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Friday, January 18, 2013

The U.S. Secret Service: An Examination and Analysis of Its Evolving Missions

Shawn Reese
Analyst in Emergency Management and Homeland Security Policy

The U.S. Secret Service has two missions—criminal investigations and protection. Criminal investigation activities, have expanded since the inception of the Service from a small anticounterfeiting operation at the end of the Civil War, to now encompassing financial crimes, identity theft, counterfeiting, computer fraud, and computer-based attacks on the nation’s financial, banking, and telecommunications infrastructure, among other areas. Protection activities, which have expanded and evolved since the 1890s, include ensuring the safety and security of the President, Vice President, their families, and other identified individuals and locations.

In March 2003, the U.S. Secret Service was transferred from the Department of the Treasury to the Department of Homeland Security as a distinct entity. Prior to enactment of the Homeland Security Act of 2002 (P.L. 107-296), the U.S. Secret Service had been part of the Treasury Department for over 100 years.

During a March 2012 hearing on the FY2013 budget request for the U.S. Secret Service, Director Mark Sullivan highlighted the Service’s increased staffing and traveling demands associated with presidential candidate protection, G-8 and NATO Summits in Chicago, IL, and the Republican and Democratic conventions. Are the two missions of the Service compatible and how should they be prioritized? Is the Department of Homeland Security the most appropriate organizational and administrative location for the Secret Service? These, and other policy issues such as the Secret Service’s role in securing presidential inaugurations, have been raised and addressed at different times by Congress and various administrations during the long history of the Service. Additionally, there has been increased interest in the Service due to the recent inaugural security operations and the protection of President Barack Obama. Some may contend that these and other questions call for renewed attention given the recent increase in demand for the Service’s protection function (for example, see P.L. 110-326 enacted by the 110
th Congress) and the advent of new technology used in financial crimes.

Date of Report: January 8, 2013
Number of Pages: 24
Order Number: RL34603
Price: $29.95

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