What is a National Special Security Event (NSSE) and who determines which events are deemed a NSSE?
The Secretary of Homeland Security (DHS) is responsible for designating events as NSSEs. Homeland Security Presidential Directive (HSPD-5) grants the Secretary this authority. The Secretary is assisted in the NSSE designation process by the NSSE Working Group, comprised of interagency subject matter experts and co-chaired by the U.S. Secret Service (USSS), the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The NSSE Working Group is responsible for conducting an assessment of each event being considered for NSSE designation.
Who authorizes credentialing at NSSEs?
Following the NSSE designation by the Secretary, the USSS assumes its mandated role as the lead agency for the design and implementation of the operational security plan. Title 18 USC 3056 (e) and Presidential Policy Directive 22 (2013) designate the USSS with the responsibility and authority as the lead agency for planning, coordinating, and implementing security operations at NSSEs.
Credentialing is a critical element in the coordination and implementation of the security operations for a NSSE. Although the USSS issues credentials for NSSE venues, the process begins with vetting by an event’s host committee, which approves the participants from a particular group or organization, such as media or service industries.
Once the host committee approves the participants from a particular group or organization to attend the event, the USSS begins its background checks.
Why does the USSS issue credentials at each event?
Operational security plans must be developed for each individual event regardless of whether they appear to be similar in nature or if participants were credentialed for previous NSSEs. The USSS operational security plan is developed in partnership with event stakeholders including federal, state and local law enforcement, public safety agencies, as well as municipal, venue, and host representatives. Each participating agency is tasked based on its jurisdiction and particular area of expertise.
This is accomplished through the formation of subcommittees whose collective responsibility is to plan for every possible security matter. For example, every NSSE has an established Transportation and Traffic subcommittee with the responsibility of developing and executing vehicular access control to all necessary personnel.
How does the USSS determine who has to apply for and receive a credential to attend a NSSE event?
Only those participants, who have a role, responsibility, and/or function within the NSSE, will be afforded a USSS credential application. All other invited guests, who do not require access to USSS protectees or USSS innermost perimeters and zones, will be offered an invitation/ticket by the respective host committee for that particular NSSE event or venue.
The USSS works in collaboration with the host committee responsible to develop the framework of the event. The event purpose and program type will impact the credentialing plan for each NSSE. The USSS, in conjunction with the host committee will develop the innermost secure perimeters that will be designated as credentialing zones.
Often times, these zones are designated by colors such as red and blue and those designations determine levels of access. The credentialing for most NSSEs involves participants, who might require access into the innermost USSS secure zones. The determination for those requiring access into these zones is directly related to the participant’s role, responsibility, and function at the event.
Typically, the host committee (organizers/staff), host city (organizers/staff), volunteers, vendors, media, service industries, and law enforcement/emergency responders are issued credentials for NSSE events.
Who conducts background checks for individuals seeking credentialing for NSSE?
Background checks for NSSE credentials, similar to those for standard Presidential and Vice Presidential visits, are conducted by the USSS. In an effort to enhance our credentialing capabilities for these large events that entail credentialing large volumes of participants requiring access into these events, and specifically within the USSS secure perimeters, the USSS currently has a contract with Ardian Group, Inc.
This contractor only captures the Personally Identifiable Information (PII) for credentialing production and formats the information so the USSS can conduct required checks. Ardian Group does NOT manage the name check process and is required to remove the data it obtains upon completion of its work.
Ardian Group, Inc. is an event management company, which has worked with the USSS since 2011. It supported the credentialing process for nearly every NSSE within that timeframe, to include: the 2014 Africa Leaders’ Summit, the 2015 visit of Pope Francis to the United States, and the March 2016 Nuclear Security Summit.