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MARCH 2017




hen most people think of Diplomatic Security, they

think of federal agents with their guns and badges,

or of the regional security officers they meet overseas.

But of the 50,000 employees of the Bureau of Diplo-

matic Security, only about 2,100 are special agents. DS

also employs more than 220 engineers and 100 diplo-

matic couriers, as well as 160 security technicians, 1,000

uniformed officers, 850 civil servants and more than

37,000 Locally Employed guards. DS even counts more

than 100 Seabees—members of the U.S. Naval Construc-

tion Forces—among its staff.

Overseas, says Kurt Rice, the deputy assistant secretary

for threat, investigations and analysis, a security office at a

large embassy needs all of these people to be successful.

Together, he says, a good team can work as “an orchestra

for calm” in an emergency. In the United States, analysts

and other civil servants are a critical piece of the puzzle,

without which DS simply couldn’t function.

One analyst who has been with DS for the past

decade says the “new DS” recognizes and respects the

importance of his role. “The analytical role was less

important back when the bureau only focused on guns,

guards and gates,” he says. His role is to provide action-

able intelligence to both DS leadership at headquarters

and RSOs in the field. Using his analysis, “informed RSOs

can take chances. They are more likely to be successful

because of the work we do.” Because of his work, “FSOs

can go out from behind the walls and do their jobs.”

“Every civil servant in the bureau has a role to play,”

the analyst continues. “It all goes to serving greater DS.”

Without couriers to move classified pouches from post

to post, for example, embassies would cease to func-

tion. “Pouches are more than just papers,” he points out.

He also singles out Seabees, who maintain and repair

security systems at embassies overseas, and employees

of the Bureau of Overseas Building Operations, who work

closely with DS to ensure that new buildings meet all

security standards. “DS couldn’t exist without all of these

different people,” he states.

One Seabee, a former employee of Diplomatic Secu-

rity’s Office of Security Technology, praises the training

and resources DS gave him. “ST has some of the most

sophisticated security and countermeasure systems

available today,” he says, and provides “top-tier training

to its engineers and technical specialists.” The biggest

difficulties he faced while in his position at one of the

largest embassies overseas, he says, arose because of

the sheer size of the RSO office. At a large post, he says,

not everyone who works for the RSO shares the same

office space; this can create a “sense of disconnect” that

a good RSO will work to overcome. He applauds the work

done at the DS Command Center in Northern Virginia,

saying that their employees “provide information and

support that allows informed decision-making” at post.

Seabees. Engineers. Office managers. Locally

Employed staff. Making sure all of these people are on

the same page is critical to keeping DS on task across

the globe. Every employee at headquarters and through-

out the various field offices knows who they are sup-

porting around the world. And each one of them fills an

important role within the bureau.


of DS recruiting efforts, as they pull in more women, minorities

and people with advanced degrees.

The question now becomes, how do we keep these new

people happy? In the past DS hired people who were quali-

fied for the job, he says. But, he adds, “we didn’t manage their

expectations. The job is complicated and extremely stressful on

families.” Past recruits didn’t understand that, he explains: “They

didn’t get that there can be enduring medical issues, mental or

physical, because of this job. We hired people and didn’t help

them understand what we needed or what they’d be doing.” Now

that DS is doing a better job weeding out the recruits who aren’t

really up for the mental and physical challenges of the job, he

thinks retaining the good employees will become less of an issue.

The Pain of Bidding

Spend a few minutes talking to a DS employee or spouse

about the job, and you’ll most likely get an earful about bidding.

In the “normal” Foreign Service, they’ll remind you, almost every

bidder gets an assignment on the same day in late fall. But for

DS bidders, the process drags on for months, and the wait can be

Not Just Guns, Guards and Gates…