Counterespionage Careers

Since the end of the Cold War, many people have ignored the continuing threat posed by agents of foreign governments.  Unfortunately, the damage that these spies can do to national security through theft of government secrets and new technologies can still be enormous.  The recent disclosure that Russia had placed ten deep cover agents within Washington high society to extract information attests to the fact that other governments remain intensely dedicated to weakening the United States.

Other high profile cases like Robert Hanson and Aldrich Ames show how damaging even a single agent can be.  Whether these individuals were developed by the governments of other countries or they independently approached them to sell sensitive U.S. intelligence, it is constant challenge for the FBI’s Counterespionage section to identify and apprehend them.  In order to combat the ever-changing espionage threats that nations like China and Russia present, the Counterespionage section recruits among the best and brightest professionals in the FBI and private organizations.

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Counterespionage Job Description

As the guardians of the country’s vital secrets, Counterespionage jobs involve monitoring suspicious behavior found throughout the federal government and key industries. In addition to responding to tips, security violations and gathered intelligence, counterintelligence professionals also develop pro-active strategies that anticipate intelligence operations.  Counterespionage may even utilize captured foreign operatives to gain information about their native intelligence operations.

Special Agents and professional staff are expected to perform the following functions as part of Counterespionage jobs:

  • Maintain a constant watch over major facilities, personnel and intelligence assets
  • Respond to suspicious behavior, security breaches and tips that may indicate possible foreign intelligence intrusions
  • Oversee the integrity of FBI intelligence divisions and conduct tests to ensure the highest standards of security
  • Develop and conduct counterespionage operations that subvert foreign operatives and gain access to the intelligence networks of other nations
  • Monitor the activities of suspected foreign operatives
  • Question and elicit information from suspects of espionage
  • Testify in court and before Congressional leaders about the status of high profile espionage cases

Counterespionage Salary

The Counterespionage Section within the FBI is comprised of Special Agents and support professionals. Special Agents may receive salaries commensurate with pay ratings from GS-10 up to GS-15, although GS-14 and GS-15 are typically reserved for FBI personnel in supervisor or executive careers.  White collar support professionals are also subject to the General Schedule salary structure, but they may enter employment at a lower pay grade than those for Special Agents.  Some professionals may only rate a GS-7 or GS-9 grade at time of hiring. Initial salary and pace of promotion are often contingent upon level of education, prior military or law enforcement experience, and demonstrated skill in counterespionage functions. In 2012, the salaries for these pay grades were described as:

General Schedule Grade
Pay Range
General Schedule 7
General Schedule 9
General Schedule 10
General Schedule 14
General Schedule 15

The FBI typically provides a cost of living adjustment for all its personnel, which may vary from 12.5 up to 25 percent of base salary. Special Agents and some staff may also qualify for overtime pay in the form of Administratively Uncontrollable Overtime, which may be 10 to 25 percent of salary.

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