OPSEC: Everyone’s responsibility

  • Published
  • By Dennis Morris
  • 99th Air Base Wing Operations Security program manager
Everyone who's been around the military has heard the term Operations Security, or OPSEC, but do they really know what it means? Many people think OPSEC is all about classified information, when the opposite is true; OPSEC targets critical and sensitive unclassified information.

OPSEC is a fundamental principle of the Air Force's Security Program designed to protect resources and personnel.

Critical information is information that identifies an organization's capabilities, mission planning, planned activities and in some cases, its members. This information must be protected to keep an adversary from gaining information of intelligence value. If enough of this information is collected, our adversaries can gain a significant advantage. Adversaries gather this information from all readily available sources including the internet, our trash, social networking sites, our bulletin boards, surveillance and unsecured phone calls or e-mails. A good OPSEC program addresses all of these vulnerabilities.

Our adversaries gather this critical information one piece at a time. These pieces seem insignificant to most people. Like a giant jigsaw puzzle, once it is put together it gives them very valuable information. Even something as simple as a picture posted on your Facebook page of when you were deployed is an OPSEC issue. A trained adversary may be able to get information from it. Once they put this together with information taken from other Facebook pages and social media, they can determine where you are and what your unit's mission is.

Following OPSEC requirements are easy -- it is all about our mindset. You can practice OPSEC in all daily activities by asking yourself one question prior to sharing or discarding information: could this information be useful to an adversary? If the answer yes or you're not sure, it's always better to be safe than sorry. You should apply simple countermeasures such as encryption, shredding sensitive documents or perhaps this information really doesn't need to be shared at all.

One additional OPSEC measure that often gets overlooked is making sure our family members are practicing better security as well. Family members are the most vulnerable OPSEC targets, as they receive little, if any OPSEC training at all. Their social media accounts, phone conversations, etc., are just as vulnerable to monitoring and are often the primary targets. It is our responsibility to ensure our families understand and practice OPSEC as well.

OPSEC training and awareness is mandatory for all military members, contractors and civilians who work on Nellis and Creech Air Force Bases. To be effective, OPSEC must be part of our daily routine. Each unit has an assigned OPSEC coordinator, seek them out and ensure you are aware of your unit's critical information and don't forget to discuss OPSEC with your family members.