On the Track of OSAC: 15th Annual Regional Security Conference, Singapore

April 2, 2012

March 25 - 27th, 2012 

Resuming our blogs, initiated last year from around the globe, members of the OSAC Council have convened here in Singapore for the 15th Annual Regional Security Conference.  Joining with hundreds of the more than 7,000 multi-nationals that have a presence here in Singapore, we convened at the Stamford Hotel for two days of discussions and presentations, including among some of the most compelling that offered by General Tito Karnavian, Deputy Chief of the National Counter Terrorism Agency of Indonesia and the previous commander of Detachment 88, made famous for its recently publicized successes against regional terrorist forces.  

Joining me at the conference were other members of OSAC’s Executive Working Group.  I arrived at a reasonable hour of the morning, coming in on a short one hour flight from Kuala Lumpur.  Others had a somewhat different experience.  Jim Snyder of Conoco/Phillips arrived in the early hours of the morning and had this to share:

“Singapore is fast becoming like New York.  Even when I arrived at 2 a.m., after a delayed flight from Tokyo, the traffic was heavy and was a sore spot for my cab driver.”

He reminded me that Singapore is a tiny country and that all the space for roads has been taken.  Every year, he complained, there are more and more cars and no place for them to go.  But the traffic tie-ups in Singapore are tame in comparison to places like Lagos or Jakarta, where the poor transportation infrastructure causes monumental traffic jams where nothing seems to move for hours.  As the US Embassy Deputy Chief of Mission Louis Mazel pointed out in his welcoming speech to the conference, Singapore is a city that works. Singapore is to Southeast Asia what Dubai is to the Middle East; it is a crossroads for trade and commerce that is dependent upon operational efficiency for its livelihood.

So it was fitting that OSAC and ISMA should come together in Singapore for yet another annual joint conference.  It is difficult to pinpoint a single highlight from the conference.  As always, the presentations by the Regional Security Officers, who are uniquely positioned to observe the security issues in each of the countries where they serve, were particularly insightful.  One of the conference takeaways certainly was the fact that despite the success of Seal Team Six, the world continues to be a dangerous place.  Indonesian Brigadier General Tito’s recounting of the attacks by Jamaah Islamiyah against the police in Indonesia was a powerful reminder that it is actually societal structures including democracy, freedom of association and the rule of law that are under attack by extremists.  Frequently, the personnel and assets of companies, NGOs, and other nonprofits are simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Maria Ressa’s (a Filipino journalist, and author of Seeds of Terror) presentation was a wakeup call that the forces against order are avid students of their past successes and failures and that they are continuously modifying and adapting their tactics based upon the lessons learned from each success and failure.  In my own industry, the seaborne bombing of the USS Cole in 2000 was replicated with similar tactics deployed against the French flagged crude tanker Limburg which was attacked off the coast of Yemen in 2002. Maria also pointed out that extremists have gained a new appreciation for the power of social media which was so successfully used to depose the incumbent rulers during the Arab Spring. They appreciate its power and are embracing social media in furtherance of their cause.  Those who stand in opposition, including those who were in attendance at the conference, must not only understand this phenomenon, but must also learn how to leverage social media to counter falsehoods which can become the "truth" and go viral overnight.

It is a tribute to each of the presenters that despite the fact that many in their audience were suffering from jet lag, they retained the rapt attention of everyone for two full days and left us all wanting more… which is probably as it should be.

You’re invited to stay “On the Track of OSAC” as we will continue to chronicle our 2012 travels via this blog from Moscow and London in May.  In the meantime, continue to look for exact dates and times of Country Council meetings at www.OSAC.gov

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