Overseas Security Advisory Council
Bureau of Diplomatic Security
U.S. Department of State
Over the last 35 years, the increase in terrorism and other threats against U.S. interests overseas has sent many private organizations to the government, particularly to the U. S. Department of State, for advice and assistance.Even with the substantial expansion of the Department of State’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security (DS) in the early 1980’s, sharing information with the private sector was becoming increasingly taxing. The Bureau was constantly fielding requests to help U.S. organizations and businesses abroad whose facilities and personnel were under threat.
In 1985, the Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC), a joint venture between the Department of State and the U.S. private sector, created by then Secretary of State George P. Shultz under the Federal Advisory Committee Act to interact on overseas security problems of mutual concern. Objectives of this joint venture are: to establish a continuing liaison between security officials in both the private and public sector; to provide for regular exchanges of information concerning developments in the overseas security environment; recommend methods for planning and implementation of security programs abroad; and recommend methods to mitigate risks to American private sector interests worldwide. These objectives remain in the current OSAC Charter.
Learn more about the OSAC “Council”
This information exchange is a two-way street. The thousands of personnel employed by U.S. international businesses and organizations abroad represent a vast pool of information pertinent to potential threats and incidents overseas. In response to one of OSAC’s most significant recommendations, the Bureau of Diplomatic Security (DS) created an electronic database (EDB), formerly known as the Electronic Bulletin Board in 1987. The EDB transformed into an internet based web site in June 1997 and currently the focal point for the exchange of information on security-related incidents and threats overseas between the Department of State and the private sector. The OSAC web site expanded to include cyber threat information, constituent forums, and specific traveler information. OSAC web site access is also available to Federal, State, and local U.S. law enforcement and public safety agencies. The web site is an encrypted site, which requires a password.
In addition to the web site changes, OSAC recommended in 1986 the creation of a threat information unit dedicated to security issues affecting the U.S. private sector overseas. DS supported this recommendation in 1987 by creating a staff of five that has developed into the Research and Information Support Center (RISC). RISC currently has three units assigned to focus on geographic areas of the world and conduct research and analysis (Research & Analysis Unit); outreach to the private sector and the creation of sustaining security information networks (Outreach & Engagement Unit); and provide guidance on avoiding and mitigating current and emerging threats to personnel and assets (Global Security Unit). The RISC are able to provide “any enterprise incorporated in the United States doing business abroad” with timely security-related information of an unclassified nature by means of the web site, consultations, and information networks.
Learn more about the RISC Staff
The private sector are encouraged to supplement this input with voluntary submissions about security and crime incidents affecting their own or other U.S. operations overseas. In some cases, these submissions may bring to light incidents not reported elsewhere. In other cases, they correct or flesh out information already entered into the OSAC web site. Information submitted by the U.S. private sector in the past has covered threats and attacks against U.S. personnel and property, thefts, kidnappings, other violent crimes, local unrest and natural disaster.
DS, working closely with OSAC initiated a program in 1988 to assist the U.S. private sector with the establishment of “country councils” in selected foreign cities to implement the overseas portion of this unclassified security information-sharing concept. By establishing country councils in major cities abroad, OSAC encourage managers of U.S. private sector enterprises with security responsibilities to organize themselves to cope with security problems and threats. Key representatives of these councils and U.S. embassy security officers, as well as other post officials, are developing working relationships to create an exchange of information through which pertinent, unclassified security information is exchanged in a timely fashion. In addition, the country councils provide a forum to promote cooperation regarding any other security issues of mutual concern.
OSAC and RISC continue to conduct extensive reviews with the private sector for security support requirements to cope with terrorist activity, as well as violent crime, civil unrest and other threats to personnel and facilities overseas. Partnerships have been forged to facilitate the sharing of information and resources with the International Security Management Association (ISMA) to host bi-annual regional conferences since 1999 and in 2011 the International Security Foundation (ISF) was created to support OSAC and its mission. The ISF now funds country council meetings, common interest working groups, and special interest forums. OSAC also has strategic partnerships with the Domestic Security Alliance Council (DSAC) and ASIS International. The success of these partnerships demonstrates the value of drawing together security professionals from the public and private sectors to discuss security issues of mutual concern.
In 2000, OSAC constituents became eligible to enroll in the Department of State’s Security Overseas Seminar at the National Foreign Affairs Training Center. This security-training program closely mirrors what is provided to U.S. Government employees embarking on overseas tours. If interested, look for OSAC notices during the year when this training is available.
Under OSAC leadership, the goals and objectives for the Council and RISC are reviewed annually to support the U.S. private sector in developing efficient and cost-effective security information and communication networks that provide the businesses, academia, faith-based, and non-governmental organizations, with the tools needed to cope with these security-related issues in a foreign environment. OSAC’s unique charter and continued success serve as an example of the benefits to be shared through cooperation and trust. During OSAC’s strategic planning, a two-tracked approach was established to chart OSAC into the future. First, OSAC will continue with the work that has made it successful. Where appropriate, sub-committees will publish information for American private sector use and continue to evaluate OSAC’s role in legislative initiatives of concern for U.S. organizations operating abroad. Secondly, committees through the RISC will research relevant private sector issues and, when appropriate, forward issue papers to the Executive Branch.
OSAC continues to grow, with over 5,500 U.S. private sector constituents. Even with the national trend to downsize government, the Department of State and DS recognize the increasing need for OSAC to support the U.S. private sector.
Interested U.S. private sector organizations with overseas interests should register
online at osac.gov by navigating to the How to Join Inquiries can also be sent to: