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Today’s DSS special agent badge—a long and circuitous history – United States Department of State

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The Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) special agent badge has had a long and circuitous journey through the decades after its creation back 1916.  Allegedly designed by Tiffany’s in New York, the first badge was silver and was created when DSS was known only as the State Department’s Office of Security. It took on many new forms and designs during the next 100+ years, as DSS itself evolved.

Little is known during those early days about why changes were made to the special agent badge’s shape and color. But, in 1996, more than 10 years after the Office of Security became the Diplomatic Security Service, then-Director Greg Bujac began the process of adding “Diplomatic Security Service” wording to the badge.

There was ample reason to do so, not only because of the new name but because DSS was experiencing the largest hiring expansion in its history. Several hundred new agents came on board between 1997 and 1998, creating a need for hundreds of new badges. Thus, the new DSS badge was created.

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Things got complicated about 10 years later when, in 2011, actor Dwayne Johnson played DSS Special Agent Luke Hobbs in the Fast and Furious movie, Fast Five. The visibility and notoriety of the DSS badge resulted in a proliferation of counterfeit reproductions. DS senior leadership used this opportunity to explore new badge security features and solicited DS agent feedback on new design ideas. As a result, in September 2019, then DSS Director Todd Brown launched the process to create a new badge that incorporated new security technology with historical elements from the original 1916 badge.

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In addition to the new counterfeit-resistant badge, DSS special agents received a new addition to their credentials in 2022 while they protected foreign dignitaries at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA). Rather than their typical badge, agents sported the “Diplomatic Security Commemorative Badge,” also a permanent special badge and a throw-back to the original silver badge of 1916. The commemorative badge is only authorized for use during certain periods of time, including UNGA, the Olympics, and other special events where DSS agents help protect dignitaries and participants.

 

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