Careers in the FBI Economic Espionage Unit

In 1996, Congress passed the Economic Espionage Act, which criminalized the theft of trade secrets.  In order to fulfill this congressionally charged responsibility, the Federal Bureau of Investigation established the Economic Espionage Unit, which investigates all violations of the Economic Espionage Act.

The Economic Espionage Act makes it a crime to steal proprietary information and deliver it to a foreign power.  It also criminalizes the theft of sensitive corporate information that may damage or weaken the competitiveness of a corporate entity.

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The Importance of Combating Economic Espionage

The FBI has prioritized economic espionage as the second greatest threat to national security, behind only terrorism. A number of factors have made Economic Espionage Unit jobs that combat corporate espionage vital to the wellbeing of the country:

First, as the government has locked down access to sensitive industries like defense, more foreign operatives are seeking to gain information that is less well guarded in industries like software development and pharmaceuticals.

Secondly, the scope of these damaging activities has grown to the point that it presents a clear and present danger to the financial wellbeing of the country. Theft of trade information, digital piracy, and counterfeit goods contribute to billions of dollars in losses for many U.S. companies, undermining America’s leadership position and global competitiveness.

Thirdly, this criminal activity directly impacts public safety and national security.  Counterfeit pharmaceuticals, IT products, and components for aircraft reduce the safety of critical systems. Replacement of vital components with corrupted or second rate parts could potentially cost thousands of American lives or reduce the defense posture of the United States.

Economic Espionage Unit Functions

The Agents and professionals within the Economic Espionage Unit are expected to fulfill the following job duties:

  • Investigate all thefts or attempted thefts of trade secrets
  • Partner with digital and physical security system manufacturers to develop robust protections
  • Monitor the status of key industries, technologies and industry leaders
  • Engage thought leaders to obtain an understanding of burgeoning and potential technologies
  • Enlist the aid of corporate and academic experts to help identify areas of vulnerability within the U.S. economy
  • Report to Congress about the efforts to halt economic espionage
  • Encourage police partners in foreign countries to crack down on intellectual property thieves

Economic Espionage Unit Salary

The Economic Espionage Unit consists of Special Agents, intelligence analysts and professional support employees.  Special Agents and some intelligence analysts may be considered field officers and receive salaries befitting their pay grades which may range from GS-10 up to GS-15.  Other intelligence officers and white collar staff may have salaries that range from GS-7 or GS-9 up to GS-12. The salaries associated with these GS pay grades for 2012 were detailed as

General Schedule Grade
Pay Range
General Schedule 7
General Schedule 9
General Schedule 10
General Schedule 12
General Schedule 15

In addition to these base salaries, members of the Economic Espionage Unit may also receive cost of living adjustments, which range from 12.5 up to 28.7 percent of base salary, as well as Administratively Uncontrollable Overtime, which may vary from 10 to 25 percent of base salary.

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