After the assassination of President William McKinley in 1901, the Secret Service was directed by Congress to protect the President of the United States. This duty remains the primary responsibility of the United States Secret Service.
Today, special agents are authorized by law to protect: the President, the Vice President, (or other individuals next in order of succession to the Office of President), the President-elect and Vice President-elect; the immediate families of the above individuals; former Presidents, their spouses, and minor children; visiting heads of foreign states or governments and their spouses traveling with them, other distinguished foreign visitors to the United States, and official representatives of the United States performing special missions abroad; and major Presidential and Vice Presidential candidates and their spouses.
The Secret Service was established in 1865 solely to suppress the counterfeiting of U.S. currency. Over the years, its investigative responsibilities have expanded along with the nation's increasingly complex monetary system.
Counterfeiting - Suppressing the counterfeiting of the currency and securities of the United States and of foreign governments remains a major responsibility of special agents. Today, the Service also investigates the counterfeiting of certain Government identification documents and devices.
Forgery - Each year, social security checks, retirement pensions, savings bonds, and other federal government disbursements are stolen and forged. The Secret Service is responsible for investigating these crimes that result in the loss of millions of dollars annually.
Financial Crimes - The Secret Service investigates crimes associated with financial institutions. Today, our jurisdiction has expanded to include bank fraud, access device fraud involving credit and debit cards, telecommunication and computer crimes, fraudulent identification, fraudulent government and commercial securities, and electronic funds transfer fraud.
During the first year on the job, a special agent receives 5 months of formal classroom and simulation training. The remaining 7 months are spent in an on-the-job training program.
Special agents begin general investigative training at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Glynco, Georgia. They continue to receive comprehensive and specialized protective and investigative training at Secret Service facilities in the Washington, D.C., area. The special agent training curriculum consists of protective techniques, investigative procedures, criminal law, rules of evidence, surveillance techniques, undercover operations, interviewing techniques, defensive measures, and emergency medicine. Special emphasis is placed on the jurisdictional areas of counterfeiting, forgery, financial crimes, and physical protection. Throughout their careers, special agents regularly participate in advanced training programs that enhance their ability to effectively accomplish the Secret Service mission.
Although the Secret Service is always interested in qualified applicants, opportunities for special agent positions are limited because of high competition and low attrition. Consequently, only the most qualified applicants are appointed.
Newly appointed special agents may be assigned to duty stations anywhere in the United States. Throughout their careers, agents may experience frequent travel and reassignments to Secret Service offices located throughout the United States or liaison assignments in foreign countries.
Prior to being considered for a special agent position, candidates must pass the Treasury Enforcement Agent Examination. Candidates may apply at a branch of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management or at the nearest Secret Service field office. A limited number of the most qualified applicants will receive a series of in-depth interviews. These candidates must successfully complete a polygraph examination and participate in a drug screening program as a condition of employment.
Applicants must also undergo a thorough background investigation. All appointees must be less than 37 years of age at the time of entrance on duty.
Since special agents must be in excellent physical condition, applicants must pass a comprehensive medical examination, provided by the Secret Service, prior to appointment. Weight must be in proportion to height. Distant vision must be at least 20/40 in each eye uncorrected and 20/20 in each eye corrected. Near vision must be at least 20/40 corrected.
A bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university in any field of study meets the minimum qualifications for appointment at the GS-5 grade level. In some cases, an applicant may be accepted with a minimum of 3 years of experience, 2 of which are in criminal investigation, or with a comparable combination of experience and education. One additional year of specialized experience, Superior Academic Achievement (defined as a grade point average of 3.0 or higher on a 4.0 scale), or one year of graduate study in a directly related field meets the requirements for appointment at the GS-7 grade level.
Eligibility for promotion in the Service is based upon performance. The full performance level for a special agent is GS-12. Selection for promotion to positions above the GS-12 level is based on merit and as vacancies occur.
Low-cost health and life insurance may be obtained through federal employee programs. Immediate families may be included in health benefit plans. Financial protection is provided, without cost, to agents and their families in the event of job-related injury or death.
Annual leave accrues at the rate of 13 to 26 days per year, based on length of employment. Prior federal, civilian, or military service is creditable. Sick leave accumulates at the rate of 13 days per year without limit.
The Secret Service offers comprehensive retirement programs for all employees. Additional retirement credit is granted for prior military or Government service, as authorized.