Scope of the Position:

The Assistant Secretary of Diplomatic Security oversees the law enforcement branch of the Department of State. Directing approximately 34,000 international professionals, special agents, engineers, couriers, and security specialists, the position works to ensure security for all Americans engaged in diplomatic relations around the world. The Assistant Secretary leads a task force focused on eliminating tangible and intangible threats to U.S. foreign policy efforts and promotes a safe and secure legacy for future diplomatic relations.

Illustrative Management Challenges:

In recent years, the Bureau of Diplomatic Security at the State Department has been scrutinized for its subpar efforts to assess risks to residences overseas, including the failure to hold accountable 17 of 68 posts who failed to complete their periodic residential security reviews.1 Although the State Department has upped its efforts to improve security at these residences, the time for completion has exceeded three years on average; the estimated time for completion is only 75 days. As the ultimate reviewer of the security standards established by the Bureau of Diplomatic Security, in tandem with the interagency Overseas Security Policy Board, the Assistant Secretary for Diplomatic Security will have no choice but to swiftly address these security issues if he or she wishes to avoid further scrutiny.

Transportation Risks

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report in early October that outlines the gaps that exist in the guidance and monitoring of the transportation of U.S. personnel overseas. According to the report, although all 26 of the posts surveyed had transportation and travel policies in place, 22 of the 26 lacked certain elements required by the State Department. This is due, in part, to fragmented implementation guidance on what such policies should include.2 Although staff reported having received training on these policies, many of them were unable to remember key details.


      1State Department Should Better Manage Risks to Residences and Other Soft Targets Overseas;; July, 2015.
      2State Should Enhance Its Management of Transportation-Related Risks to Overseas U.S. Personnel;; October 2016.

Assistant Secretaries for Diplomatic Security:

Many Assistant Secretaries for Diplomatic Security are products of a strong investigative background, including positions in the Secret Service, the United Nations, and several Inspector General offices. Additionally, most Assistant Secretaries have at least some foreign relations experience. 

Current Incumbent:

Gregory B. Starr (2013-Present; 2007-2008): Starr previously served as the United Nations Under Secretary General for Safety and Security. He spent 20 years serving oversees and domestically, including in Tel Aviv. He also served as Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Countermeasures. 

Previous Assistant Secretaries:

Eric J. Boswell (2008-2012; 1996-1998): Boswell is currently serving as an Advisor with Bluehawk Intelligence Services. His previous positions included Director of the Department of State's Office of Foreign Missions, Assistant Deputy Director for Security in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, Director of Administration for the Pan American Health Organization, and Senior Advisor for Security Change Management at U.N. Headquarters. He served in many other posts with the Foreign Service, and he served as Minister Counselor for Administration at the U.S. Embassy in Ottawa. Boswell is also a veteran of the U.S. Army.

Richard J. Griffin (2005-2007): Griffin is currently serving as the Deputy Inspector General of the Office of Public Affairs with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Griffin's previous positions included VA Inspector General, Senior Advisor to the Inspector General of HUD, and Director of the Office of Foreign Missions. He also held numerous positions with the Secret Service, including Deputy Director.

Francis X. Taylor (2002-2005): Taylor is currently serving as the President and CEO of FXTaylor Associates. Taylor's previous positions consisted of Vice President and Chief Security Officer for General Electric, Coordinator for Counterterrorism with the U.S. Department of State, and Commander with the Air Force's Office of Special Investigations.

David G. Carpenter (1998-2002): Carpenter held numerous positions during his 26 years with the United States Secret Service, including Deputy Assistant Director of the Office of Protective Operations and Special Agent in Charge of the Presidential Protective Division.

Additional Resources: