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The Protective Mission

The Secret Service is recognized for the physical protection it provides to the nation’s highest elected leaders, visiting foreign dignitaries, facilities and major events. In order to ensure a secure environment for protectees, the Secret Service integrates a variety of innovative technologies and maintains a highly skilled and motivated workforce.

Using advanced countermeasures, the Secret Service executes security operations that deter, minimize and decisively respond to identified threats and vulnerabilities. The protective environment is enhanced by specialized resources within the Secret Service, including: the Airspace Security Branch; the Counter Sniper Team; the Emergency Response Team; the Counter Surveillance Unit; the Counter Assault Team; the Hazardous Agent Mitigation and Medical Emergency Response Team; and the Magnetometer Operations Unit. Other specialized resources also serve to provide protection from threats, including chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear materials and explosive devices.

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The White House South Portico taken after a winter storm.

The White House South Portico taken after a winter storm.

The Presidential limousine, known as

The Presidential limousine, known as "The Beast" parked outside of the United States Capitol building.

A Uniformed Division officer and his canine prepare to make their rounds at the White House complex.

A Uniformed Division officer and his canine prepare to make their rounds at the White House complex.

Who does the Secret Service Protect?

Permanent protectees, such as the President and Vice President, have special agents permanently assigned to them. Temporary protectees, such as presidential and vice presidential candidates/nominees and foreign heads of state, are staffed with special agents on temporary assignment from U.S. Secret Service field offices. Protection for the President and Vice President of the United States is mandatory. All other individuals entitled to Secret Service protection may decline security if they choose.

Title 18 of the United States Code, Section 3056, describes the agency’s authority as provided by law. Since the U.S. Secret Service’s protective mission began in 1901, the agency’s jurisdiction has expanded to meet the needs of an evolving security environment.

Protectees:

  • The President of the United States
  • The Vice President of the United States
  • The President’s and Vice President’s immediate families
  • Former Presidents, their spouses and their minor children under the age of 16
  • Foreign heads of state and their spouses visiting the United States
  • Major presidential and vice presidential candidates and their spouses
  • Events designated as National Special Security Events by the Secretary, U.S. Department of Homeland Security

How Protection Works

The Secret Service is world-renowned for the physical protection it provides to the nation’s highest elected leaders and other government officials. Permanent protectees, such as the president and first lady, have details of special agents permanently assigned to them. Temporary protectees, such as candidates and foreign dignitaries, are staffed with special agents on temporary assignment from Secret Service field offices. All current former presidents are entitled to lifetime Secret Service protection.

The protection of an individual is comprehensive and goes well beyond surrounding the individual with well-armed agents. As part of the Secret Service’s mission of preventing an incident before it occurs, the agency relies on meticulous advance work and threat assessments developed by its Intelligence Division to identify potential risks to protectees.

Advances in technology and the world’s reliance on interdependent network systems also have changed the Secret Service’s protective responsibilities. No longer can law enforcement rely solely on human resources and physical barriers in designing a security plan; agencies also must address the role and inherent vulnerabilities of critical infrastructures upon which security plans are built.

A Uniformed Division officer waits along side his patrol vehicle while monitoring events on the north grounds.

A Uniformed Division officer waits along side his patrol vehicle while monitoring events on the north grounds.

A special agent stands post stageside as the President and dignitaries attend an event.

A special agent stands post stageside as the President and dignitaries attend an event.

Special Operation Division team members conduct training exercises in preparation for a Presidential assignment.

Special Operation Division team members conduct training exercises in preparation for a Presidential assignment.

National Special Security Event (NSSE)

In May of 1998, President Clinton issued Presidential Decision Directive 62 (PDD-62). In effect, this directive formalized and delineated the roles and responsibilities of federal agencies in the development of security plans for major events. The clarifying of responsibilities serves to focus more clearly the role of each agency and eliminate the duplication of efforts and resources.

In 2000, the Presidential Protection Act of 2000 became public law. Included in the bill, signed on December 19, was an amendment to Title 18, USC § 3056 which codified PDD-62. Now, with the support of federal law, the Secret Service is authorized to participate "in the planning, coordination and implementation of security operations at special events of national significance."

When an event is designated by the Secretary of Homeland Security as a National Special Security Event (NSSE), the Secret Service assumes its mandated role as the lead agency for the design and implementation of the operational security plan. The Secret Service has developed a core strategy to carry out its security operations, which relies heavily on its established partnerships with law enforcement and public safety officials at the local, state and federal levels. The goal of the cooperating agencies is to provide a safe and secure environment for Secret Service protectees, other dignitaries, the event participants and the general public.

Counter Sniper Team personnel stand watch atop a building conducting surveillance.

Counter Sniper Team personnel stand watch atop a building conducting surveillance.

September 2015 Papal Visit parade in NY.

September 2015 Papal Visit parade in NY.

Pope Francis exiting his limousine.

Pope Francis exiting his limousine.