The New "CSR"
One of OSAC’s most-utilized products has always been our Crime & Safety Reports, or “CSRs.” These reports provide baseline security assessments of every country in the world, covering crime and terrorism briefings to health resources to LGBT traveler security to overall transportation safety and more. CSRs basically answer the question, “is it safe to travel here?”
Normally you would have seen these reports posted to OSAC.gov by now, as we release them every spring. But this year forward the CSRs are getting a new approach and a new name. They now will be living documents known as "Country Security Reports" (keeping the same "CSR" abbreviation). We will be working with the RSOs at embassies and consulates around the world to update the CSRs on a regular basis so that they more accurately reflect the latest changes to a country’s security environment. The new CSRs are set to launch later this month so keep an eye on the Daily Newsletter for the rollout and for notifications about CSR updates throughout the year!
Launch of the RSO Toolkit
Regional Security Officers (RSOs) play a critical part in the OSAC community by joining with our private-sector partners to co-chair OSAC Country Chapters around the world. To ensure RSOs are equipped to more easily and effectively lead their OSAC Chapters, the Program Office developed an internal-facing, online OSAC Toolkit for RSOs, rolled out this past May.
RSOs are already making great use of the Toolkit’s information, especially those just arriving at post. In addition to a new arrival checklist, the Toolkit includes resources on how to vet membership applications, apply for ISF grants, manage collaborative communications platforms, and more. The Toolkit can be easily updated by the Program Office, allowing RSOs to stay connected in real time on OSAC updates and standardization processes. We're proud to offer this collection of tools and information and look forward to continuing to support RSOs in this and many other ways!
In-Person Meetings Reconvening
As of June, the OSAC Council has approved a return to in-person events so we’ll be working with CIC leadership to ensure we stay in step with CDC and local COVID-19 guidelines on formal meetings to come. We look forward to this chance to properly welcome new staff and for the upcoming opportunities to collaborate more directly with membership on our shared mission.
OSAC in Action: Colombia
"We’re proud of the exemplary leadership demonstrated by our crew, our local colleagues and security personnel, and of our close and ongoing relationship with OSAC and the Department of State” — José A. Freig, American Airlines
On April 28, a proposed tax increase by the Colombian government became the tipping point for Colombians already straining under low employment, organized crime, and a perceived mismanagement of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Demonstrators poured into the streets of Bogotá, Cali, Medellín, and beyond, growing to the tens of thousands over the next few days. As authorities cracked down on the crowds, violence erupted across the country. Within the chaos there was also coordinated strategy: Protestors set up roadblocks, seeking to directly disrupt commerce and transit infrastructure. These impasses also had the consequence of blocking critical medical supply chains that rely on Colombia ports, increasing the burden upon the population. While the roadblocks have now been cleared and the unrest has eased, the protests have made a lasting impact, emerging as a civilian movement that will continue to play a role in Colombian politics over the next year.
The Department of State’s OSAC Americas Team closely monitored the situation, providing benchmarking analysis and reports, containing travel advisories, protest hot spots and historical context. As part of its core mission, OSAC also utilized connections within its membership of security professionals from U.S. corporate, nonprofit, academic, and faith-based groups to support the safe operations of U.S. interests in the area. Several U.S. interests reached out to OSAC during the unrest for guidance and to share their first-hand assessments of local security conditions.
At the height of the protests in Cali, an American Airlines crew became caught in the clashes between protestors and law enforcement. The crew was on their way from their lodging to Alfonso Bonilla Aragón International Airport (CLO) when their van encountered a roadblock and was unable to pass. American Airlines worked with OSAC and its wide network of contacts in the country to ensure the crew’s safety.
"We’re proud of the exemplary leadership demonstrated by our crew, our local colleagues and security personnel, and of our close and ongoing relationship with OSAC and the Department of State,” said José A. Freig, American Airlines Vice President of International Operations. “These ties are truly vital layers of added protection that keep our community safe around the world.”
Others, including NGOs and faith-based organizations such as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in Bogotá, sought updates and consultations as the unrest reached their doorsteps. U.S.A. Archery, Cycling, and Weightlifting teams competing around the country stayed in regular contact with the Regional Security Officer, who helped inform the teams’ decisions on whether to hold, revise, or cancel travel plans. OSAC analysts recommended that organizations prepare for future protests that could emerge spontaneously and escalate quickly.
“OSAC exists to maintain these critical connections between the public and private sector, to support this exchange of information and best practices that allow U.S. organizations to continue to protect their property and personnel. We commend these organizations for their active participation in our partnership and their vigilance over the well-being of their communities.” — OSAC’s Acting Executive Director, James Weston
A Conversation with Tokyo and Beijing Olympic Security Coordinators
With the one-year postponement of the Tokyo Olympic Games, we find ourselves in the unusual circumstance of having both the Tokyo Summer Games (July 23 – August 8) and the Beijing Winter Games (February 4-20, 2022) only a few months apart.
