Editor's note: John McClurg, VP, Chief Security Officer for Dell Global Security, is also the 2011 co-chair for the Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC). Security magazine is pleased to share his chronicles with you as he travels around the world to visit with OSAC's constituents, to allow for greater collaboration and to safeguard the lives and business interests of Americans abroad.
Day 7: Baghdad
The number of Private Security Companies operating in Baghdad is surprising and gives way to an appreciation of the magnitude of the mission. Meeting with all of them would have proven infeasible, so we advanced the next best thing by meeting with the President of the PSCAI (Private Security Company Association of Iraq). He shared valuable insights garnered as a result of being the nexus through which many of these companies collaborate and advance the advocacy of issues critical to their success.
With just an hour or so before members of the OSAC Country Council would begin to converge on the U.S. Embassy, for what we were touting as a “re-launch,” we took a quick run over to the Crossed Swords Monument, behemoth reminders of Iraq’s war-dominated past, for a quick picture—an act that has virtually attained the status of being ritualistically required of every first-time visitor to Baghdad. While Peter and Jim had been there a number of times they good-heartedly accommodated Elena and me.
Soon thereafter, the over one-hundred individuals registered for the meeting began arriving, undaunted by precipitation that once again raised its ugly, albeit infrequent, head. Among their numbers were representatives of a major U.S. bank, USAID, NGOs, Private Security, Defense Contractors, General Service providers, and no few technology and oil companies. Larry Foster of DynCorp, Chair of the local Steering Committee, played host for the meeting, which traversed the next three hours with a series of presentations, including those by Peter, Elena, and me, U.S. Embassy representatives, and threat analysts. Best Practices, being advance by Private Sector Peers, were also shared.
Elena artfully guided the constituents through the newly designed OSAC website which can be encountered at www.OSAC.gov , a core piece of which allows each Country Council around the globe to personalize their specific Country Council page with information and links of particular criticality and interest. The high point of the day’s discussions was for me that which advanced the dialog around the challenges associated with the imminent transition. A particularly acute observation that emerged was the need for an entity to step forward and assume the lead, to take action on what most are acknowledging as obvious issues—to pull together what collectively we think might be plausible solutions and to advance the difficult work of refining those suggestions to the point of having something that is ratified and embraced as operationally feasible—by both the government and private sector. To their credit, the Steering Committee leadership assumed the mantle of taking that lead, including advancing the most obvious and pressing issues as agenda items for the next meeting of the Council.
The Steering Committee of the Baghdad Country Council worked assiduously to pull together of one of the best meetings in recent memory. With their collective talents and dedication being applied to the challenges at hand we have every confidence that they will come off successful as they navigate the potential pitfalls of the transition period ahead. To that end we look forward to “locking shields.”
Tomorrow we begin the journey home.