July 21, 2020
Memorandum on Reinforcing Operations Security
Today the Secretary for Defense released a memorandum for all Department of Defense personnel reinforcing Operations Security (OPSEC) and the importance of preventing unauthorized disclosures.
This memorandum emphasizes the importance of OPSEC in protecting our forces, ensuring our mission success, and implementing the National Defense Strategy.
The Department of Defense (DOD) remains committed to transparency to promote accountability and public trust. However, it is important to emphasize that unclassified information is not publicly releasable until it is approved for release by an appropriate authorizing official.
Unauthorized disclosures jeopardize our DOD personnel, operations, strategies, and policies to the benefit of our adversaries. Unauthorized disclosures also distract from mission priorities by redirecting the attention and resources of military commanders. Whether poor OPSEC takes the form of careless cyber hygiene, "loose talk" among colleagues, or the willful release of non-public information, the result is the same: unnecessary and increased risk of harm to our fellow Americans and our mission.
Through the memorandum, the Secretary initiated an OPSEC campaign to change the culture across the department through focused OPSEC training required for all DOD personnel, including civilians, service members, and on-site contractors, within the next 60-days. In the coming weeks and months, DOD will also take several actions to assess and improve OPSEC and other security-related postures, policies, requirements, practices, and, importantly, accountability.
The Secretary also reminds DOD personnel to:
- Be deliberate and careful with all classified, controlled unclassified, and predecisional policy information and proposals. Just because someone has a clearance, or previously worked for DOD, does not mean they have a need to know. DOD personnel must protect non-public information appropriately when communicating with any party, including ensuring that the person receiving the information is authorized access and has a need-to know or lawful government purpose for such information prior to any disclosure.
- Comply with DOD policies regarding public disclosures. Ensure that an appropriate DOD Public Affairs office authorizes the release of official DOD information to the news media, or that information is released according to appropriate procedures (e.g., Freedom of Information Act).
- Comply with all prepublication review policies, with which you are required to comply even after you retire, resign, or are dismissed from your Government service or contract.
- Comply with security clearance-related obligations to report certain contacts to your security offices.
- Review current DOD-wide and organization-specific OPSEC and traditional security practices, and ensure compliance with those procedures.
Finally, the provisions in the memorandum are consistent with and do not supersede, conflict with, or otherwise alter DOD employee obligations, rights, or liabilities created by existing statute or Executive order relating to (1) classified information, (2) communications to Congress, (3) the reporting to an Inspector General of a violation of any law, rule, or regulation, or mismanagement, a gross waste of funds, an abuse of authority, or a substantial and specific danger to public health or safety, or (4) any other whistleblower protection. The definitions, requirements, obligations, rights, sanctions, and liabilities created by controlling Executive orders and statutory provisions are incorporated into this memorandum and are controlling.
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