The saying “loose lips sink ships,” was introduced during World War II and can still have a similar significance today. Operational Security is something every Airman and civilian in the U.S. Air Force should know about and it is critical in protecting the mission and people all over the world.
According to Air Force Instruction 10-701, which covers Operational Security, if critical information and indicators are disclosed, it could allow adversaries, or potential adversaries, to identify and exploit vulnerabilities leading to increased risk to mission failure or the loss of life.
“OPSEC is an information-related capability, which preserves friendly essential secrecy by using a process to identify, control and protect critical information,” said U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Cesar Velasco, 86th Airlift Wing OPSEC manager. “In other words, it is the way we protect individual pieces of information that adversaries can use to paint a bigger picture.”
Small pieces of information can be used to cause harm to the Air Force and its members. Without the practice of OPSEC, the mission could come to a standstill and adversaries may gain the upper hand in a conflict.
“Essential secrecy is achieved by denying critical information and indicators to our adversaries,” Velasco said. “It can hinder or prevent friendly forces from achieving their mission if our adversaries possess this information. Every essential secret piece of information is crucial for effective operations.”
There are plenty of ways potential adversaries can gather information about you or your office, however there are practices in place to prevent infractions.
“Always be aware of your surroundings and who is around you,” said Maj. Sergio Dominguez, 693rd Intel Surveillance Reconnaissance Group data strategy lead. “Protect your personal data such as passwords, your Social Security Number, and bank information. There are also always people around your unit who can help point you in the right direction if you need help with anything OPSEC related.”
OPSEC is a tested and trusted practice used throughout the military because of its thorough and detailed procedures, but it is only as strong as its weakest link.
“OPSEC is all about protecting vulnerabilities,” Dominguez said. “The enemy is most likely not going to target our strong points, but our weaknesses. At the end of the duty day it is important we lock everything up. We cannot be around all the time to see what is going on, however, we can do the best we can to protect ourselves and our sensitive materials.”
Information and indicators protected by OPSEC are used to support planning, preparation, execution and post operation phases of missions and tasks across the full spectrum of military operations. OPSEC should be kept in mind at all times, and this extends to our family members as well.
“Adversaries see family members as soft targets and an easy way to get ahold of information,” Velasco said. “Whether or not family members know it, they have access to a lot of sensitive information. Family members who know and realize what to protect, how to protect it, and why to protect can help safeguard critical military information.”
Social media is also a vulnerability. If it is on social media, chances are adversaries can see it and use it against you or the military, Velascio explained.
“OPSEC plays a huge role in our social media presence,” Velasco said. “It is so easy to divulge sensitive information on the internet and not realize how detrimental it can be to the Air Force. Once it is on the internet, it can be there forever and for all to see.”
Loose lips outside of work could also expose a vulnerability, Velasco explained. A small detail can be the last thing the enemy needs to complete a plan or attack.
“Now that we can go off base in uniform for lunch or a quick shopping trip, it is easy to talk shop,” Velasco said. “Just be mindful who is listening and if it is not on the critical information and indicators list. Avoid talking about the who, what, when, where and why.”
Education is the best way for members to familiarize themselves with OPSEC. The 86th AW and the Air Force have multiple resources service members can use to familiarize themselves with the ins-and-outs of OPSEC.
Contact 86AW.XP.OPSEC@us.af.mil or DSN 480-4107 for more information about base OPSEC procedures.