While the Security 500 identifies those enterprises with the biggest and best security organizations, the Security Executive Council has identified the critically important next 50,000 enterprises as a possible weak link in the supply chain of large enterprises. The FBI’s Domain program is focused on educating both S500 and S50,000 organizations on protecting their intellectual property.

Among the useful resources for any enterprise is the U.S. State Department’s Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC), which publishes the OSAC newsletter, a summary of global security information through reports from the OSAC Regional Coordinators. The daily newsletter includes information about security issues around the world. You can also customize your edition by geography, content type and the frequency of delivery.

Coming Together

At a recent OSAC annual conference at the State Department, over 1,000 security leaders from multi-national companies attended for a briefing by state department leaders, including Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. David Stern, commissioner of the National Basketball Association, spoke about how OSAC helped the NBA become a successful global organization including NBA player tours around the world as well as hosting the Iranian national basketball team in the U.S.

Commissioner Stern presented a history of cooperation and collaboration between the NBA and OSAC, which allowed the NBA the opportunity to pursue both business and charitable activities that they would not otherwise have been able to accomplish. OSAC’s charter is to promote security cooperation between American business and private sector interests worldwide and the U.S. Department of State. OSAC currently has over 3,500 constituent member organizations and 372 associates.

OSAC is led by Todd Brown, OSAC Executive Director, who shared his thoughts with Security Magazine at the recent conference:

SECURITY: How did you come to lead OSAC?

BROWN: I had spent the majority of my career overseas, serving as a Regional Security Officer in our embassies in Pakistan, the Bahamas, Jordan, Morocco and Iraq. At all my stops, I always placed great emphasis on outreach to the American private sector. I think my choice for the position to a large extent was based on that successful outreach and ensuring OSAC country councils at those locations were viable platforms for the private sector to share security information and discuss best practices.

Security: You mentioned that you were in Beijing during the Olympics. Tell about OSAC’s role and your experience there.

Brown: OSAC began interacting with the private sector a year prior to the Olympics and had analysts on the ground in Beijing for three months prior to the start and through to the closing. I think our early involvement not only helped companies better prepare for the security challenges but offered that on-site link that the private sector could reach out to for the latest information. We produced a daily product that contained all the latest breaking security information – e-mailed directly to all those constituents who subscribed. While in Beijing, we also made a point to meet directly with constituents at their operations’ HQ and held three mini-conferences in Beijing which allowed us to address a multitude of security concerns from terrorism, crime and protests to information security, healthcare and logistics such as road closures. I myself spent ten days in Beijing, meeting with constituents and spending time at the Operations Center at the Embassy. Though specific information regarding the stabbing death of the American citizen materialized slowly for law enforcement, we were able to communicate directly with many of our constituents and relay immediately that there were no indications that the attack possessed an anti-American or anti-west component. Even that small amount of information alleviated some of the concern from the private sector and at least gave pause before they considered more elevated actions to account for their personnel or implementing any emergency plans. As the situation unfolded it became clearer that the incident was isolated and carried out by a disturbed person with no political motive or group affiliation.

Security: This year is going to be a challenging year for security professionals. Costs are up. Threats are up. Budgets are down. What should CSOs of multi-national firms focus upon?

Brown: Both security professionals in the public and private sectors have historically always had to deal with fluctuating budgets and had to match priorities with resources. Today’s security professional has to understand intimately the environment and be innovative and creative in matching resources against those threats facing their personnel, facilities, information and brand name.

Security: What threats should a member company most worry about?

Brown: Threats may vary depending on the location or even the industry. It is up to the private sector to determine how they might prioritize threats in a particular region, country or city. It is OSAC’s job to provide information to help them better understand a wide variety of threats and the degree to which a spectrum of threats might impact their operations.

Security: The smaller Security 50,000 companies may have supply chain weaknesses that put their customers, often large companies, at risk. Would joining OSAC benefit these companies?

Brown: Without a doubt, smaller to mid-size companies would benefit by joining OSAC. Over the past several years we have specifically targeted non-Fortune 500 companies. With over 5,000 OSAC constituents, many do fit that category of small to mid size. Supply chain security is an evolving area for OSAC and its disruption at any point in the process can have a lasting impact upon a company, particularly a smaller company. By joining OSAC, and gaining representation on OSAC country councils, the smaller companies can gain access to best practices and successful threat strategies, better understand local operating environments and make their concerns known so that host country security can provide related assistance. Oftentimes, the supply chain is disrupted by “insider” threats and or by allowing access to information. By better compartmentalizing, companies may be in a better position to prevent supply chain disruption at some of the more vulnerable points.

Security: What are the benefits for a non-profit, such as a university, to join?

Brown: Academic institutions are an integral component of OSAC membership, and we strive to provide safety and security guidance to American students abroad. To accomplish this, we host two academic seminars each year at various locations throughout the country. In 2008 we brought our seminar format abroad. These workshops are designed to assist the safety and security managers of study abroad programs in their crisis management plans and program evaluations. The typical topics explored include how the U.S. government can assist students abroad via OSAC and Consular Affairs. Information is provided on the various health/medical environments students may encounter; ensuring students’ mental health needs are met in study abroad locations as well as on emergency preparedness/response training for program leaders.

In addition to our seminars, we have a special interest page on our Web site devoted to academia. On this page we publish news stories, reports and links to valuable information related to the challenge of protecting the safety of students abroad.

We have similar outreach efforts devoted to non-governmental organizations and faith-based institutions, ensuring the dissemination of relevant, actionable information and guidance to all of our non-profit constituents.

Security: Are there international security best practices available from OSAC?

Brown: OSAC posts a number of best practices documents and other informational products on the OSAC Web site at OSAC.gov. This information is available to all OSAC constituents from the private sector. The U.S private sector (business, non-governmental organizations, academia and faith-based institutions) is available free of charge to all U.S private sector entities.

Security: Protecting intellectual property in overseas environments is a challenge. The FBI is promoting their Domain program in the U.S. Does OSAC have a tie-in with Domain?

Brown: OSAC values its relationship with the FBI, which serves as a technical advisor on OSAC’s Advisory Council. Likewise, OSAC serves as a technical advisor on the FBI’s Domestic Security Alliance Council, which includes Domain as part of its outreach initiative to the U.S. private sector in support of domestic security issues.

Security: Any thoughts on the new administration and changes to anticipate from OSAC as a member or an organization considering joining?

Brown: We expect the new administration to be supportive of the Overseas Security Advisory Council as a platform to ensure the U.S private sector possesses the information needed to operate successfully and safely in the overseas environment. I believe that with the recent attacks in Islamabad and Mumbai on soft targets OSAC is becoming even more relevant as a government tool in protecting U.S. interests abroad.