Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) is the federal law enforcement agency and security arm of the United States Department of State. The agency is the lead U.S. law enforcement organization abroad. Its duties include protecting U.S. diplomatic missions, U.S. diplomats, and visiting foreign dignitaries; conducting criminal, counter-terrorism, and counterintelligence investigations both domestically and abroad; advising U.S. ambassadors on security matters; and managing or implementing security programs worldwide.

Diplomatic Security Service most notably provides protection for US diplomatic missions, US diplomats, and visiting foreign dignitaries. The DSS also performs a myriad of other activities including international investigations, threat analysis, counterterrorism, security technology, cyber security, and protection of people, property, and information. DSS Special Agents are federal agents with the power to arrest, carry firearms, serve arrest warrants, and perform other law enforcement activities.

The majority of DSS Special Agents are jointly Foreign Service specialists and American federal law enforcement officers, making the DSS unique, as most other federal law enforcement agents are members of the Federal Civil Service. As such, because DSS Special Agents are members of the Foreign Service, unlike all other civilian federal law enforcement officers, DSS agents must serve multiple-year tours overseas as a condition of employment. When not at an overseas assignment, agents serve in field offices and HQ positions. A small percentage of DS special agents are members of the State Department’s civil service, and are not mandated to serve tours overseas. These special agents focus on criminal work and dignitary protection within the United States.

When assigned to domestic field offices, DSS Special Agents investigate passport fraud and visa fraud, and protect visiting foreign dignitaries. DSS agents also investigate the activities of foreign intelligence agencies that are focused on the Department of State, assist in apprehending fugitives that have fled to the United States, and conduct background checks on State Department employees, applicants, and contractors.

When assigned to US embassies abroad, DSS Special Agents perform law enforcement duties at US missions, provide security assistance, protect senior diplomats, and perform other duties. The ranking DSS officer at an embassy or consulate holds the title Regional Security Officer (RSO), and is often known as the security attaché.

Both at home and abroad, DSS agents engage in other types of law enforcement including counterintelligence operations, counterterrorism operations, and dedicated protection operations for the United States Secretary of State, United States Representative to the United Nations, and other senior diplomatic officials.

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