Behind the Scenes: Nuclear Security Summit

A nuclear summit attended by Barack Obama and dozens of other world leader is, to say the least, a logistical challenge where nothing must go wrong. Maarten van Rijn had to think through the logistics of police deployment.

Kevin Van der Straeten
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A nuclear summit attended by Barack Obama and dozens of other world leader is, to say the least, a logistical challenge where nothing must go wrong. Maarten van Rijn had to think through the logistics of police deployment.


Hi Maarten, welcome in our studio.  


Nice to be here, thank you. 


You were involved in the nuclear security summit.  


It was magnificent. To be so close to the organization of an event like that is crazy. 


The scale is enormous?  


The scale is enormous. I was actually invited by the ones responsible, by the police, for the logistic support of the whole thing. By the logistic support I mean getting the coppers to the right place where they should be during the day. With the right materials, with the right equipment and of course with food and drinks and the toilets and services like that. Which was an enormous amount of work. In the beginning... 


About how many agents are we talking? 


We're talking about 60.000 duties, that involved 14.000 coppers, coming out of the entire Netherlands; that was a political decision. It was not organized so that all the activity should be done by people coming from the west, because there are so many activities there that they always complain that they should be doing it again, these big events. So politically they said: "no we want to involved the whole country and every taskforce within every district should deliver an amount of coppers". 


But that means that a lot of cops need to come over from the other side of the country.  


Right, they come from Limburg, they come from Groningen and that means that they traveled about 4 hours to get... not just the traveling, but together in a group, to come by bus and everything. Took them almost 4 hours to get to The Hague. And then it took them at least 2 hours to get to their location for their duty. 


But where do you start to brief all those agents?  


That was the most complicated thing, because you should have an information system to do that. But the other problem is that nowadays at this same there is a reorganization in the police. 26 districts to 10 regions. And that gives an enormous impact on the flows of information. And that was not yet fully incorporated.  


Yeah, on top of that I think police teams are used to working very regionally and not... 


Right, so the police is from here and now and now from a logistic planning. Well, the army is of course. They are used to that. So we were not the only ones involved from an external party, asked by the police. No the army was asked as well. So I had a colleague... He was an army major. He did some Afghanistan action, and we worked together. Together with people from the police. Which was great, because you get inside the organization: how are they tackling that? And I learned the most of course from the army logistics, because they're used to get a lot of people to Afghanistan with all the material and the equipment. And they have certain way of working, which for me was really like: okay, that's how I think about getting logistics done. So there was a good cooperation between the two of us. And the police was not really experienced in that perspective. Well, they have perfect personnel. Their coppers were great. They understood what they should be doing and they were happy and enthusiastic in their tasks. And all new that it was extreme what they were asked to do, so that was great. But that was not the point; the point was: are they served lunch in time? Are they able to sleep in the right hotel, where there is a bed for them? Are the buses in time? So it was quite an organization. And the trouble actually was that the police started a year and a half, almost two years ago. But not from the right starting point. They started with their experience, which is limited. So when we entered the whole process, it was already January. 


Very short notice? 


Very short notice. And then we had to, well... The political decision was made, so we couldn't change that. So we had to work from that perspective. And the student, who was involved, and did his graduation thesis on that... evaluated the whole process and finally came out with a plan of steps that they should follow in the future, when they have events like... Well, not the summit anymore. I don't think there will be a second summit. 


That's not something you do every year? 


No, no, no, but a Queensday, the Tour the France opening and events like that. They can use those steps to organize that event in a proper way.  


And in what way is it different than what the police has done?  


Well, if you work with an integral logistic concept which is... if you start doing a new product coming out of Poland and there's a factory over there. And you want to put that product on the market here in Europe, you work from an integral logistic concept. The police didn't do that; organizing the event. 


But how does it work then? 


Well, you first have to choose a summit... Ehh sorry, a summit. A structure. Where you know... Why did they choose people from all over the country? Why didn't they choose just people from the west, and then from Utrecht... And then they fill each other’s gaps, instead of traveling all the way. 


That's something you typically do with boxes, but then with cops.  


And that should be a first question: "why are we doing that?" And not just a political question, a political statement that it should be. Well, saying that, then the second thing is: is it needed to get one copper, specifically the one coming from up north right to that point of... That corner of the street? That corner of the street, where he should be. Is that necessary? Or can you say: "let's take 25 coppers from the north, put them nearby..." And then we say: "okay, we need three here. We need four here. We need five here". In information flows we can specifically do: your name, that point. And it's possible to do that, but then you need a very suitable and up-to-date information system. 


But a lot of governments don't have that.  


Because of the reorganization, that didn't function quite well. So we had to work with Excel. With all the difficulties Excel brings. And then the 4th thing is: the staff. If you work with a staff, organizing an event, but never organized an event like that, then it's very difficult. So the skills of the people working for organizing the event, that's another thing to develop. So in the plan the 4th-year student based on his evaluation of the event, one of the major items is: choose for a logistic concept when you start to organize an event like that. But before: beware that you should have a skilled staff within the force. 


But we are now talking about very big large-scale events. From the perspective of a smaller event: can we learn something from the summit? 


Yeah, I think... You can see the same principle coming back in for instance the Alpe d'Huzes event. Another student of mine was doing that as well, and they have the same... Actually the same questions. What kind of structure are we choosing? Are we buying our goods for that event just from the Netherlands? Or buying, sponsoring just from the Netherlands. Or can we possibly do it in France locally? 


So you don't have the trucks moving around, and...?  


Right, do we have an information system to cover that? Are the people well equipped? All those people on the Alpe d'Huzes; what a beautiful people are they. They are working so hard, but they are not experienced event-organizers. So there is so much work done double and so much energy and money lost. Although it's maybe not money, but it's sponsored. And it's lost and it could be better used for the whole event. 


Yeah, for making it even better.  


Right, and that is Alpe d'Huzes, but there's more of those kinds of events where goods are moving and people are moving, that you should be more aware of that concept. And maybe people should be better trained in that concept. 


Maarten, thank you very much for coming over. 


My pleasure again, thank you very much. 


And you at home, thank you for watching our show. I hope to see you next week!