United States Department of State
An Equal Opportunity Employer
How to Apply
Announcement No: SA – 12 - 01
Opening Date: March 16, 2012
CLOSED: March 30, 2012
Position Title: FOREIGN SERVICE DIPLOMATIC SECURITY SPECIAL AGENT
Grade and Starting Salary Range:FP-06; $41,954 - $56,383 per annum
Plus 25% Law Enforcement Availability Pay (LEAP)
Additional Benefits: Tax-Free Housing Overseas; Tax-Free
Educational Allowance Overseas, etc. (Details available online at careers.state.gov/specialist/benefits.)
Number of Vacancies: The Department of State is developing a rank-order register to fill a limited number of Foreign Service Special Agent (SA) vacancies. The specific number to be hired will depend on the needs of the Foreign Service. Applications will be accepted ONLY during the period specified above.
Area of Consideration: All Sources.
Location: All assignments until tenure will be directed by the Department and future assignments will be made according to the needs of the service. Assignments may be to any of 274 Foreign Service posts abroad or to domestic posts in major cities within the United States and Puerto Rico at a Diplomatic Security Field Office, Resident Office, or at Bureau of Diplomatic Security headquarters in Washington, DC. Initial training and orientation will take place in Washington, DC and at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) in Brunswick, GA.
Applicants must successfully complete an online screening process. In order to access the initial screening (written exercise and multiple-choice questions), please go to https://www.123assess.com/testcenter/dos/login.jsp. Only a limited number of applicants are expected to score high enough in the online screening to be invited to participate in an oral assessment administered by a Board of Examiners team.
Applicants who are not successful under this Announcement are not eligible to reapply until one year after the closing date, or March 31, 2013, provided there is a new open Vacancy Announcement at that time.
All applicants, in order to be considered for selection, must:
- Be a U.S. citizen.
- Be at least 20 years old to apply and at least 21 years of age to be appointed. Special Agent candidates must be appointed prior to their 37th birthday.
- Must be available for worldwide service.
- Be able to obtain a Top Secret Security Clearance.
- Be able to obtain an appropriate medical clearance for Foreign Service work.
- Obtain a Suitability Clearance, based on a review of the candidate's record for conduct in accordance with the suitability standards defined in Chapter 3 of the Foreign Affairs Manual. For more details see http://careers.state.gov/specialist/selection-process or http://www.state.gov/m/a/dir/regs/fam.
DESCRIPTION OF DUTIES
Special Agents (SA) of the Bureau of Diplomatic Security (DS) are sworn federal law enforcement officers who are responsible for the security of Foreign Service personnel, property, and sensitive information throughout the world. A substantial portion of a DS Special Agent’s career is spent living and working abroad. DS Special Agents are also responsible for the protection of the Secretary of State, certain foreign dignitaries during their visits to the U.S., and others as designated by the Secretary of State. Major activities include protective services, management of security programs for Foreign Service posts, criminal investigations, and background investigations, in addition to administrative, training, and liaison functions.
THE DIPLOMATIC SECURITY SPECIAL AGENT CAREER
The Department of State is seeking Diplomatic Security Special Agents to serve in the Foreign Service domestically, and at U.S. embassies and consulates worldwide. Candidates must agree to live and to serve at any U.S. diplomatic or consular post abroad for a significant portion of their career, as well as in Washington, DC, or at field offices in such cities as Boston, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, or San Francisco, according to the needs of the service. As members of a diplomatic team, Special Agents not only help to accomplish the mission of the Department of State, but also represent the United States to the people of other nations. The Foreign Service is more than a job – it is a career.
A career in the Foreign Service involves uncommon commitment and occasional hardships along with unique rewards and opportunities. A decision to enter this career must involve unusual motivation, and a firm dedication to public service. In addition to living and serving in the United States as with all Foreign Service positions, living and serving overseas is mandatory. Many overseas posts are in small or remote countries where harsh climates, health hazards, and other discomforts exist, and where American-style amenities frequently are unavailable. However, careers in the Foreign Service offer special rewards, including the pride and satisfaction of representing the United States, and protecting U. S. interests at home and abroad.
