OSAC Annual Briefing forges meaningful security connections

From left: U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry, and Bureau of Diplomatic Security Assistant Secretary Gentry Smith discuss the
From left: U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry, and Bureau of Diplomatic Security Assistant Secretary Gentry Smith discuss the "Climate-Security Nexus: Impacts on U.S. Organizations Abroad,” during the 2021 OSAC Annual Briefing, Nov. 17. Photo courtesy of OSAC

By Elizabeth Winter 

The Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC), a unit within the Bureau of Diplomatic Security (DS), partners directly with security professionals at U.S. organizations operating abroad to build threat awareness and trusted networks of support. Once a year, OSAC members converge at the OSAC Annual Briefing (AB). Though, normally held at the Harry S Truman Building in Washington, the AB has rallied in a virtual space for the past two years. 

A record 2,534 members registered for this year’s panels and presentations, which focused on “Strategic Competition and Emerging Security Challenges.” Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry and DS Assistant Secretary Gentry Smith explored the climate-security nexus as temperatures, seas, and conflicts swell. Katya Sienkiewicz, Starbucks senior project manager, talked about sustainable supply chains with Department of Defense Deputy Assistant Secretary Richard Kidd, and Alice Hill of the Council on Foreign Relations. Ambassador Michele Sison and representatives from the Brookings Institution, Internews, and Carnegie Endowment delved into amorphous risk and non-state actors. Suzanne Spaulding of the Center for Strategic and International Studies led a panel on radical online speech and election disinformation, and more. 

To replicate in-person discussions, OSAC offered a continual stream of live chats and presentation follow-ups. OSAC’s Executive Director Ellen Tannor, and Executive Deputy Director James Weston shared information about OSAC resources. OSAC Team Lead Phil Walker discussed managing security at crowd-drawing events like the Olympics and World Cup. Regional Security Officers hosted topics like “Doing Business in Baghdad and Beyond.” And attendees hosted their own chats as well. With 148 sessions covering 128 topics, forging 4,490 individual connections, and the wider geographical and financial boundaries surmounted by a virtual environment, OSAC is determined to move forward with a hybrid format for ABs to come.  

Lastly, the OSAC Awards were presented at the International Security Foundation’s Virtual Reception. The reception featured former-Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and former-Principal Deputy Director of National Intelligence Susan Gordon as speakers, and a performance by the Historically Black Colleges and Universities National Choir with the U.S. Navy Band. These events were a phenomenal way to round out the 36th year of OSAC’s vital public-private partnership.  

Elizabeth Winter is the communications manager of the Overseas Security Advisory Council in the Bureau of Diplomatic Security. 

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