5 Questions for Jason Kight
Last July, Jason Kight’s impressive, nearly 30-year career with the U.S. Department of State, brought him to his newest role: Executive Director of the Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC).
We asked him several questions about the current, uncertain state of the world and what he hopes his leadership style and experience will add to OSAC.
Q: How is the current COVID-19 international public health crisis underscoring the role that OSAC plays?
A: The COVID-19 pandemic put the OSAC machine into overdrive. How quickly can we get comprehensive information to our members that will help them make informed decisions concerning their security programs and sound recommendations to their leadership? OSAC’s ability to amass information, synthesize it into usable products and disseminate it to our members in a timely manner is key to OSAC playing a successful role. A byproduct of a crisis is it homes in on areas of operation that are deficient, need improvement or need to be created. So, while we are working feverishly with our colleagues in the private sector during this global crisis, our eyes are also on how we can improve and evolve so we function more efficiently once the crisis abates and are better prepared to meet the next challenge.
Q: What have you learned about OSAC since becoming Executive Director last summer that surprised you? You certainly were familiar with OSAC as a former Regional Security Officer (RSO) and Assistant Regional Security Officer (ARSO) and, most recently, as Regional Director, Western Hemisphere Affairs, Diplomatic Security.
A: As an RSO, the knowledge, scope and impact of OSAC can be very myopic, especially for an ARSO. First, does your embassy or consulate have a country council? And second, if you have a council, how robust is the relationship? Hopefully the RSO encourages ARSO participation. I was fortunate to have good mentors throughout my career who emphasized the importance of the OSAC relationship, and that paid dividends in tumultuous places like Pakistan, Afghanistan and Jordan.
My positive experiences with OSAC through the years still did not prepare me for the enormity and intricacies of the OSAC operation at the headquarters level. The sheer breadth of coverage was astonishing. The 13 Common Interest Councils and more than 100 Country Councils encompass a vast number of people and organizations. This is what sets OSAC apart from other organizations doing the same thing.
Horizontally, we support a very diverse group from faith-based and academia to Fortune 100 companies, and vertically there is not hierarchy for information. A CSO from a Fortune 100 company can be in the same briefing with the head of a missionary group. And for free! It is a truly amazing concept when you think about it. OSAC’s ability to pool resources, information, and talent is preeminent in the public/private partnership world, and it is my top priority to continue to adapt and evolve our operations to meet the challenges today and in the future.
Q: You joined the Department of State as a Special Agent. How does this experience influence your leadership at OSAC?
A: I graduated from the Virginia Military Institute (VMI) in 1992 with a B.A. in Economics and minor in Business Administration. My graduation came at a time of military cutbacks, so, a commission in the Armed Forces was not an option. Despite this, attending VMI for four years established the foundation of leadership principles, code of conduct and planning process that have served me well during my career in the Diplomatic Security Service, and life in general.
Building comprehensive security plans begins with building comprehensive and impactful relationships. Treating everyone with dignity and respect is paramount in relationship building. Once you establish trust and mutual respect, anything is possible. I realize that my sound cheesy, but it is true. My office understands that I value input – both positive and critical – to serve the purpose of making us better as an organization, me as a leader and manager, and my staff as professionals. This creates enthusiasm, not only in our office, but with our colleagues in the private sector. It is why we are able to tap into such expertise and talent and transfer these resources into the programs and products that make OSAC successful.
Q: What new initiatives are on the horizon for OSAC as the organization commemorates its 35th year of service?
A: During the recent OSAC winter meetings, I received approval from the Council to take a holistic look at OSAC operations and make recommendations on how we can improve. This started with a rebranding exercise that will update our emblem and marketing to reaffirm OSAC as the primary brand. The great collaborative successes of OSAC’s Regional Councils, Sector-Specific Working Groups, and Country Councils must promote our overall image and brand and reinforce who we are and what we do as an organization.
Next we are hiring a Director of Communications to standardize and expand our messaging capabilities.This is key to our evolution. As OSAC continues to grow and become more diverse, we need a position to solely focus on our messaging. And by messaging, I mean not only on what we are sending out but also focused on what we are hearing from our members.
The OSAC program office has an internal working group focused on our website. Today’s security professionals need trusted information quickly and on multiple platforms. One of our primary focuses is to speed up and shrink the gap between when information is received and when it is disseminated, while simultaneously reaching the widest audience possible. We’ve done this during the COVID-19 crisis on OSAC.gov to disseminate the latest information for all our members and to the public.
Finally, OSAC is comprised of tremendous talent pool of security experts who volunteer their time to ensure our success. The Council wants to examine how we can tap into this vast resource even more, to deepen the integration between CICs, Country Councils and the OSAC Council sub-committees. What we are celebrating is 35 years of a truly thriving public-private relationship, but at the same time, we’re reviewing every aspect of our practices to ensure the next 35, and hopefully more, years are even more fruitful.
Q: How does the International Security Foundation (ISF) help OSAC achieve its short-term and long-term goals?
A: ISF is integral to the overall success of OSAC. ISF puts the financial framework of this partnership into perspective. While our service is free, providing the support necessary to produce the service is not. Re-establishing the OSAC brand is a major focus going forward. Without the ISF, OSAC would be subject to even more disjointed practices among our subgroups. ISF makes the process transparent for everyone involved by standardizing how money is donated and managed and provides the fiscal blueprint for the objectives a Country council, CIC, or the OSAC Council wants to achieve. This is critical to strategic planning in both the short and long term.The ISF’s newly digitized grant process is being met with tremendous praise from the field. It streamlines the financial process and allows our groups to focus on the product vs. the payment.
About Jason Kight:
Executive Director, Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC)
Bureau of Diplomatic Security, U.S. Department of State
Jason Kight began working with the Department of State in 1998, and in 2017, was promoted into the Senior Foreign Service. Prior to being named OSAC’s Executive Director, Mr. Kight served as the Regional Director for International Programs, Western Hemisphere Affairs.His most recent overseas assignment was as Regional Security Officer at U.S. Embassy Amman, Jordan during 2013-2016, with previous assignments in Karachi, Paramaribo, La Paz, Afghanistan, and Vienna.
Domestically, Mr. Kight has served in a number of positions including in Antiterrorism Assistance, Career Development and the Secretary of State’s Protective Detail. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics and minor in Business Administration from the Virginia Military Institute.