The final stretch of a year-long, methodically orchestrated security plan came together with a spectacular bow as dignitaries boarded their flights and safely departed San Francisco, California.
Representatives from around the world traveled to the U.S. to attend the week-long Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) 2023 Summit. Security operation planning started in early 2023 when the U.S. Secret Service (USSS) requested TSA’s skilled help with security for the event and its high-profile attendees, including the president and vice president.
“From the security operations perspective, it was a massive collaboration between the USSS and TSA,” said San Francisco’s Assistant Federal Security Director Daniel Knott.
APEC 2023 was the first National Special Security Event to take place in California and was the largest gathering of world leaders in San Francisco since the United Nations Charter was signed in 1945. The international economic forum promotes trade and economic policy for the Asia-Pacific region.
The event required an all hands on deck approach as leaders and dignitaries from 21 economies coalesced in the city. TSA’s National Deployment Office (NDO), in coordination with the Specialized Programs and Deployment branch, sent additional support to the area, deploying National Deployment Force (NDF) Officers.
“This was only the third time the U.S. has historically hosted this event, and it brought together President Biden and President Xi Jinping,” said NDO Area Coordinator George Dechon. “Our deployed Officers helped protect the venues where leaders were staying and working during the summit. We essentially set up a virtual checkpoint outside the venue and hotels. Anybody staying or attending the event went through security screening similar to an airport.”
Local San Francisco airports prepped to support security screening for commercial flights that were bringing in the 30,000 APEC attendees, as well as the area’s normal wave of travelers.
In addition to the local and NDF Officers onsite, multiple offices across TSA came together to ensure a safe, issue-free event. An unseen security network between TSA, DHS and USSS spanned across San Francisco. Everyone from NDF Officers to TSA canine teams to the Oakland, Sacramento and San Jose screening teams to the Customs and Border Patrol Officers knew their roles and expertly performed them.
TSA Officers staffed areas around the city, helping ensure key event locations were secured 24/7, including checkpoints where the event was held, as well as posts at two different hotels hosting the president and China’s President Xi Jinping. NDF TSO Jack Chou supplied his Mandarin knowledge to help translate with an intelligence team for security operations happening at President Xi Jinping's hotel.
TSA’s role also involved staffing the USSS’s Multi-Agency Command Center that included representatives from Field Intelligence Officers, local TSA Federal Security Director (FSD) staff and state or local agencies present. Additional TSA employees supported the San Francisco Police Department Operations Center and the San Francisco International Airport Emergency Operations Center, helping streamline communications between all entities.
“TSA had eyes and ears on all parts of the security operation,” said Deputy FSD Tom Nagy. “We provided information to the USSS on everything that was going on in the area. We tracked every protest or demonstration happening and any potential issues to help the USSS best protect the leaders as their motorcades moved locations around the city. It was really a whole of government approach.”
Local Transportation Security Specialist Explosives members, canine teams, Transportation Security Inspectors and Advanced Threat Local Allocation Strategy teams conducted extra sweeps and operations at access points near the venue and hotels, as well as vehicle access points.
The well-coordinated security operation contributed to a successful summit with no incidents reported or interruptions to normal air travel.
“It was almost a 24-hour operation in some of the locations,” said Knott. “The USSS appreciated our support and provided a certificate of appreciation to each Officer. We also gave a Challenge Coin to all the Officers for their service.”