We took this unique opportunity to talk with both U.S. Olympic Security Coordinators – Nicole Gallagher for Tokyo and Aria Lu for Beijing – to gain a better understanding of how the State Department supports U.S. athletes, organizations, and citizens during these major international events.
OSAC: How long have you been with the Diplomatic Security Service and what other assignments or major events roles have you held?
Nicole: I have been with the Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) for almost 20 years. When I was the Assistant Regional Security Officer (RSO) in Frankfurt, Germany, I worked the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup. Our consular district was responsible for three stadiums, including the Final, where the USA lost to Japan on penalty kicks. So definitely looking for some revenge in Tokyo!
Aria: I joined the Foreign Service in 1997 as a DSS Special Agent. In 2001, I was the Security Coordinator for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Shanghai, China. I was a Field Liaison Officer (FLO) for the Beijing Olympics and Paralympics in 2008. And in 2017, I was the U.S. security lead for APEC in Da Nang, Vietnam.
OSAC: What is the role and purpose of the Olympic Security Coordinator (OSC)? And why were both of you interested in it?
Nicole: The OSC is the forward-deployed representative of Diplomatic Security’s Major Events Coordination Unit. We liaise with host-nation law enforcement and the organizing committee to ensure Team USA competes in a safe and secure environment. I was interested in the role because I love sports. I always wanted to volunteer to serve as a FLO at the Olympics but timing never worked out. As my career is reaching its peak, I saw this as a great opportunity.
Aria: I wasn’t really tracking that the OSC position would be available at the same time that I was bidding for my next assignment but when I saw it I realized that it was going to be a little bit different this time around because it would be important to have someone with a high level of Chinese language ability who had China work experience and was familiar with the differences in culture, society, and business practices. There aren’t that many DS agents at this level who have these attributes, and who would be available and interested in bidding on this job so I decided to give it a shot and apply for the OSC position.
OSAC: Most people know that the Japanese have instituted a ban on foreign spectators for the Tokyo Olympics. Who then is still coming?
Nicole: A very limited number of people outside of athletes, coaches, and Games-essential personnel. We still have sponsor companies that will be sending very limited delegations, if any at all. We also have the VVIP program comprised of world leaders, sports ministers, and others who may be coming. It’s a very fluid situation with people likely making decisions at the last minute whether they will travel given the health situation across the globe.
OSAC: What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve been dealing with on the athlete support side and the private-sector support side?
Nicole: I think it’s the uncertainty of how the Games will be executed. The Tokyo “Playbooks,” which the International Olympic Committee and the Tokyo Organizing Committee together with the Government of Japan (GOJ) and the Tokyo Metropolitan Government have put out, have been very informative for all stakeholders. But it’s a guide and as with all guides there are areas where the information is incomplete. Working with the sponsors and other OSAC constituents I think we’ve done a good job of trying to understand where those voids are, gathering information among ourselves and sharing that so that we can do the best for our respective organizations.
OSAC: With the postponement you’ve also had the opportunity to interact more with OSAC members and other private-sector stakeholders for this event. Is there anything you learned or benefitted from in your engagement with them?
Nicole: Absolutely! OSAC is a great opportunity to collaborate. During COVID, OSAC has been able to really successfully pivot to the virtual world. We’ve been able to interact with many private-sector stakeholder groups by having many informative discussions. OSAC members are present in the countries we operate in and have a wealth of knowledge. We’ve been able to benefit from their understanding -- their having been here for a long time and understanding local culture and norms -- and how we can best work together in the current challenging operating environment. So OSAC has been a wonderful resource for us.
Aria: I think our OSAC Olympic contacts see these two events like we do: it’s a marathon bookended by two sprints – the Tokyo and Beijing Games. It’s been a great opportunity to work with the corporate sponsors. Although we haven’t had the opportunity to meet in person, by having virtual calls it has really helped me understand private sector priorities and concerns, which helps inform our security planning. Although it’s been a challenge doing things virtually, it also has presented some opportunities for us.
OSAC: I would be remiss if I didn’t highlight the welcome fact that we have two female Olympic Security Coordinators at the same time as the U.S. Government’s lead event security representatives. Any career tips or pointers that you would like to share in terms of assisting fellow female agents as they climb the ladder in a law enforcement agency?
Aria: I think the best advice I can give is to just go for it. People might tell you that you can’t do it or you shouldn’t do it, but I don’t think you should listen. I think you should toss your name in the ring because if you don’t do that then you don’t even get the opportunity to try. And then I’d also recommend to reach out to other female law enforcement officers or security professionals because it’s not just the professional information that you can share but also the experiences in how to deal with circumstances and situations which is really enlightening and really helpful on a personal and professional level.
Nicole: I agree with everything Aria said. In fact, even before I applied for my current OSC position I was the Deputy OSC and only later became the OSC. I reached out to Wendy Bashnan, who was the Deputy OSC for the 2008 Beijing Games, and so exactly like Aria said, getting that insight from one female agent to another was enlightening and helpful as you make the OSC decision or any job within DSS.
This interview was conducted on June 16th by OSAC Major Events Lead, Phil Walker, and has been edited for length and clarity. Full-length transcript available here.
