Overseas Security Advisory Council Rings NYSE Opening Bell

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By Kevin Casey, Diplomatic Security Public Affairs

The responsibilities of private sector security professionals and Diplomatic Security Service special agents overseas are much the same. Regional Security Officers create a safe environment for State Department personnel to conduct diplomacy at U.S. missions overseas, and private sector security professionals do the same for Americans doing business around the globe.

So it only makes sense for the two to work together.

David Schrimp is Director of Corporate Security at 3M. When he and corporate security experts like him faced constant kidnapping of Americans by local gangs in Sao Paolo, Brazil, they turned to the State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security. “They worked with the Brazilian police to study the modus operandi of the kidnapping gangs in Sao Paolo, so we could take steps to avoid being victimized by them,” Schrimp said. “That helped us out quite a bit.”

3M is one of 7,000 representatives from American corporations, educational institutions, non-governmental organizations, and faith-based institutions who, with the assistance of the Department of State, work to keep their personnel safe overseas. This public-private partnership has existed since 1985 under the framework of the Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC).

To commemorate the 25th anniversary of OSAC’s founding, representatives from OSAC’s private sector constituency and the Diplomatic Security Service rang the opening bell of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) on September 2, 2010. “I can’t think of a better way to mark this occasion,” said Diplomatic Security Service Director Jeffrey Culver at the event. “It’s a spectacular way to open an exciting anniversary year for us.”

Culver and Schrimp were joined by four past directors of the Diplomatic Security Service and more than a dozen private sector security experts from companies listed on the New York Stock Exchange. John Merrell, senior vice president of the NYSE Global Corporate Client Group, told the OSAC members that their companies represent trillions of dollars invested on Wall Street. “You help protect all these businesses so the economy runs smoothly,” he said. “We applaud you and thank you, and we are proud to honor you today with the opening bell.”

Crossing the trading floor on the morning of September 2 was far different than it might have been 25 years ago. NYSE is no longer a mob of traders standing elbow to elbow and shouting to be heard. Today there are more monitors than people at the exchange. The OSAC group made its way easily among quiet stations where individual traders stood before arrays of screens waiting for the opening bell.

As the OSAC group took its place on a balcony above the trading floor, a small crowd gathered below. At 9:30 a.m., Schrimp pushed a button, the bell clanged, and the OSAC group’s image was broadcast live to millions of people around the world via CNBC, Fox Business News, and CNN−not to mention the jumbo screen on the W hotel in Times Square. The event was instantly Tweeted, and within minutes the photo was wired to the Associated Press, Reuters, and Bloomberg. NYSE posted the video on its NYSE Euronext Facebook fan page and its You Tube channel (http://www.youtube.com/user/nysetv1#p/a/u/0/PzbUrbqMbhk).

Sharing Information, Saving Lives

For John McClurg, vice president of global security at Honeywell, OSAC is a way to leverage tax dollars. “We use OSAC as a conduit through which to pull down threat data around the globe,” he said. “If we were going to try to do it singlehandedly, that would require an immense network of placed assets.”

McClurg said OSAC has saved lives at Honeywell. In 2003, Diplomatic Security Service special agents monitoring the threat stream in Saudi Arabia learned that terrorists were targeting a Honeywell residential compound in Riyadh. “I was able to use that data to bolster our position and exfiltrate our dependents before the attack came,” McClurg said.

“OSAC gives us access to absolutely incredible security information,” Schrimp said. “It is a go-to place for us when we have questions about the security of our facilities or our people, no matter where they are assigned in the world. There is no place too far or remote for OSAC to provide information.”

OSAC also guides organizations through natural disasters, such as January’s earthquake in Haiti where it helped corporations and educational institutions get their people out and NGOs get supplies and relief workers in as the devastated nation struggled in the aftermath of the event.

OSAC members also benefit from working with one another. 3M operates in 65 countries around the world, and it is still growing. “OSAC gives us an ability to benchmark with our other partners who are already deployed overseas when making our strategic plans to enter new markets in areas of the world where there is some attendant risk,” Schrimp said.

Gregorie Bujac is a former director of the Diplomatic Security Service and remains actively involved in OSAC. He coordinated the NYSE event and is proud of what happens when security professionals from the Department of State and private institutions work together. “From the Middle East to South America to Asia and Africa, we see crime, terrorism, cyber threats, and natural disasters,” he said. “We work to ensure these and other situations do not adversely affect Americans and American organizations.”