself. In 2014,

at the request of the NSC, DS

detailed a special agent to

the council as a director for

counterterrorism, to manage the overseas threat portfolio on

behalf of the national security adviser and the president. This

agent helps shape interagency policy as a direct link between

the White House and State, to ensure that our national lead-

ers are fully informed of security-related issues involving our

diplomatic facilities and threats to all Americans overseas, both

public and private.

DS quickly established itself as an important and respected

voice at the table. “What does the RSO think?” is now a question

commonly asked at senior levels of the federal govern-

ment when major policy decisions are formulated.

How Does It All Work?

Thus far, I have summarized various programs

and initiatives, and explained how they individually

support and enable national security goals and objec-

tives. But some readers may be asking how these DS

programs and initiatives are mutually supportive. In

particular, how do they collectively advance key U.S.

national security goals abroad? Consider the following

real-life example.

In July 2015, Kenya hosted the Global Entrepre-

neurship Summit, which Pres. Obama attended

along with thousands of other participants. The summit was an

important component of the Obama administration’s economic

policy, so, just six months prior to its opening, the White House

tasked DS with leading the coordination of all U.S. law enforce-

ment and security activities with our Kenyan partners.

Given the limited availability of host-government resources,

time constraints and threat conditions, it was an enormous

undertaking. Using its deliberative planning process and draw-

ing on considerable organizational experience derived from

supporting large international

events such as the Olympics,

DS began the complex process

of identifying and tasking

capabilities from each bureau

directorate to identify solu-

tions and manage risk for the


Operationally, this

included many things. DS

Anti-Terrorism Assistance

personnel deployed prior to

the summit to provide Kenyan

colleagues in-country training

(including the Special Program for Embassy Augmentation and

Response). The DS liaison agent to the U.S. Africa Command

and DS Personnel Recovery programmanagers developed a

robust personnel recovery capability specific to this event with

their U.S. military counterparts. In addition, the Marine Security

Augmentation Unit was deployed, and DS set up an around-

the-clock interagency tactical operations center.

At the strategic level, the Rewards for Justice program tar-

geted the leadership of the al-Shabaab jihadist terrorist group

The timely insights RSOs

share with combatant

commands—through the DS

liaison agents—have been

critical in shaping and enabling

military support operations.

A DSS special agent on protective detail stands watch on the sidelines while

Secretary of State John Kerry delivers remarks at the August 2015 Global

Leadership in the Arctic Conference in Anchorage, Alaska.