National Special Security Events: Fact Sheet

National Special Security Events: Fact Sheet
Updated January 11, 2021
Congressional Research Service

National Special Security Events: Fact Sheet

Major federal government or public events that are considered to be nationally significant may be
designated by the President—or his representative, the Secretary of the Department of Homeland
Security (DHS)—as National Special Security Events (NSSE). P.L. 106-544 designated the U.S.
Secret Service (USSS) as the lead federal agency responsible for coordinating, planning,
exercising, and implementing security for NSSEs. The January 20, 2021, inauguration of
President-elect Joseph R. Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala D. Harris has been designated
an NSSE. The joint session of Congress that met at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, to open,
certify, and count the November 2020 presidential election electoral votes was not designated an
Legislative Authority and Presidential Directives
On May 22, 1998, President William J. Clinton issued Presidential Decision Directive 62 (PDD
62)—Protection Against Unconventional Threats to the Homeland and Americans Overseas.1
PDD 62 established a framework for federal department and agency counterterrorism programs,
which addressed terrorist apprehension and prosecution, increased transportation security,
enhanced emergency response, and enhanced cybersecurity. PDD 62 also designated specific
federal departments and agencies as the lead agencies in the event of terrorist attacks.2 USSS was
designated as the lead agency with the leadership role in the planning, implementation, and
coordination of operational security for events of national significance—as designated by the
President.3 Other lead agencies for counterterrorism activities included the Federal Emergency
Management Agency, the Department of Defense, and the Department of Health and Human
On December 19, 2000, Congress enacted P.L. 106-544, the Presidential Threat Protection Act of
2000, and authorized the USSS—when directed by the President—to plan, coordinate, and
implement security operations at special events of national significance.4 These special events are
designated National Special Security Events (NSSEs). Some events categorized as NSSEs include
the following:
 presidential inaugurations,
 major international summits held in the United States,
 major sporting events, and
 presidential nominating conventions.

1 PDD 62 was superseded by a classified appendix to Annex II of National Security Presidential Directive
46/Homeland Security Presidential Directive 15, U.S. Strategy and Policy in the War on Terror, on March 6, 2006. The
appendix maintains USSS responsibility in planning, coordinating, and implementing security operations at NSSEs.
2 Presidential Decision Directive 62 is classified. The White House issued a fact sheet abstract about it, and the
Federation of American Scientists has posted an “unclassified abstract” said to be “derived from” PDD 62, available at, October 25, 2007.
3 U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Secret Service, Office of Legislative Affairs, “National Special Security
Events: Meeting the Counter-Terrorism Challenge” (Washington: 2006), p. 1. This document is available to
congressional clients by contacting the U.S. Secret Service’s Office of Legislative Affairs.
4 P.L. 106-544, Sec. 3; 114 Stat. 2716.
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National Special Security Events: Fact Sheet

NSSE Designation
Prior to the establishment of DHS in January 2003, the President determined what events of
national significance were designated as NSSEs. Since the establishment of the department, the
DHS Secretary—as the President’s representative—has had the responsibility to designate
NSSEs. NSSE designation factors include the following:
 anticipated attendance by U.S. officials and foreign dignitaries;5
 size of the event;6 and
 significance of the event.7
Recent past NSSEs include President Donald Trump’s 2017 inauguration and the Republican and
Democratic presidential candidate nominating conventions in 2020.8
NSSE Security Operations
When an event is designated an NSSE, USSS becomes the lead federal agency in developing,
exercising, and implementing security operations. The goal of these security operations is to
“develop and implement a seamless security plan that will create a safe and secure environment
for the general public, event participants, Secret Service protectees, and other dignitaries.”9
The USSS’s Dignitary Protective Division (DPD) is responsible for NSSE planning and
coordinates with other USSS headquarters and field offices. Some of the coordination includes
advance planning and liaison for venue and air space security, training, communications, and
security credentialing.10 Additionally, DPD coordinates and conducts liaisons with other federal,
state, and local agencies—primarily law enforcement entities.
NSSE security is planned, exercised, and implemented through a unified command model that is
comprised of representatives of participating federal, state, and local agencies with NSSE
responsibilities. During the NSSE’s planning phase, each participating agency is tasked according
to their expertise or jurisdictional responsibility. USSS states that, “with the support of hundreds
of federal, state, and local law enforcement and public safety organizations, each of these events
has successfully concluded without any major incidents.”11
NSSE operational plans include the use of physical infrastructure security fencing, barricades,
special access accreditation badges, K-9 teams, and other security technologies. To ensure
consequence management, DHS pre-positions Domestic Emergency Support Teams, Urban

5 Events attended by U.S. Government officials and foreign dignitaries may require federal interest in ensuring that the
event is executed without incident and that sufficient resources are available in case of an incident.
6 A large number of attendees and participants increases security requirements. Additionally, larger events could
possibly increase terrorist intentions of attempting to attack the event.
7 Some events have historical, political, and symbolic significance that may heighten the possibility of terrorist attacks,
8 USSS security operations were of a smaller scale in 2020 due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the
Democratic and Republican nominating conventions.
9 U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Secret Service, Office of Legislative Affairs, “National Special Security
Events: Meeting the Counter-Terrorism Challenge” (Washington: 2006), p. 1. This document is available to
congressional clients by contacting the U.S. Secret Service’s Office of Legislative Affairs.
10 Ibid., p. 2.
11 Ibid.
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National Special Security Events: Fact Sheet

Search and Rescue Teams, National Emergency Response Teams, Nuclear Incident Response
Teams, and assets from the Strategic National Stockpile and Mobile Emergency Response
System. Specific teams and groupings of teams are designed for each event based on coordination
with other federal entities, state and local jurisdictions, available local resources, and mutual aid
agreements.12 Additionally, USSS sponsors training seminars for command-level federal, state,
and local law enforcement and public safety officials to provide principles for managing security
at major events and strategies for reducing vulnerabilities related to terrorism. The seminars also
discuss key strategies and lessons learned from past NSSEs.13
NSSE Funding
Even though NSSEs have been designated since 1998, Congress has only appropriated funding
specifically for NSSEs since FY2006. The following table provides the past eight fiscal year
amounts appropriated for NSSEs since FY2013.
Table 1.NSSE Appropriations, FY2013-FY2020
(dollars in millions)
Fiscal Year
Source: CRS analysis of enacted FY2013-FY2020 DHS appropriations.

Author Information

Shawn Reese

Analyst in Emergency Management and Homeland
Security Policy

12 U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Office of the Press Secretary, “National Special Security Events Fact
Sheet,” July 9, 2003.
13 Ibid.
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National Special Security Events: Fact Sheet

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