Diplomatic Security Special Agents, depending upon assignment, are responsible for Department of State security policies, provision of a range of security services, management of security operations, supervision of subordinate staff, and the actual performance of some, or all, of the following functions:
- Conducting protective security services for the Secretary of State, other U.S. government officials, and visiting foreign dignitaries.
- Administering and managing U.S. diplomatic mission security programs at overseas posts to include protection of personnel, facilities, and sensitive information, along with oversight of the U.S. Marine Security Guard and contract local security guard programs.
- Conducting investigations, to include criminal investigations, personnel investigations, counterintelligence and counter-terrorism inquiries, and investigative work in preparing for court appearances.
- Conducting or implementing projects or programs involved with the safeguarding of classified and sensitive information and materials, as derived from Presidential Directives or Executive Orders.
- Assessing security threats against U.S. interests and diplomatic installations and personnel abroad, as well as investigating hostile intelligence attempts to subvert U.S. personnel and interests overseas.
- Managing or implementing security-related aspects of new office building construction; developing and implementing counter-terrorist access controls for existing and new buildings.
- Conducting, administering, and managing security-related training, and training assistance programs for U.S. foreign affairs agencies’ personnel, and police / security officials of designated foreign governments.
INITIAL CAREER DEVELOPMENT ASSIGNMENTS
All Special Agents must complete approximately six months of initial training at the Diplomatic Security Training Center (DSTC) in the Washington, DC area, and the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) in Brunswick, Georgia. The training program develops and tests proficiency in job-related subjects that include criminal law, federal court procedures, use of firearms, physical fitness, personal defensive tactics, driving skills, emergency medical procedures, protective security techniques, and criminal investigations. Proficiency is measured through a series of scored practical exercises, as well as subject matter-specific and comprehensive written examinations. Failure to successfully complete any aspect of the training program is grounds for separation.
Special Agents normally will be assigned to one of eight domestic Field Offices for their first three years of service (including training), or possibly to a smaller Resident Agent Office. There may be occasions when new Agents could be assigned to other domestic units, or sent directly overseas. Needs of the service sometimes require that domestic assignments be shortened for re-assignment to a Regional Security Office at an overseas post.
The needs of the service will always have a significant bearing upon personnel assignments; that is especially true in a Special Agent’s initial assignments. While it is possible that a Special Agent may serve in domestic positions for the initial two tours of duty, it is equally possible that the needs of the service may require assignment abroad much earlier than expected. After Special Agents have gained several years of experience, and are tenured, they have a greater opportunity to express their preference for an onward assignment in domestic or overseas positions. Special Agents are expected to serve a substantial portion of their careers living and working abroad.
Domestically, Special Agents may be assigned to provide protective services for the Secretary of State, and other U.S. officials, or visiting foreign dignitaries. Domestic Special Agent duties can entail long hours and extended periods of travel, including overseas travel. Domestic assignments include criminal investigations related primarily to the enforcement of statutes protecting the integrity of U.S. passports and entry visa documents. Special Agents may also conduct background investigations for individuals desiring employment with the Department of State, or updating the security clearances of Department of State employees. Throughout their careers, Special Agents can expect to work substantial overtime, and occasional irregular schedules that require duty on weekends and holidays.
When assigned abroad, Special Agents serve as security program managers at U.S. diplomatic or consular posts. At Foreign Service posts, Diplomatic Security Special Agents are referred to as Regional Security Officers, and are responsible for the administration of a broad range of security services to protect Foreign Service personnel, facilities, operations, and information against foreign intelligence, criminal, and terrorist activities. The Bureau of Diplomatic Security also conducts overseas investigations for the Department of State and other federal agencies. Diplomatic Security Regional Security Officers are assigned responsibilities on a regional basis, and may serve Foreign Service posts in several countries, which may require frequent travel.
