International / High-Threat Protection: Separating the Myth from Reality by Duke Speed

International / High-Threat Protection: Separating the Myth from Reality

Security professionals, freshmen and seasoned, often inquire about the difference between domestic executive protection (EP) and how it contrasts or compares with international / high-threat executive protection.  My intent with this blog post is to provide my opinion regarding the differences between the two as well as my views regarding the screening, vetting, selection, hiring, and training of both.

I cannot emphasize enough that this article is simply my views and may not be the same views of others within the industry. I am basing the contents of this blog post on my own international experience as a U.S. Department of State Diplomatic Security Services contractor, my domestic experience with federal law enforcement organizations and the U.S. Department of Defense, and my background as a security consultant and instructor in the private sector. These views are mine alone. It’s OK if you disagree.

Domestic EP

I define domestic EP as services that are conducted in the United States. Domestic executive protection conducted in the U.S. generally requires licensing by the respective state in which the services are provided. Personal protection services generally fall under the umbrella of security guard companies/services and in some cases, private investigator licensing is included. Each state has its own set of laws, rules, and guidelines and state licensing regulations may vary significantly from one to the next. A few states do not require licensing to provide personal security services. The key with providing domestic executive protection services is to make sure that you are operating within the scope of the law and that you have the required licensing, insurance, etc. to operate as a security provider. Currently, there is no nationwide such licensing.

With respect to training, domestic executive protection specialists should be trained in EP agent and detail fundamentals, advance work, medical first responder skills (CPR/AED/first-aid), tactical emergency casualty care (TECC), and protective driving/motorcade operations. Oftentimes, the “parent” security company must provide the required training.

International EP

I define international EP as simply any services that are conducted outside of the United States. The very nature that the services are delivered outside of the U.S. makes the environment “high-risk” as the laws, rules, regulations are different. What may be legal in the U.S. may be a violation of the law in another country and vice versa so this type of environment is inherently high-risk. Traffic regulations outside of the U.S. may be lacking and/or absent altogether and laws regarding firearms and use of force will also be significantly different than those in the U.S.

EP specialists that aspire to break into the international/high-threat arena should understand that there are several paths that may lead to employment internationally. These paths include, but are not limited, to the following:

  • Employment in a U.S. government agency, including law enforcement and intelligence organizations
  • Employment or independent contractor for the U.S. Department of State Diplomatic Security Services (agent or contractor)
  • Service in the U.S. Department of Defense (Army/Navy/Air Force/Marines/Coast Guard) and/or U.S. Special Operations Command
  • Employment in the private sector (business executives, high net worth clients, tech companies, etc.)

The vast majority of the readers of this blog will be either interested in employments as a U.S. Department of State (DOS) contractor or employment in the private sector. I will first start with employment as a contractor with the DOS.

Under the Diplomatic and Anti-terrorism Act of 1986, the Bureau of Diplomatic Security (DS) of the Department of State (DOS) has a broad range of responsibilities that include protection of personnel and facilities both domestic and abroad. The Worldwide Protective Services (WPS) initiative is an effort by the Department of State to pre-plan, organize, set up, deploy and operate contractor protective service details for the protection of U.S. and/or certain foreign government high-level officials whenever the need arises. In certain circumstances, and when directed, contractors may be required to recruit, evaluate, and train, local foreign government or third-country foreign nationals in established personal protective security procedures, to conduct protective security operations overseas with them, and to provide trained protective security personnel for short or long-term special domestic security situations. Over the past twelve years, the Bureau of Diplomatic Security has become increasingly involved in providing protective services for high-level U.S. officials and certain designated foreign leaders in several areas of the world.

As of 2014, the following 8 companies were providing services under the WPS contract:

  • Aegis Defense Services
  • DynCorp International
  • EOD Technology
  • Global Integrated Security (USA)
  • International Development Solutions
  • SOC
  • Torres International
  • Triple Canopy

Job Duties Include:

  • Perform the day-to-day protective security functions as specified in daily post and detail orders
  • Driving the lead vehicle (auto, boat etc.), principal’s vehicle, or follow-vehicle, whenever required in motorcade or similar operations
  • Driving follow-vehicle and/or acting as response agent.
  • Carries and operates weapons as specified in daily post and detail orders, or upon orders from the detail leader or shift leader
  • Maintaining protective formation position during principal’s walking movements
  • Participating in advance security preparations
  • Manning the security post at principal’s residence or manning the Command Post, as required
  • Serve as a member of an Emergency Response Team / Quick Reaction Force (ERT / QRF) when assigned


