OPSEC: Operational Security
January 24, 2005:
This photograph is considered public domain and has been cleared for release by the United States Marine Corps. If you would like to republish please give the photographer appropriate credit.
— USMC Photo By: Sgt. Nathan K. LaForte
What is OPSEC?
OPSEC is keeping potential adversaries from discovering critical Department of Defense information. As the name suggests, it protects U.S. operations — planned, in progress and those completed. Success depends on secrecy and surprise, so the military can accomplish the mission more quickly and with less risk. Enemies of freedom want this information, and they are not just after the military member to get it. They want you, the family member. For additional information on OPSEC click here.
Examples of Critical Information
The following examples may help you define parameters for your communications. Remember that there are many more examples than those listed below:
- Detailed information about the mission of assigned units.
- Details concerning locations and times of unit deployments.
- Personnel transactions that occur in large numbers (e.g., pay information, power of attorney, wills or deployment information).
- References to trend in unit morale or personnel problems.
- Details concerning security procedures.
Posting pictures and information that is pertinent to your loved one's military unit to personal or family websites – such as Facebook – has the potential to jeopardize their safety and that of their entire unit. Coordinate with your unit's Family Readiness Officer, and have pictures screened and posted to the "Official" Key Volunteer website. This will ensure that you contribute to OPSEC and keep the troops safe.
These bits of information may seem insignificant. However, to a trained adversary, they are small pieces of a puzzle that highlight what American forces are doing and planning. The elements of security and surprise are vital to accomplish U.S. goals and collective DOD personnel protection.
Where and how you discuss this information is just as important as with whom you discuss it. An adversary's agents tasked with collecting information frequently visit some of the same stores, clubs, recreational areas or places of worship as you do. Determined individuals can easily collect data from cordless and cellular phones and even baby monitors using inexpensive receivers available from local electronics stores. If anyone, especially a foreign national, persistently seeks information, notify your military sponsor immediately.
What Can You Do?
There are many countries and organizations that would like to harm Americans and degrade U.S. influence in the world. It is possible and not unprecedented for spouses and family members of U.S. military personnel to be targeted for intelligence collection. This is true in the United States and is especially true overseas! Here's what you can do:
- Be Alert
Foreign governments and organizations can collect significant amounts of useful information by using spies. A foreign agent may use a variety of approaches to befriend someone and get sensitive information. This sensitive information can be critical to the success of a terrorist or spy, and consequently deadly to Americans.
- Be Careful
- Protect Critical Information
There may be times when your spouse cannot talk about the specifics of his or her job. It is important to conceal and protect information such as flight schedules, ship movements, temporary duty locations and installation activities – just to name a few. Something as simple as a phone discussion concerning where your spouse is going on temporary duty or deploying can be very useful to U.S. adversaries.
Even though this information may not be secret, it is what the Department of Defense calls "critical information." Critical information deals with specific facts about military intentions, capabilities, operations or activities. If an adversary knew this detailed information, U.S. mission accomplishment and personnel safety could be jeopardized. It must be protected to ensure an adversary doesn't gain a significant advantage. By being a member of the military family, you will often know some bits of critical information. Do not discuss them outside of your immediate family – and especially not over the telephone.
*Note: It is acceptable for almost all MOS graduates to say what their job is. The only time it is not ok is if that job is a High Security Billet (HSB), such as Recon, Force Recon, MARSOC, Intel, Sniper, Scout Sniper, Presidential Guard Detail, FAST, JUMP, PSD, Embassy Security Group, or Anti-Terrorism Battalion. The majority of Military Occupational Specialties/billets are not high security, therefore permitting those Marines say what they are doing unless they are deployed and on a mission. For OPSEC reasons, we have never had support groups for Recon families. A Recon Marine would never want his parents or loved ones in any kind of a group that would identify them as a family member, both for the safety of the recon team and the family members/loved ones. It's just too dangerous.
Help Keep Your Marine Safe
Here's a scary war story: In 2007, when a fleet of new AH-64 Apaches arrived at a base in Iraq, several soldiers snapped shots of the choppers. Those images made their way online — along with the invisible metadata that gave away the compound's precise location. Armed with that information, insurgents launched a mortar attack that destroyed four of the helicopters. In August of 2012, USAA printed an article titled 5 Social Networking Tips for Military Members. Please take time to read the article from USAA. Click here to read the article ...
Department of Defense Operational Security Course
The Department of Defense has released an interactive, web-based course that provides information on Operational Security (OpSEC) awareness for military members, government employees, Department of Defense contractors, and their dependents. The course provides information on, "[T]he basic need to protect unclassified information about operations and personal information to ensure safe and successful operations and personal safety." Click here to take the course ...
Help keep you, your Marine and our military personnel safe by not sharing any personal or military information in email or in any online environment.
Online communities, including those that are "Military" by design, do NOT have a way to assure that every member has the same goal of safety and security for our Marines and military personnel. Knowledge is power; the enemy does not need to know anything other than our Military is ready to act and defend. To help keep you and our military safe, do not share information except with your family and very close friends.
Friendships will be made and maintained from the "Connect & Share" philosophy of this web site and others like it, but sharing information through email with other members and friends in this or other online communities should be discouraged. In an online environment, you do not know the person on the receiving end of your communication. Remember, if it can't be posted on this message board, it shouldn't be shared in an e-mail, it shouldn't be posted on other message boards, it shouldn't be shared in chat rooms and it shouldn't be shared in any instant message interface or any other online communication environment.
The MarineParents.com, Inc. Message Board Communities are moderated; that means every post is read and reviewed by a trained MarineParents.com volunteer prior to sharing it publicly on the message boards. Our volunteers go through rigorous training to assure guidelines are followed. Anything that has potential to violate personal or operational security will be edited and you will be notified of the change. If you are in doubt as to whether or not you should share information, please ask one of our volunteers.
These security measures should not be interpreted as intent to limit free speech or exercise editorial control. Freedom of speech does not include the right to endanger someone else's life or liberty. MarineParents.com is categorized as a military community and our troops are engaged. OpSEC will be followed with the strictest interpretation. Posts requesting to share information via private email will not be approved. Please be careful what you share publicly AND privately in online environments. You have a responsibility to help keep yourself, our Marines and our military personnel safe by observing OPSEC-based guidelines and security measures in all online communities and communications.
Thank you for sharing this philosophy with others and for your commitment to keeping our troops safe!
Tracy Della Vecchia
Founder, MarineParents.com, Inc.