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MARCH 2017


The rapid growth in size and responsibilities at DS has brought challenges in terms

of policy, personnel and training. Here is an inside look at some of the issues.



Donna Scaramastra Gorman is a freelance writer whose

work has appeared in

Time Magazine, Newsweek, The

Washington Post

and the

Christian Science Monitor


The spouse of a DS agent, she has lived in Amman, Mos-

cow, Yerevan, Almaty, Beijing and, currently, Washington, D.C.


e’re at a cross-

roads,” says

Bill Miller,

leaning for-

ward as if to

emphasize the

urgency of the

task at hand.


Security is changing culturally. Are we paramilitary? Are we law


As the principal deputy assistant secretary for the State

Department Bureau of Diplomatic Security and director of the

Diplomatic Security Service (who stepped in as acting assis-

tant secretary for DS on Jan. 20), Miller leads an organization

that is constantly adapting to keep pace with—and whenever

possible, stay ahead of—events around the globe. A 30-year

veteran of DS, Miller not only leads 2,100 special agents, but

also engineers, investigators, technical specialists and civil

servants. The largest bureau in the State Department, DS has

become more influential and, in many cases, indispensable, as

diplomats engage in an increasingly uncertain world.



“The complexities of our job are exponentially greater now

than when I started,” Miller explains. So are the expectations.

Over the past three decades, DS has grown in terms of size and

budget, developing along the way into a premier global secu-

rity force with a complex and evolving mission.

Such rapid growth brings challenges in terms of policy,

personnel and training. And while it’s difficult to find consen-

sus within DS on how best to solve these issues, all agree on

the basic mission: to continue to move confidently in conven-

tional diplomatic circles while preparing agents to succeed

in the smoke and haze that follows a terrorist attack, political

coup or natural disaster anywhere in the world.

A Global Outlook

“I helped evacuate American citizens from our embassy in

Beijing after protests were forcibly put down in Tiananmen

Square in 1989,” says Kurt Rice, the deputy assistant secre-

tary (DAS) for threat, investigations and analysis. Back then,

if a place got too dangerous, “we simply closed the post and

pulled everyone out,” he says. “But that way of working funda-

mentally changed after 9/11.” Today DS has to safeguard diplo-

matic efforts in such posts. This has caused tension between

DS agents, with their perceived desire to shut operations down

in dangerous places, and Foreign Service officers who need to

go out into a dangerous world to get their work done.

“It’s easy to protect everyone if you always say no to every-

thing,” says Rice, but he insists DS doesn’t say no as often as

people think. DS is sometimes “painted as the folks who say