About the United States Secret Service
On its website, the United States Secret Service identifies its two-part mission as being “to safeguard the nation's financial infrastructure and payment systems to preserve the integrity of the economy, and to protect national leaders, visiting heads of state and government, designated sites and National Special Security Events.”
Calling itself one of the world’s oldest and most elite investigative services, the Secret Service points to its long-time motto, “Worthy of Trust and Confidence,” as capturing the agency’s five core values: duty, justice, courage, honesty and loyalty.
The Secret Service employs over 6,500 people in its Washington, DC headquarters, its 117 field and regional offices in the US and American territories, and in 24 international locations.
About 3,200 of Secret Service employees are special agents, another 1,300 are officers of its Uniformed Division, and over 2,000 serve as protective service special officers or in various professional, administrative and technical support positions. A recent agency report notes 25% of the total Secret Service workforce will be eligible to retire by the end of September 2016.
Over the past six years, 10 current or former Secret Service employees have submitted ratings of the agency to the website glassdoor.com. Their ratings on five factors as (workplace values and culture, work-life balance, pay and benefits, senior management and advancement opportunities) averaged 3.2 out of a top score of 5; 70% said they would recommend it to a friend as a place to work.
The Secret Service was originally created as the “Secret Service Division” of the Treasury Department, to deal with rampant counterfeiting of U.S. currency. Bringing the division into being was one of the last official acts of President Abraham Lincoln, who signed the order on April 14, 1865, before heading to Ford’s Theater. At the time, with states and individual banks able to issue their own currency, between one-third and half of US currency in circulation was estimated to be counterfeit.
As one of the few federal law enforcement bodies at that time, the new Secret Service was frequently called in to investigate a wide range of other federal crimes, ranging from murder, mail robberies and land fraud to smuggling, bootlegging and gambling. During the World War I era, espionage investigations were added to its duties.
The Secret Service continues to address counterfeiting, but in modern times its investigative duties have broadened to focus on protecting the overall integrity of the nation’s financial systems. It now also probes fraud involving financial institutions, domestic and international financial instruments, and credit and debit cards fraud. Other agency duties include investigating computer and telecommunications fraud, identity theft and false identification documents.
Besides safeguarding the nation’s financial system, the second major part of the Secret Service’s mission is safeguarding the nation’s top leaders. Shortly after the assassination of President William McKinley in 1901, the Secret Service was given responsibility for protecting the president, both in Washington and during travels, domestic or international.
The agency’s protective duties over time have extended to include not just the president, but also the vice-president, persons elected to those offices before they assume them, their immediate family members, presidential and vice-presidential candidates of major parties, former presidents and their spouses and minor children, and heads of foreign states, their spouses and members of diplomatic missions during official visits to the US. The agency is also responsible for the security of the White House complex, the vice-presidential residence, and foreign diplomats in the US or its territories.
Since March 2003, the US Secret Service has been part of the Department of Homeland Security. A recent law authorizes the Department of Homeland Security to designate other “national special security events,” such as presidential inaugurations and political party conventions, for which the Secret Service will provide protective services.
For a timeline of the Secret Service’s history, click here.
Julia A. Pierson was appointed by President Barack Obama on March 27, 2013 to be the 23rd Director of the US Secret Service. Her lengthy career in law enforcement began after graduating from the University of Central Florida, when she joined the police force in her hometown of Orlando, Florida.
Ms. Pierson then joined the Secret Service, serving as a special agent in the Miami and Orlando field offices. She later served as the Assistant Special Agent in Charge in the Tampa Field Office, directing agency investigative and protective activities in western Florida and setting up a Financial Crimes Task Force for the Tampa Bay area.
Director Pierson has served the Secret Service in a variety of positions for more 30 years. As Assistant Director of the Office of Human Resources and Training, she oversaw all agency human resource and training programs. While Deputy Assistant Director in the Office of Protective Operations, Ms. Pierson had responsibility for the agency’s daily security operations, workforce readiness and strategic planning. As Deputy Assistant Director in the Office of Administration, she oversaw budgetary and all administrative operations including strategic planning, budgeting, finance, procurement, and property management activities.
A member of the Senior Executive Service since 2003, Ms. Pierson in 2008 was named the agency’s chief of staff, where her duties included oversight of the agency’s complex information technology and its efforts to modernize its business processes. She has also been tasked during the past year with leading agency efforts to enhance workforce professionalism. She is an active supporter of the National Law Enforcement Memorial and Concerns of Police Survivors (COPS).