The Expansive Mission of the Diplomatic Security Service

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The Expansive Mission of the Diplomatic Security Service

The Diplomatic Security Service, the law enforcement branch of the U.S. Department of State, works with domestic and international counterparts to ensure the safe conduct of U.S. foreign policy. Through visa and passport fraud investigations, cybersecurity, diplomatic protection training, and sophisticated security technology and engineering, Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) protects the people, property and information of 275 State Department missions worldwide.

The 2016 DSS employee of the year awardees are prime examples of the vital contributions Diplomatic Security Service makes to U.S. diplomacy. 

When violence erupts overseas, DSS special agents are often on the scene, thwarting terrorists, protecting U.S. citizens and property, and working with law enforcement and security partners in response to dangerous situations. DSS Special Agent Jesse Thomas, recipient of the 2016 Robert C. Bannerman Employee of the Year award, did just that during his tour as the regional security officer at the U.S. Embassy in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. On January 15, 2016, terrorists attacked a hotel and café in Ouagadougou, killing 30 people. While pandemonium reigned, Thomas responded immediately, extracting the people the terrorists had pinned down. Throughout the crisis, he coordinated with security forces, ensured Americans received medical attention, and situated the FBI agents who arrived to investigate. Thomas displayed similar leadership and courage during the 2014 uprising in the country, an attempt by elements in the security forces attempt to seize power in 2015, and subsequent historic elections.

Assigned to support the unstable, yet critical, East Africa region, Diplomatic Courier of the Year James Dasney was faced with numerous challenges. Dasney met each with ingenuity. After several months of complex negotiations, Dasney and his team worked with U.S. Embassy Bujumbura to persuade the Burundi government to comply with the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, allowing diplomatic couriers to carry classified pouches into the country without preset conditions or inspections. Confronted with a cumbersome system requiring couriers to pay cash to carry cargo destined for South Sudan, Dasney spearheaded a formal agreement between Kenya Airways and the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi to process payments electronically. He tackled continual staff shortages and fatigue at the embassy by coordinating six-week temporary-duty courier assignments, giving those working long hours a respite. Over the last year, his team has monitored and safeguarded more than 50,000 diplomatic pouches containing national security information.

With an eye toward innovation, DSS Civil Servant of the Year Michael Fowler created the Diplomatic Security Center for Lessons Learned, a digital vault containing more than 750 planning documents, after action reports and other resources which have proven invaluable to DSS personnel around the world. Fowler also deployed to several locations around the world to support regional security offices’ contingency operations planning, including a two-week deployment to Iraq in December 2015 to assist with compiling contingency plans should the Mosul Dam fail and cause catastrophic flooding. Fowler also led a DSS operations planning team to ensure synchronized action and planning between DSS, the rest of the Department of State, and other U.S. government agencies.

While special agents have greater visibility to the diplomatic community, security technical specialists and engineers are just as instrumental to implementing the DSS mission. One of these individuals is Security Technical Specialist of the Year Keith Cornett who served in U.S. Embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan, and help to ensure the U.S. mission in Pakistan remained connected and secure. Another is Security Engineering Officer of the Year Richard Nelson, who also received an award for his work in a high-risk region in Kabul, Afghanistan. 

These are just a few of the brave men and women serving in diplomatic security who are supporting the vital work of their colleagues at embassies and consulates. They help Diplomatic Security Service serve and essential yet behind-the-scenes role: to provide a safe and secure environment for the conduct of U.S. foreign policy. Not only is Diplomatic Security a unique organization in the foreign affairs community--it is the only law enforcement agency with representation in nearly every country in the world and one that continues to looks forward to serving U.S. interests globally.

About the Author: Angela French serves a Public Affairs Specialists for the Bureau of Diplomatic Security.

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