THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL
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…