This quarter, our Research & Analysis team closely monitored and reported on security incidents including unrest and violence in Chad, Colombia, and Israel. We developed and disseminated updates on the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and vaccination programs globally and conducted benchmarking efforts on topics ranging from COVID-19 policy considerations to travel security support. In conjunction with OSAC’s Major Events team, we also published event security assessments, including reports on the G7 Summit, Copa America, and both the upcoming Olympic Summer Games in Tokyo and Winter Games in Beijing.
For more on topics and trends covered by Research & Analysis during the last quarter, we recommend reviewing the OSAC reports below:
- Africa: Rebel Advance on N’Djamena Threatens Violence and Water Disputes: Rising Tension Over the Nile
- Americas: Mexico’s Midterms: Potential Security Implications for the Largest Election in the Country’s History and Ongoing Colombia Protests Highlight Security Challenges
- Asia: Chinese Digital Currency: Exporting Authoritarianism Through the Private Sector and NGO Attack Indicative of Increasing Afghanistan Instability
- Europe: Rise in Anti-Semitism and Right-Wing Extremism in Germany
- Major Events: Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games Overview and Cybersecurity Assessment: Tokyo 2020 Olympics
- Middle East and North Africa: Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Update: Civil Unrest, Rockets, and Airstrikes
Africa: On May 25, U.S. Embassy Ethiopia participated in the Africa Regional Committee (ARC) and the Middle East and North Africa Regional Committee's (MENA RC) joint webinar on strategic waterways and global maritime chokepoints in Northern and Eastern Africa. Senior Regional Security Officer (SRSO) Jeffrey Dee, Political/Economic Officer Melissa Schumi Jones, and Regional Environment Officer Christopher Nyce participated to share their local insights regarding the ongoing political and security situation on the ground. The presentation covered the vulnerabilities of the Suez Canal and how the failure to negotiate an agreement on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on the Nile River has increased political tensions in the region. MENA RC, ARC, and Addis Ababa Chapter members appreciated participation by Post and the opportunity to hear directly from RSO. (Photo: Addis Ababa, Ethiopia)
East Asia/Pacific: On March 25, the OSAC Perth Chapter hosted its first in-person event since 2019, with 25 members and guests attending. The keynote speaker for this event was U.S. Embassy Canberra RSO Janet Meyer, who spoke on the threat of foreign interference, focusing on China’s efforts to influence and shape the geopolitical landscape within the Asia-Pacific and Indo-Pacific. The event was attended by security representatives of the Australian oil and gas industry, Australian Federal Police, and members from the Australian Defense Security Authority. (Photo: Perth, Australia)
Europe: From May 17-20, OSAC United Kingdom held a four-day virtual conference featuring one panel per day. The conference included sessions on The Current and Future Threat from Right Wing and LASI (Left Wing, Anarchist, Single Issue) Terrorism in the UK featuring Detective Constable Aaron Guiney with the Metropolitan Police; Legal Aspects of COVID-19: Returning to Work, Skepticism, Vaccinations on Wednesday featuring Richard Voke with Temple Bright; Return to Work Policies featuring Rod Stobie with IBM, Michael Wearmouth with Google, and Gary Eastham with Marsh Mclennan; and Security Overview of the Summer Olympics with RSO Tokyo Anton Kort, OSAC Tokyo Private Sector Co-Chair Matt Boote, and DS Olympic Security Coordinator, Nicole Gallagher. (Photo: London, United Kingdom)
Europe: The Bosnia and Herzegovina – Sarajevo Chapter has restarted and become fully active in Q2. The Regional Security Office identified a new private sector Co-Chair, Pedja Sarajlic of Ernst and Young, and almost immediately worked with the new Co-Chair to draft a charter and bylaws, and to host an inaugural meeting on May 11th. This meeting featured remarks from the Deputy Chief of Mission and a presentation from OSAC’s Chad Harmon on cyber threats to the US private sector. (Photo: Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina)
India - New Delhi Country Chapter is continuing its virtual internship program. This initiative began last year as a creative way to introduce local youth to the security field despite COVID-19 lock downs. Congratulations to the nine interns participating this cycle! (Photo: New Delhi, India)
Mexico: Our Mexico City Affiliate Chapter hosted a three-part virtual meeting series on May 27, June 3, and June 10. These sessions were titled, “Meet the Regional Security Officers of Mission Mexico,” “A Discussion on Upcoming Elections: Mexico, and American Citizens Services” and “Crime Prevalence and Perceptions in Mexico” and included presentations from representatives of Mission Mexico and University of Michigan graduate students among others. A special thanks to OSAC Program Office’s Mexico analyst, Michael Ferguson, for giving us an overview of services available to OSAC members, operating in Mexico! (Photo: Mexico City, Mexico)
Middle East/Near East Asia: Mission Israel collaborated with the Middle East and North Africa Regional Committee (MENA RC) on their May 17 snap call on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the MENA RC’s update on June 22. Thank you Mission Israel for providing your on-the-ground perspective and continuing collaboration!