INITIAL SALARY AND SALARY INCREASES
Initial salary at appointment will normally be at Foreign Service grade FP-6, step 4. Exceptions may be made to increase the number of steps based upon such factors as a master’s degree in a related field (e.g. criminal justice), or a law degree, and/or other directly related specialized experience. However, maximum salary is limited to the step within grade FP-06 that the candidate is qualified for at the time of appointment. No appointments are made above the FP-06, step 14 level ($56,383 base pay). Salaries are determined at the time a final offer of employment is made.
All service/employment calculations are based upon a one year minimum. One step may be added for each 12 months of total creditable (and documented) experience, rounded down. Part-time experience or employment will be pro-rated but will not be credited if it totals less than 12 months.
Current USG employees enter at the step that is nearest to their current base pay up to a maximum of FP-06 step 14. No appointments are made above the FP-06, step 14 level ($56,383 base pay).
Directly related experience may be credited only as follows:
- Military Service – one step for each documented year of specialized military service as a Special Agent in Criminal Investigations Division (CID), Office of Special Investigations (OSI), Navy Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) and/or Coast Guard Intelligence. One step for each year of specialized experience in military organizations equivalent to those named above in which the primary duties are directly related to the functions of a DS Special Agent. No credit will be given for service as a Marine Security Guard (MSG) watchstander, a police patrolman, or military police (MP), unless the position had extensive investigative or protective detail responsibilities. It will be incumbent on the applicant to provide supporting documentation.
- Law Enforcement – one step for each documented year of specialized, directly related experience as a detective, criminal investigator; personal protective specialist (e.g., Governor’s/Mayor’s Detail) or a Special Agent in a state or federal law enforcement organization.
- Other Categories – Additional salary steps are not awarded for work which cannot be documented as directly related, or for experience not clearly and directly related to the functions of the Special Agent position.
Upon the successful completion of all training, salaries will be adjusted (25%) to include Law Enforcement Availability Pay (LEAP) and, if applicable, locality pay. Upon relocating overseas, salaries may be adjusted to include cost-of-living allowance, post differential, danger pay, and/or other allowances specific to posts of assignment. The actual differences in pay will be determined by the location of assignments.
Special Agents will be administratively promoted from FP-6 to the FP-5 level after 12 months of satisfactory performance, and to FP-4 after an additional 18 months of satisfactory performance. To proceed beyond the FP-4 level, Special Agents must receive tenure, and are considered for promotion annually in competition with their peers.
QUALIFICATIONS AND REQUIREMENTS
Special Agent applicants must be U.S. citizens, and must have a bachelor’s degree at the time of appointment, as stipulated in the educational requirements section. Male applicants must be in compliance with the Selective Service Act (if necessary). Applicants are required to qualify with firearms during initial training and periodically thereafter. Applicants must be willing to use and carry firearms throughout their career. Applicants must be fit for strenuous physical exertion and able to pass physical fitness tests. Applicants must possess a valid U.S. driver’s license, and be able to pass specialized driving courses during initial training.
Applicants must successfully complete all aspects of the six month initial training program for their candidacy and their employment, to be continued; failure to pass any aspect of the initial training, including physical fitness tests, is grounds for separation.
Applicants for a Special Agent position must not have been convicted of any felony charge. In accordance with the Lautenberg Amendment to the Gun Control Act, a person convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence may not possess a firearm. Applicants must be able to certify that they have not been convicted of any such violation, and that they are not otherwise prohibited from possessing firearms.
The initial qualification review is conducted to determine if the applicant meets the minimum qualifications for the position. Some of the minimum qualifications are discussed in the following paragraphs. Most of those qualifications are summarized on the minimum qualifications check sheet at the end of this Announcement.
Candidates cannot be appointed prior to their 21st birthday. Candidates must be within nine months of receiving their bachelor’s degree in order to apply. S pecifically, they must receive their degree prior to December 31, 2012 (exceptions will not be granted). Special Agent candidates must be appointed prior to their 37th birthday. The Omnibus Diplomatic Security and Antiterrorism Act authorizes the Secretary of State to prescribe qualifications for Special Agents, including entry age. Those qualifications remain in effect until changed by the Secretary of State or by the courts. The age 37 maximum does not apply to preference - eligible veterans.
