A Brief History

The Defense Security Service (DSS) traces its origins to two distinct missions – personnel security and industrial security. Over the past 50 years, the agency has been defined and redefined by these inextricably linked core mission sets.

The personnel security mission traces its origins to the establishment of the Defense Industrial Security Clearance Office (DISCO) on March 1, 1965. DISCO, led by its first director, U.S. Army Col. Lachlan M. Sinclair, was established to determine the eligibility of industrial personnel for access to U.S. and foreign classified information on a nationally centralized basis. At the time of its establishment, DISCO inherited the assets and personnel security clearance workload of more than 115 Army, Navy, and Air Force offices.

DISCO was organized by the Defense Contract Administration Service (DCAS) as part of the Defense Supply Agency (DSA), now the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA). Once DCAS took over the clearance functions from the services, each DCAS Region became the Cognizant Security Office for all cleared facilities in that region. DISCO was transferred to DIS/DSS from DLA in 1980 and remained there until October 2012 when it was disestablished and consolidated into the Department of Defense Consolidated Adjudication Facility.

In 1970, a blue Ribbon Defense Panel stated that DoD personnel security investigative work was a non-combatant function in which some consolidation might lead to savings. This led to a recommendation and approval by the President for the creation of an “Office of Defense Investigation.” A Dec. 29, 1971 Secretary of Defense memorandum established the Defense Investigative Service, which became operational on Oct. 1, 1972 under the direction of U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Joseph Cappucci, former commander of the Air Force Office of Special Investigations.

The “charter” of DIS – its tasks, responsibilities, and authority – was published in DoD Directive 5105.42 and designated DIS as a separate operating agency under the direction of the Secretary. Initially authorized 3,000 personnel, of which 1,750 were military, the organization consisted of a headquarters, 20 districts, and four centers with a single mission to conduct all DoD personnel security investigations.

DIS/DSS retained the Personnel Security Investigative (PSI) mission until Feb. 20, 2005 when the function was transferred to the Office of Personnel Management (OPM). This transfer also included PSIs for industry personnel under the National Industrial Security Program (NISP) and the transfer of approximately 1,850 personnel, which was stipulated in the 2004 Defense Authorization Bill. DSS retained the function, on behalf of DoD, to oversee the OPM billing and financial reconciliation process for PSIs for the entire Department.

The second historical lineage of DSS is related to the Industrial Security Program. In 1965, the Office of Industrial Security was established under the DCAS and DSA with U.S. Air Force Col. James S. Cogswell its first chief. The consolidation brought together more than 100 different offices of the Army, Navy, and Air Force that had cognizance over plants handling defense contracts. In the reorganization, 11 CAS regions were established with uniform policies and regulations.

On Oct. 1, 1980, the Industrial Security Program, the Key Asset Protection Program, and the Arms, Ammunition and Explosives Security Program were transferred to DIS from DLA. For 25 years (1980 until 2005) both the personnel and industrial security missions were resident in DIS/DSS.

The National Industrial Security Program was created in January 1993 by Executive Order 12829, and was intended to replace not only the DISP, but the industrial security programs of the Central Intelligence Agency, the Department of Energy, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Later that year, in June, DIS was directed to assume responsibility for finalizing the draft National Industrial Security Program Operating Manual (NISPOM). The team completed their draft NISPOM on Oct. 15, 1993. The NISPOM replaced the nearly 45-year old DISP and its Industrial Security Manual. The NISPOM wasn’t effective until April 1995, but DIS began implementation of many of its provisions immediately.

In July 1993, the processing of facility clearances was consolidated in DISCO due to the downsizing and consolidation of the DIS regional offices. A new Facilities Branch was established in the Personnel Clearance Division, which created a focal point for user agencies and prime contractors to request a facility clearance for uncleared facilities and to process changed conditions for cleared facilities.

On Nov. 10, 1997, Secretary of Defense William Cohen announced that DIS would be redesignated as the Defense Security Service.

Complementing and serving to underpin both of these missions was the Department of Defense Industrial Security Institute (DODSI), located near Richmond, Va., which was the focal point of education and training efforts for DIS. The school was founded in 1972 under the Defense Logistics Agency to train industrial security specialists and Facility Security Officers. After the transfer of the industrial security mission from DLA to DIS, which also included DoDSI, the institute began training Special Agents to conduct PSIs. This training mission grew to include personnel security specialists working at DISCO and the Personnel Investigative Center and further expanded to include training for the military services and DoD agencies in the areas of information, personnel and physical security, adjudications, and Special Access Programs.

On Jan. 1, 1984, DoDSI was redesignated the Defense Security Institute to more accurately reflects its mission and scope of responsibilities. In 1999, the Defense Security Service Academy was formally established, replacing DSI; and in 2010, the Center of Development of Security Excellence was established. Further solidifying its security training mission, the Director of DSS was named the functional security manager for DoD Security Training in December 2007.

The Counterintelligence mission was the last mission set assigned to DSS, in May 1993. The Counterintelligence Office was established pursuant to the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense, Counterintelligence and Security Countermeasures memorandum of Feb. 26, 1993. The office was developed to foster the integration of counterintelligence with DIS security countermeasures mission.

In addition to the PSI mission, DSS was assigned other missions that were ultimately transferred elsewhere. In October, 1977, at the direction of the Secretary of Defense, a Special Investigative Unit was established within DIS to supervise the conduct of criminal investigations and fraud prevention surveys. This unit eventually became the Defense Criminal Investigative Service in 1981.

DSS Directors:

  • Brigadier General Joseph Cappucci, USAF, 1971-1976
  • Bernard J. O'Donnell, 1976 - 1981
  • Thomas J. O'Brien, 1981 - 1988
  • John F. Donnelly, 1988 - 1996
  • Margaret R. Munson, 1996 - 1998
  • Steven T. Schanzer, 1998 - 1999
  • Charles J. Cunningham Jr., 1999 - 2002
  • William Curtis, 2002 - 2004
  • Heather Anderson, 2004 - 2005
  • Janice Haith, 2005 - 2006
  • Kathy Watson, 2006 - 2010
  • Stanley L. Sims, 2010 - 2016
  • Daniel E. Payne, 2016 - present