The William D. Clarke, Sr. Diplomatic Security Fellowship is not only a unique opportunity for highly qualified, diverse college students to receive academic funding, practicums and mentorship from the U.S. Department of State – it is also a path to your career in the Foreign Service as a Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) Special Agent.

Part of your eligibility for the Clarke DS Fellowship program is your ability to enter the Foreign Service as a DSS Special Agent, which is a federal law enforcement position, upon completion of the program. So, before you apply, you should be aware of the clearances that you must be able to obtain and maintain to stay in the program.

Top Secret Security Clearance

You will need to obtain and maintain a Top Secret security clearance with eligibility for Sensitive Compartmented Information (SCI), The security clearance process begins when you are selected for and have accepted the fellowship. You’ll be contacted within two weeks after selection by a Clearance Coordinator from the Department of State to walk you through the steps necessary to complete an online application for the background investigation. They will also explain the process for obtaining and submitting fingerprints.  If you have a previous security clearance from another federal agency or contract position, tell your Clearance Coordinator.

You can find additional information about security clearances, including Frequently Asked Questions,

Suitability Review

A State Department Suitability Review Panel will examine your file, including the background investigation conducted by DSS (minus any privileged medical information) to determine your suitability for employment with the Foreign Service.

The Suitability Review Panel has the authority to terminate your candidacy.  The suitability determination may come before or after your security clearance determination.  If you receive an unfavorable suitability outcome (to include appeals), and your candidacy is terminated, your security clearance will also be canceled.

What is the Purpose of the Suitability Review?

The attainment of U.S. foreign policy objectives depends substantially on the confidence of the public (both American and foreign) in the individuals selected to serve in the Foreign Service. The Department of State, therefore, requires the highest standards of conduct by employees of the Foreign Service, including an especially high degree of integrity, reliability, and prudence. Given the representational nature of employment in the Foreign Service, employees must observe proper standards at all times. The purpose of the suitability review is to determine, from the candidate’s total record, whether the candidate is indeed suitable to represent the United States.

What Factors are Considered in the Suitability Review?

In evaluating suitability, some of the key factors the Suitability Review Panel takes into consideration are the following:

  • Misconduct in prior employment, including marginal performance or inability to interact effectively with others.
  • Criminal, dishonest, or disgraceful conduct.
  • Misrepresentation, including deception or fraud, in the application process.
  • Repeated or habitual use to excess of intoxicating beverages affecting the ability to perform the duties and responsibilities of the employee’s position.
  • Trafficking in or abuse of narcotics or controlled substances.
  • Reasonable doubt as to loyalty to the U.S. Government.
  • Conduct which clearly shows poor judgment and or lack of discretion which may reasonably affect an individual or the agency’s ability to carry out its responsibilities or mission.
  • Financial irresponsibility, including a history of not meeting financial obligations or an inability to satisfy debts.

Minimum Medical Qualification Standard and Supplemental Physical Qualification Standards

Since you’ll be serving as a DSS Special Agent, you’ll need to meet the minimum medical qualification standard, including supplemental physical qualification standards specific to DSS Special Agents.

As part of the supplement physical qualification standards, DSS Special Agent applicants must meet certain minimum sensory standards. This includes various tests for vision in each eye, with and without correction, as well as audio-metric standards for hearing in each ear (use of a hearing aid is not permitted), sufficient to satisfactorily perform an Agent’s duties. For example, uncorrected distant vision must be 20/100 or better in each eye and corrected to 20/20 in one eye and 20/30 or better in the other eye. Applicants must also pass color vision and depth perception tests.

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