Prior to appointment, candidates for the Special Agent position must undergo a thorough background investigation to determine eligibility for a TOP SECRET (TS) security clearance, and the candidate’s suitability for appointment to the Foreign Service. In addition, a determination must be made of a Special Agent candidate’s eligibility for TOP SECRET / SENSITIVE COMPARTMENTED INFORMATION (TS / SCI) access. The Special Agent candidate and, with few exceptions, all immediate family members (spouse, parents, siblings, children, or cohabitants) must be citizens of the United States in order for the candidate to qualify for SCI access.
A candidate that already holds a current Top Secret clearance, but does not hold SCI access, will require an upgrade to SCI access before he or she can report for training or duty.
As is the case with other federal criminal investigators and protective security personnel, Special Agents must perform duties in the field that are physically demanding. Special Agents must be willing and able to meet these physical demands in high-stress, life and death situations. The Special Agent’s life, and the lives of others, may depend upon the Agent’s physical capabilities and conditioning. For this reason, Special Agent candidates must satisfy medical suitability and physical fitness requirements that are more rigorous than those of most other professions.
Specifically, candidates must pass a thorough medical examination, which includes a cardiovascular stress test conducted or authorized by the Department of State’s Office of Medical Services. In order to continue their candidacy, each candidate must receive a Department of State class one medical clearance (unlimited clearance for worldwide assignment). This means that candidates must be generally healthy and free of medical conditions that might require specialized or follow-up medical care that cannot be obtained worldwide.
Special Agent candidates must meet certain minimum physical standards, including various tests for vision in each eye, with and without correction, as well as audio-metric standards for hearing in each ear (use of a hearing aid is not permitted), sufficient to satisfactorily perform an Agent’s duties. For example, uncorrected distant vision must be 20/100 or better in each eye and corrected to 20/20 in one eye and 20/30 or better in the other eye. Candidates must also pass color vision and depth perception tests.
Additionally, the Office of Medical Services must determine that a candidate is medically able to meet the numerous, and often arduous, physical demands that are inherent in, and are a necessary part of, the essential functions of the job. For instance, Special Agents are required to perform protective security assignments with physical demands that may include, but are not limited to, intermittent and prolonged periods of running, walking, standing, sitting, squatting, kneeling, climbing stairs, quickly entering and exiting various vehicles, enduring inclement weather, as well as carrying and using firearms.
Special Agents conduct raids, make arrests, and perform other law enforcement or related functions that may require running, jumping, kneeling, squatting, dodging, lying prone, as well as wrestling, restraining, and subduing suspects, attackers, or detainees. Agents must be able, if necessary, to conduct security inspections that may require crawling under vehicles and other low clearances or in tight spaces such as attics and crawl spaces.
Sometimes it may be necessary for an Agent to assist with installing or maintaining security countermeasures, which might involve lifting heavy objects and working on ladders or rooftops. Agents must be skilled at driving and maneuvering a motor vehicle defensively or evasively in a variety of situations, and at various speeds.
Special Agent candidates will be trained in many of the above skills, which include firearms training, defensive tactics, how to physically restrain a suspect, and specialized driving techniques. Agent candidates must be able to participate in, and complete all aspects of their training. Any physical condition that would cause the candidate to be a hazard to himself/herself or others, including those they are protecting or placing under arrest, is potentially disqualifying.
Candidates must be willing and able to travel extensively throughout the world using whatever means are available. Traveling and assignments abroad may involve working in remote areas where traditional comforts and medical facilities are limited. Special Agents may be required to travel to locations of civil unrest, where conditions are potentially hostile, and where performance of duties is conducted under hazardous circumstances.
Prior to appointment, applicants must have at least a bachelor’s degree from a nationally accredited college or university. The accrediting institution or association must be one of those recognized by the U.S. Secretary of Education. Equivalent degrees from resident foreign colleges or universities are considered on a case-by-case basis.
Applicants currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree may apply up to nine months preceding their graduation. Graduation must be within nine months of the closing date of this application, specifically prior to December 31, 2012 (exceptions will not be granted). Final acceptance will be predicated on receipt of the degree prior to appointment. It is also required that an official transcript that confirms award of the degree is placed in your file prior to appointment. In addition, some experience requirements are identified below.
