History, Role and Function of the US Secret Service

The United States Secret Service, a large federal law enforcement agency with a $1.5 billion budget and more than 6,700 personnel, has a distinct, dual mission, which includes:

  • Safeguarding the nation’s financial infrastructure and payment systems
  • Protecting national leaders, visiting heads of state and government and National Special Security Events

Secret Service agents and related personnel are called upon to uphold the tradition of excellence in its dual mission by employing progressive technology, professionalism, and a partner-oriented workforce.

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The agency’s symbol, a star, has five points that are designed to represent the agency’s five, core values: justice, duty, courage, honesty, and loyalty. To enforce the values of the Secret Service, personnel is tasked with promoting personal accountability and only the highest standards of personal and professional integrity.

The Secret Service is organized into a number of programs, which include:

  • Domestic Protectees Program
  • Foreign Protectees and Foreign Missions Program
  • Protective Intelligence Program
  • Investigations Program

The strategic goal of the Protection Programs is to protect national leaders, visiting heads of state, and government-designated sites. The strategic goal of the Investigations Programs is to protect the nation’s financial infrastructure through the prevention of counterfeit currency, financial and electronic crimes, and identity theft.

The Secret Service sustains its investigative and protective missions by employing a multi-tiered infrastructure of information, technology, and science systems, as well as the professional and technical expertise of a diverse and talented workforce. The Secret Service also fosters open communication and collaboration with partners at all levels as to promote innovation.

What is the U.S. Secret Service? Strategic Goals

Understanding the strategic goals of the U.S. Secret Service is one of the most effective ways of learning about the role and mission of this federal law enforcement agency. The United States Secret Service Strategic Plan (FY2008-FY3013) outlines the agency’s strategic goals for achieving its dual mission of protection and investigation:


    • To protect the nation’s financial infrastructure by reducing losses associated with counterfeit currency, identity theft, and financial and electronic crimes. Strategies include:
      • Cataloguing and analyzing data and providing expertise to law enforcement partners
      • Utilizing advances in fingerprint detection and other forensic sciences as to carry out effective counterfeiting investigations
      • Improving currency design through collaborative efforts with the Department of Treasury, the U.S. Mint, and the Bureau of Engraving and Printing
      • Strengthening partnerships with private industry as to limit the availability of commercial printers and copiers that can product counterfeit currency
      • Increase training and collaborative efforts as to prevent and detect foreign manufactured, counterfeit U.S. currency


  • To reduce financial losses from electronic crimes, financial crimes, computer crimes, identity theft, and compromised payment systems. Strategies include:
    • Prioritizing investigative cases and focusing efforts on those cases that have a significant impact on the economy and the nation’s critical financial infrastructure
    • Deploying cutting-edge technology to prevent investigative financial and electronic crimes
    • Preventing fraud by recommending safeguards based on identifying systemic weaknesses within the financial payment industry
    • Increasing the deployment of personnel to investigate financial and electronic crimes


    • To ensure the safety and security of national leaders, major candidates for President and Vice President, and visiting heads of state and government. Strategies include:
      • Ensuring the continuity of protective operations in the event of a crisis
      • Expanding and coordinating specialized teams to address a number of evolving threats
      • Developing and deploying cutting-edge technologies to enhance the protective environment for Secret Service protectees
      • Enhancing and deploying portable countermeasures to ensure comprehensive protection for protectees when traveling throughout the country and abroad
      • Refining the threat assessment process
      • Ensuring protective intelligence processes and systems to support the protective mission
      • Partnering with academia and law enforcement partners at all levels to examine individual and group behaviors that may indicate targeted violence
      • Developing and maintaining new task forces and fusion centers to strengthen collaborations across all functional areas
      • Developing and implementing the Emergency Preparedness Program


  • To safeguard the White House complex and other high-profile sites. Strategies include:
    • Assessing and enhancing physical security measures to prevent the use of conventional and unconventional weapons
    • Deploying overt countermeasures to deter threats
    • Using covert methods to detect site-specific threats
    • Increasing efficiency using innovative technologies for the deployment of security measures
    • Developing formal, regional, protective staffing procedures and leveraging state and local law enforcement resources
    • Expanding productive relationships with the Metropolitan Police Department, the U.S. Park Police, and other law enforcement and public safety agencies


The History of the U.S. Secret Service

The United States Secret Service was created on July 5, 1865, in an effort to suppress the surge of counterfeit currency that was in circulation during the Civil War. By 1867, the role of the Secret Service broadened to include detecting individuals who attempted to defraud the U.S. government. The agency then became actively involved in investigations involving the Ku Klux Klan, land frauds, and illegal distillers.

By 1883, the Secret Service was officially part of the Treasury Department and, in 1894, began providing informal protective services to President Cleveland. It wasn’t until 1901, however, when Congress requested presidential protection following the assassination of President William McKinley. Just a year later, the Secret Service assumed full-time responsibility for protecting the president.

In 1922, the White House Police Force was created (now called the Uniformed Division); by 1930 its operation was placed under the supervision of the Secret Service.

In recent years, a number of noteworthy acts have been passed that involve the Secret Service:

  • 1994: Crime Bill Public Law: Includes language on U.S. counterfeit currency occurring abroad
  • 1998: Telemarketing Fraud Prevention Act
  • 1998: Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act
  • 2000: Presidential Threat Protection Act
  • 2001: Patriot Act
  • 2002: Creation of the Department of Homeland Security (transferred the Secret Service from the Department of the Treasury to the Department of Homeland Security)

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