  • Secret security clearance or above
    • U.S. Citizen/Third Country National/Local National
    • Level 3 English proficiency
    • Three (3) years of experience
    • One (1) year of the three, shall include experience in protective security assignments
    • Experience can be gained in the employ of any national, State/Provincial, Local or commercial entities providing high threat protective services

Candidates must pass the Physical Efficiency Battery (PEB), which is a physical fitness assessment. The WPS PEB is based on the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center’s Physical Efficiency Battery and consists of: (a) Timed 1.5 Mile Run; (b) Timed Agility Run/Sprint; (c) Sit and Reach Test; and (d) Bodyweight % Max Bench Press. – You must pass all sections of the PEB. A failure in one area constitutes as a failure of the entire PEB.

Weapons Qualification Standards

Upon arriving at the designated training location, you are expected to already have an advanced working knowledge of weapons handling skills. The instructors are not there to teach you how to shoot; rather, they are there to evaluate your techniques/performance as it relates to the DOS Standard. You are expected to be familiar with, and able to qualify with, the following weapon systems:

  • M4 Carbine, Prone/Kneeling/Standing
  • Glock 19 Pistol, Standing
  • Remington 870 Shotgun, Standing
  • M203 Grenade Launcher, Kneeling/Standing
  • M249 SAW, Prone
  • M240B Machine Gun, Prone
  • You will also be familiarized with the AK-47 Assault Rifle although no qualification standard exists for this weapon system.

Aspiring EP specialists need to be advised that each of the above companies conduct its own recruiting, screening, vetting, selection, hiring, and training, based upon the guidelines that DOS specifies for its WPS contractors. Training includes physical fitness and medical assessments, firearms and tactical training, tactical medicine, EP-specific training, security driving, etc. Regardless of the candidate’s background, all must successfully complete the basic training program mandated by the DOS. The current program ranges up to 42 training days.

When I am asked how one can better their chances of selection and completion of the DOS program, my response is to seek training that will better prepare the candidate for the program. Tactical medicine, driver skills, firearms and tactics, and physical fitness training will help diminish the “element of the unknown” and will prevent the candidate from going in blind. Obviously, proficiency in the respective firearms and other skills will facilitate a better chance of meeting the standards during the formal DOS selection process.

Oftentimes, I will hear private training providers say that attending a “high-threat” training program is not practical as the WPS contractor will provide its own training process anyway. I couldn’t disagree with this statement more. If a WPS candidate is able to learn some of the skills in the private sector that will be taught at the WPS training program, the candidate will already have an edge in successfully completing the WPS program. An example of this is the requirement to fire and qualify with select firearms, including automatic weapons, such as the M249 squad automatic weapon (SAW). If the candidate is familiar with the weapon system and has fired it during a private training provider’s program, he/she will be in a better position to qualify with it during the training program provided by the WPS.

Outside of the DOS WPS program, there are many other opportunities to deliver services internationally. Most of these types of services involve the private sector and deliver a low-profile / low-visibility type of operation. Many of the tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) used for the larger scale DOS profiles may be significantly different, depending upon the location, threat level, etc. Details will typically be smaller in size and scope with heavy dependence on host country nationals (HCN) and such. Research and seek out a private security provider that advertises services internationally. Vet them to ensure they possess the professionalism and reputation of a company that you’d like to work for. Like any industry, there are very reputable companies providing quality services and there are others that should be avoided.

Kopis delivers high-threat training programs as an element of our training curriculum. For additional information regarding international / high-threat executive protection operations and training.

For more information on  Kopis Center please visit Duke’s Website

You can connect with Duke on Facebook and LinkedIn

This post is brought to you from the International Security Driver Association (ISDA) Membership. ISDA is anESK career success triangle isdaassociation comprised of protection professionals, who represent all slices of the profession, Corporate, High Net Worth, Private Security, Entertainment, Government and Law Enforcement from all parts of the globe.

The members share their knowledge and experience for the education and benefit of the membership and the Protective Services Community.

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Comments on International / High-Threat Protection: Separating the Myth from Reality by Duke Speed

  1. How can I enroll for the courses?

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