WORK EXPERIENCE REQUIREMENTS
In addition to the educational requirement, applicants for the Special Agent position must have at least one year of work experience and/or academic achievements that reflect progressively increasing levels of responsibility. Each application will be examined on its own merits, to determine if the work experience requirement has been met.
Examination of work experience will be to identify examples of knowledge, skills, abilities, and experience in interpersonal skills, resourcefulness, initiative, leadership, judgment, emotional stability, flexibility, motivation, functional skills (competence in the job), ability to assume responsibility, and trustworthiness.
Specialized experience in such areas as the administration of security programs, the conduct of investigations, threat assessments, service in a law enforcement agency, and service in the U.S. military are all highly desirable. However, it is not essential to have those specific experiences, or ability in a foreign language, to be considered for the DS Special Agent position.
SUBSTITUTION OF EDUCATION FOR EXPERIENCE
Applicants with 18 credit hours of graduate level study (beyond the bachelor’s degree level) may substitute that academic achievement for a year of work experience. Applicants who do not have a minimum of 18 credit hours of graduate study may substitute the following educational achievements for one year of work experience: 2.75 GPA for the bachelor’s degree and two internships totaling at least four months duration.
PROCEDURES FOR APPLYING
We are not currently accepting applications for this position.
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The online process consists of a 25 minute online essay and a 40 minute multiple choice screening questionnaire. Applicants who are successful in the online screening will be immediately directed to upload their transcripts, narrative autobiography, resume, and the minimum qualifications checklist. Applicants have until 11:59 p.m. Eastern Daylight Savings Time on the closing date of this announcement to complete the application process and supply all required documentation outlined in this vacancy announcement.
Application packages MUST be complete, submitted in accordance with the instructions in the online screening and received by the closing date in order to receive further consideration. Application packages that are mailed or faxed directly to the agency will not be accepted. Qualified applicants who attain competitive scores that are at or above the cut line will be invited to take further assessments with Department of State representatives.
Technical assistance with your online application can be obtained at DOShelpdesk@pdri.com during the open announcement period from 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. Eastern Daylight Savings time Monday through Friday and 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Eastern Daylight Savings time on the weekends.
NOTE: The following four requirements apply ONLY to those applicants who successfully complete the online screening / examinations and must be submitted by the closing date of the announcement:
- A detailed resume.
- An original signed Minimum Qualifications Check Sheet (pdf).
- A two page typed (double-spaced) narrative autobiography that discusses your background, personal interests, and hobbies, your motivation for joining the Foreign Service, and your motivation for becoming a Diplomatic Security Special Agent.
- Official college or university transcript(s) confirming award of degree(s) or the date a degree will be awarded. An “unofficial” copy of the transcript(s) may be used pending issuance of the official documentation. Candidates who are successful in this examination process are reminded that an official transcript is required to complete their official file.
For applicants at or above the age of 37, you must also submit the following proof of veterans preference to receive consideration:
- DD-214 or Statement of Service (if claiming 5 or 10 point preference)
- VA Disability Rating and Standard Form 15 (if claiming 10 point preference only)
Submitted materials become the property of the Department of State and will not be returned.
The three hour assessment process with State Department representatives begins with a brief questionnaire followed by an interview; both are scored. Applicants with scores in the competitive range proceed to a writing skills case study which is also scored. A competitive score on the written examination case study allows the applicant to proceed to a personal assessment conducted by the Board of Examiners.
Applicants who are not successful under this Vacancy Announcement are not eligible to reapply until one year after the closing date of this Announcement or March 31, 2013 (exceptions will not be granted). No applications are accepted for this position unless there is an open Vacancy Announcement.
Note: The process of examining thousands of candidates in more than 20 U.S. cities, in addition to the Washington, DC area, often takes nine months (sometimes longer). Every effort is made to contact candidates one month in advance of the examination.
HOW YOU WILL BE EVALUATED
Candidates will be evaluated on their total background including experience, education, awards, training and self-development as it relates to the position. Part-time work experience will be prorated. Candidates are initially evaluated through an on-line screening process that includes some general subject matter assessments.
