Remarks to the Overseas Security Advisory Council

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Dean Acheson Auditorium
Washington, DC
November 17, 2010

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you. Thank you very much. Well, it is a real delight for me to take a few minutes to come and say thank you. Thank you for participating with the Overseas Security Advisory Council and being part of that effort to advance American interests around the world.

And I want to thank Assistant Secretary Boswell for everything that he does every day to keep all of us all at the State Department safe and secure while we pursue our jobs. And he leads a bureau full of extraordinarily dedicated professionals, men and women who put their lives on the line to protect our country, our diplomats, our development experts, and American citizens working in every corner of the globe. We are very committed to supporting our Diplomatic Security team because that team supports us. So I’m very grateful to you, Eric.

I also want to thank Jeff Culver, David Schrimp, and all of the members of the Overseas Advisory Council. And I know many of you have traveled a long way to be here, and this packed auditorium – those of you in front can’t see all the people who are standing up in the back – really illustrates vividly the importance of what we’re doing together.

It’s been 25 years since an innovative Secretary of State and a handful of innovative leaders from the private sector first met. Secretary George Shultz wanted to chart a new partnership on security for Americans overseas. Twenty-five years ago, even Secretary Shultz, who is such a visionary, might not have foreseen everything we deal with today. It’s a much more difficult security environment. The threat matrix is much more complex. The world has changed at a dizzying pace. American companies are everywhere. American students and tourists are everywhere. So we are living, working, learning in new ways like never before.

And with these new opportunities come a new set of risks, because we want every American who is traveling overseas to travel, to do business, to take advantage of the opportunities, to see the world, but with an alertness to diverse and quick-moving threats from terrorism and organized crime to pandemic disease and even piracy on the high seas. We want to coordinate effective responses, and we want to work closely with our private sector and NGO partners.

Here at the State Department, this is an issue with deep resonance, because we know how important it is not to withdraw from the world. We know how significant these people-to-people contacts are. Certainly when I travel, I spend a good part of my time with corresponding officials, heads of state and government, and my foreign ministry counterparts. But I also try to get out and see people, because in today’s information-saturated environment, we not only have to convince leaders of what we are attempting to do, we also have to make the case to populations, regardless of the form of government.

So to stay active and engaged, we need to work with you. And that’s why it’s so important that you take this seriously, you take time out of your busy schedules to come here to participate. Because in this audience are experts from government, business, academia, the nonprofit sector. This is a model public-private partnership which I’m very committed to doing more of. And in fact, any other ideas any of you have about how we can expand on our partnership models, I hope you will let us know.

Just this year, the Hotel Security Working Group stepped up its hands-on training in screening techniques and responses to terrorist attacks. A new Maritime Security Group began working to address rising concerns over piracy and port security. There were conferences on protecting computer networks from cyber attacks and keeping exchange students safe no matter where they study. The Council reaches out to NGOs and faith-based organizations that have learned some ways of operating in some very difficult countries, and even advised organizers of the Olympic Games and the World Cup.

And just this week, the Council unveiled a new website that offers businesses and citizens a wide range of useful information and serves as a portal for staying in even closer touch with Americans on the ground in foreign countries.

Now, many of you here know firsthand how important this information is because you are responsible for keeping your colleagues and your customers safe day in and day out. This is a difficult but crucial effort. And it is a difficult effort, in part, because while we want to be as safe and secure as we can be, there is no zero-risk environment. And we don’t want the precautionary measures that we take in order to be as safe and secure as we can be to undermine and interfere with actually performing the work that we set out to do.

We are constantly trying to assess our risk management, trying to balance the many competing considerations. We have, for example, nearly quadrupled our civilian presence in Afghanistan, and I have to think a lot about how we’re going to keep safe those agricultural experts, those rule of law instructors, the people who we want to get out of the Embassy in Kabul and into the countryside.

In Iraq, the State Department is beginning a transition which is unprecedented for this agency of the United States Government, namely to take over from a massive military presence and footprint and to run the relations with a country that is making progress but still experiencing violence and terrorist attacks on a regular basis. Those of you who have been to or served in Baghdad, because I know we have former military, former DS, former Secret Service, former professionals from within our government in some capacity, you know that we’ve done everything we can to harden our Embassy in Baghdad, but the rockets keep coming.

So what we are doing is placing more and more civilians into harm’s way deliberately, not inadvertently. We are sending our diplomats and development experts not just to Baghdad but to Basra and Mosul and Kirkuk. We’re not just putting them into the embassy in Islamabad, but trying to get them out to consulates in places like Peshawar, which has already been attacked once.

So every lesson that we can learn is directly applicable to what I do every day in working with Eric and his team. So perhaps when former Secretary Shultz envisioned this he saw it as a way for us to share ideas and make improvements in what we do in our respective areas of responsibility. But they so overlap now, because we know in order to get investors into Iraq we, your government, have to give you some assurance as to what the level of safety is, and on and on and on.

So I am particularly appreciative, because the whole idea behind my mantra that we have to integrate the three Ds of national security, defense, diplomacy, development, that we have to lead more with civilian power. Because as great as the American military is, and there is no doubt in my mind we have the greatest professional fighting force in the history of the world, they cannot be the face of American power and influence everywhere. And even when they must be the point of the arrow, as they are in Afghanistan, in order to execute on a strategy of clear, hold, build transition, the civilians have to be there right with them.

So I just signed off, for example, on an award to a civilian who was working in Afghanistan and found himself feeding ammunition into a machine gun in order to fend off an attack. That is what your civilian workforce in this Department and AID in the most extreme examples, which unfortunately we have to plan for, are contending with in this new environment in which we must operate.

So I am grateful. I welcome your suggestions. Please let our professional team know if there’s any ideas on any issue that you think we need to be addressing or address differently or better. Because we are in this together. I am proud every single day when I get to represent you and our country in places near and far, when we land and I get off that plane representing the United States of America. And we want to do the work that will maintain our influence, our leadership, advance our interests and our values, and we need your help to do that.

Thank you all very much.

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PRN: 2010/1663