A New Diplomatic Security Service 'Techie' is a Veteran When it Comes to Supporting National Security

3 minutes read time
A security technical specialist removes security camera cables on September 30, 2015, from a secured hallway of the ONE UN New York hotel where Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif had been staying during the 70th UN General Assembly.
A security technical specialist removes security camera cables on September 30, 2015, from a secured hallway of the ONE UN New York hotel where Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif had been staying during the 70th UN General Assembly.

A New Diplomatic Security Service 'Techie' is a Veteran When it Comes to Supporting National Security

It’s National Techie Day and the Diplomatic Security Service’s (DSS) security engineering officers, security technical specialists (STS), and Seabees are the experts who keep the Department of State technically secure. In this interview, STS Leslie Hutchison talks about her role supporting the DSS mission.

“I fix things,” says DSS STS Leslie Hutchison. “I get a rush every time I am successful in solving a problem.”

After three decades of repairing, testing, and maintaining technical programs, Hutchison still loves her job. While Hutchison has 30 years of experience under her belt, she’s relatively new to DSS. Hutchison, one of two female STSs, joined the organization in 2016 and graduated from STS training in February 2017.

“My STS training expanded my previous experience,” said Hutchison. “I learned the intricacies of the Department of State lock program and some of the more industrial electrical installations that I have not encountered before.”

STSs are Foreign Service specialists who help protect department’s facilities and personnel from technical espionage, terrorism, and crime. She maintains and repairs physical security systems, alarm systems, cameras, x-ray machines, and more. To apply for an STS position, an applicant must have previous technical experience.

Hutchison took the Foreign Service officer exam three times, passing it on her final take, but chose to accept the STS position with DSS instead. She is currently at the Foreign Service Institute in immersion language training in preparation for her next overseas assignment.

“I had the opportunity to travel TDY to my future posting a few months ago and loved the experience,” says Hutchison. “I have an idea of what I’ll be getting into there, and I’m looking forward to it.”

Hutchison, who grew up in Texas, spent most of her career supporting Department of Defense programs, and served four-and-a-half years in the U.S. Navy as an aviation electrician’s mate.  Most recently, she spent 10 years in Okinawa, Japan, which increased her desire to work for the Department of State.

“I loved living abroad and have always wanted to travel,” she says. “Living overseas allows you to become a part of the culture; something you’d never experience on a two-week vacation.”

Her love of solving problems extends beyond her day job. She previously coached elementary and middle school Odyssey of the Mind teams, which were tasked with building an eight-gram maximum balsa wood structure capable of supporting more than 700 pounds. In her third year of coaching, her team won local and state competitions and took third place in the global competition.

When asked about being one of two female STSs in DSS, Hutchison said it’s not an unusual position.

“During my career, I have always been the only woman on the team,” Hutchison continues.  “But it has never been an issue.”

 When asked about the lack of female STSs at DSS, Hutchison said it’s not a surprise.

“There just aren’t a lot of women with technical skills out there. I know there is a big emphasis on recruiting women into more science, tech, and engineering fields, so maybe we’ll see an increase in the future.”

About the Author: Angela French serves in the Bureau of Diplomatic Security's  Public Affairs Office at the U.S. Department of State.

Editor's Note: This entry also appears in the U.S. Department of State's publication on Medium.com.