Subsequently, some candidates will be further evaluated through a file review, a writing exercise and a personal interview. Those who have successfully gone through the entire selection process will be required to obtain the following:
- a valid class-one medical clearance with supplemental medical requirements
- a Top Secret security clearance and Sensitive Compartmented Information access and undergo a suitability review
Once all clearances are received candidate names are placed on a rank-order register. Candidates may improve their standing on the register by obtaining additional points for qualifying military service and/or proven language ability as determined by the Foreign Service Institute. More information on these two points, as well as on the clearance process, is available on our web site, careers.state.gov/specialist/selection-process. Selection for this position will be made only from among candidates possessing the best qualifications.
Again, materials submitted become the property of the Department of State and will not be returned. Failure to adequately substantiate education and work experience by virtue of documentation and verification will result in termination of your application for the position.
For additional information, please refer to the Bureau of Diplomatic Security’s web site at www.state.gov/m/ds or the Department of State’s Human Resources web site at careers.state.gov/specialist/seleection-process.
TEST SITE INFORMATION
Candidates who successfully complete the online screening (written exercise and multiple-choice questions) may be invited to participate in additional testing (if the online score was at or above the cut line).
The oral assessment process includes some written requirements and takes approximately three hours. Teams from the Board of Examiners will visit various U.S. cities to conduct assessments. Candidates selected for oral examinations should consider which city (from the list below) in which they wish to be tested. Expenses, including travel for testing, are the candidate’s responsibility. Candidates unable to be tested prior to the opening of a new Vacancy Announcement will have to reapply under the terms of that Announcement.
We intend to conduct assessments in the following cities: Atlanta, GA; Austin, TX; Boston, MA; Chicago, IL; Cincinnati, OH; Denver, CO; Kansas City, MO; Los Angeles, CA; Miami, FL; Nashville, TN; New York, NY; Oklahoma City, OK; Orlando, FL; Philadelphia, PA area; Sacramento, CA; San Diego, CA; Seattle, WA; Stamford, CT; Tucson, AZ; and the Washington, DC area. (These sites are subject to change.)
Selected candidates will be advised of the proposed date, time, and place for Board of Examiner’s assessments in various cites. Candidates unable to meet with a team in a scheduled city may request that their assessment be scheduled in the Washington, DC area.
The three-hour assessment consists of written examinations and oral assessments. Various phases of this process are scored using the following dimensions: written and oral communication skills, motivation, composure, interpersonal skills, judgment, resourcefulness, initiative and leadership, adaptability/flexibility, perspective and breadth of knowledge, cultural awareness and experience, stability and adjustment, analytical and synthesizing ability, planning and organizing. Questions posed to applicants may address current events, motivation, interpersonal skills, objectivity and integrity, as well as some technical hypothetical questions concerning the Special Agent position.
The assessment process is comprised of four phases: 1) A 20-minute written qualifications questionnaire; 2) A 25-minute oral qualifications interview; 3) A 50-minute written case study examination; and 4) A 50-minute oral assessment administered by a member of the Board of Examiners and a member of the Diplomatic Security Service. Candidates must receive a competitive score at each phase to go on to each successive phase.
Reminder: expenses, including travel for testing, are the candidate’s responsibility.
Executive Branch agencies are barred by 5 US Code 3303 as amended from accepting or considering prohibited political recommendations and are required to return any prohibited political recommendations to sender. In addition, as mandated by 5 US Code 3110, relatives of federal employees may not be granted preference in competing for these employment opportunities.
It is the policy of the Federal Government to treat all of its employees with dignity and respect and to provide a workplace that is free from discrimination whether that discrimination is based on race, color, religion, sex (including gender identity or pregnancy), national origin, disability, political affiliation, marital status, membership in an employee organization, age, sexual orientation, or other non-merit factors.
The Department provides reasonable accommodations to applicants with disabilities. Applicants requiring a reasonable accommodation for any part of the application or hiring process should so advise the Department. All decisions for granting reasonable accommodations are made on a case-by-case basis.