Foreign bureau agents, often referred to as diplomatic security special agents, are part of the Bureau of Diplomatic Security (DS), the security and law enforcement arm of the U.S. Department of State. Foreign bureau agents aid in the following efforts of the DS:
- Cyber security
- International investigations
- Security technology
- Threat analysis
About the Bureau of Diplomatic Security and Foreign Bureau Agent Jobs
The Bureau of Diplomatic Security is responsible for overseeing the conduct of U.S. foreign policy and is the only law enforcement agency with representation in nearly every country in the world. Foreign bureau agents within the Bureau of Diplomatic Security work out of 31 U.S. cities and are present in more than 160 foreign countries. Currently, foreign bureau agents are overseeing about 275 U.S. diplomatic missions, investigating passport and visa fraud, fighting the war or terror, and securing critical information systems.
The Bureau of Diplomatic Security is staffed with special agents and with contract agents, who are called upon to conduct criminal, counterterrorism, and background investigations. Foreign bureau agents also provide assistance to the Secretary of State, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, and foreign dignitaries. These professionals often collaborate with federal law enforcement, local law enforcement, foreign mission personnel, and private sector companies to provide these services.
Who are Foreign Bureau Agents?
Foreign bureau agents are sworn law enforcement officers. These special agents spend much of their careers working abroad at U.S. embassies and consulates. These professionals must agree to serve at any U.S. diplomatic or consulate post abroad for the majority of their career, although may serve as U.S. field offices in such major cities as Miami, New York, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Houston, or San Francisco.
Foreign bureau agents, depending upon their assignment, may:
- Conduct protective security services
- Administer and manage U.S. diplomatic mission security programs overseas
- Conduct investigations, including counterintelligence, criminal, and personnel investigations
- Assess security threats against U.S. interests
- Conduct or administer security-related training for U.S. foreign affairs agencies and police or security officials in designated foreign governments
How to Become a Foreign Bureau Agent
Individuals interested in pursuing foreign bureau agent jobs must possess a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university (one that is recognized by the U.S. Secretary of Education). Individuals pursuing a bachelor’s degree may apply for a job as a foreign bureau agent up to nine months preceding their graduation.
Foreign bureau agents must also possess at least one year of work experience and/or academic achievements that reflect attributes and skills such as: initiative, leadership, judgment, emotional stability, responsibility, and trustworthiness.
Individuals must also possess specialized experience in one or more of the following areas:
- Administration of security programs
- Conduct of investigations
- Conduct of threat assessments
- Service in a law enforcement agency
- Service in the U.S. military
Individuals with at least 18 credit hours of graduate-level study may substitute their education for the experience requirements.
Training for foreign bureau agents include 6 months of training at the Diplomatic Security Training Center in Washington, DC and the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Brunswick Georgia. The training program includes subjects such as:
- Physical fitness
- Federal court procedures
- Personal defensive tactics
- Driving skills
- Criminal law
- Emergency medical procedures
- Criminal investigations
Upon being hired, agents can expect to be assigned to one of the eight domestic field offices for their first 3 years of service.
Salary Statistics for Foreign Bureau Agents
Foreign bureau agents are hired at the Foreign Service Grade FP-6, Step 4 ($41,954), with a maximum salary at the FP-6, level 14 ($56,383).