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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.