By Jennifer Thibault
50th Space Wing Public Affairs
Information can be the key to victory making it critical for base members to safeguard the vital information they work with on a daily basis.
The wing’s operational security program guides members in how to protect their information for optimal mission effectiveness.
“OPSEC is the way we protect unclassified information from adversary access or use,” said Capt. Michael Sontag, 50th Space Wing OPSEC program manager. “It governs how we identify, analyze, control, disseminate and destroy information.”
Just as ORM in the safety world allows for some risk, OPSEC allows for some risk with respect to the information that is made publicly available. As stewards of tax payer dollars, the Air Force has a duty to discuss its operations as much as possible except as must be limited to ensure mission success.
The purpose of OPSEC, as stated in the Air Force Space Command Supplement to Air Force Instruction 10-701, is to reduce the vulnerability of Air Force missions from successful adversary collection and exploitation of critical information. OPSEC applies to all activities that prepare, sustain, or employ forces during all phases of operations.
“The Air Force has realized, much like our enemies have, that the easiest way to gain information is through publicly available means,” said Captain Sontag. “The Al Qaeda manual even states that they can get 80 percent of the information they need through unclassified sources.”
With unclassified information it may be harder to know how to appropriately protect it.
“Ultimately, it is everyone’s responsibility to protect the information they use on a daily base,” said the captain.
Some of the most common violations of OPSEC guidelines are failing to comply with the 100 percent shred policy, transmitting sensitive details on a cell phone vice a more secure land line and not being cautious with information on social networking sites.
Knowing the requirements is key; like in the children’s cartoon where they ended each episode with, “knowing is half the battle.”
Each unit is required to have an OPSEC point of contact who can inform members of their requirements as well as help research required actions in disposing of less commonly disposed of items, such as VHS tapes and floppy disks.
“We have to be mindful of the information we allow outside of our control either intentionally, such as over the phone, or unintentionally, such as what we fail to shred,” said Captain Sontag. “It’s not just about protecting the mission; it’s also about protecting personnel and their family members.”