OPSEC: Operations 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

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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. To read the Marine Corps Policy on OPSEC, click here.

Information from Marines.mil.

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.

Unofficial Websites

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.

Puzzle Pieces

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:

  1. Be Alert
  2. 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.

  3. Be Careful
  4. 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.

  5. Protect Critical Information
  6. 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.

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