News Search

OPSEC expands focus, remains critical

  • Published
  • By Capt. Gideon McClure
  • Air Education and Training Command Public Affairs
"Do you think you'll deploy this year? How long will you be gone? What do you think you'll be doing? Where? Will you be going with a lot of people?" At this point in the conversation you should be wondering who is asking, why are they asking and who else might get their hands on the answers.

Although the answers to these questions may not be classified, when put together the information could reveal sensitive details of military operations that could endanger mission effectiveness or lives.

"Whether deployed or at home, every Airman has a responsibility to safeguard operational information," said Gen. William R. Looney, III, commander of Air Education and Training Command. "Airmen need to be aware of what they are saying and who might be listening. We need to realize that security starts at the source."

This idea is not new. In 1988, President Ronald Reagan signed National Security Decision Directive 298, which required each executive department and agency supporting national security missions to establish an operational security program.

The objective of this OPSEC program was clear--to prevent the inadvertent compromise of sensitive U.S. government activities, capabilities or intentions through an adversary's collection of unclassified information.

While security programs were already in place to protect classified information, the OPSEC program was intended to protect pieces of publicly available information that could jeopardize military actions or intentions.

NSDD 298 laid the foundation for the OPSEC process and established actions different agencies were required to take.

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. T. Michael Moseley, in a message released March 27, encouraged all Airmen to know and understand the critical information essential to mission success. In addition, General Moseley called on Airmen to recognize vulnerabilities in Air Force processes and apply OPSEC measures when a commander's risk assessment deems it necessary.

"Understanding and using OPSEC will protect our personnel and enhance our ability to conduct operations safely, securely and effectively," General Moseley said in his message.

General Moseley not only called on Airmen to renew their OPSEC vigilance, but also pointed out that as the Air Force becomes more reliant on new technologies, such as Web logs and wireless communication devices, their attention to OPSEC procedures should be heightened as well.

In 1988, when the OPSEC program was formed, blogs and PDAs did not exist. Sensitive information was more likely obtained through telephone lines, public conversations or discarded documents. Today, the old adage "Loose Lips Sink Ships" still applies, but now critical information can be compromised through a variety of electronic means. The Internet--particularly personal sites and blogs--is fertile ground for adversaries hunting for sensitive operational information.

"Our Airmen are technologically savvy. That's one of the keys to our flexibility as a fighting force. But from an OPSEC perspective, there are vulnerabilities associated with cell phones, PDAs, flash drives, and blogs. With the increased use of these technologies comes an increased responsibility to carefully guard operational information from improper disclosure. Our enemies know how to use technology as well, and they are on the prowl," said General Looney.

According to an al-Qaida training manual found by police in Manchester, England, terrorists have distinct guidelines on how to obtain information that would assist in subverting U.S. interests, policies and operations.

"Spying on the enemy is permitted and...winning the battle is dependent on knowing the enemy's secrets, movements, and plans," the manual says.

When Airmen post information to a blog about where they are deployed, what they are doing and when they are coming home, they run the risk of exposing military actions or intentions--a point General Moseley drives home in his message.

"We have been fighting the Global War on Terror for more than 1,500 days," said General Moseley. "Never before has it been more important for the Air Force to protect and control its critical information. Effective OPSEC practices are critical to Air Force operations and serve as the cornerstone to our efforts, both in war and peace."

Dress and Appearance
Awards and Decorations
Air Force Promotions
Fitness Program
AF Demographics