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Esper calls out DOD’s culture of insufficient operations security

In a move to tighten operations security (OPSEC) and better protect national security and the safety of warfighters, the Defense Department is reminding employees not to disclose non-public information.

In a July 20 memo to all DOD personnel, Secretary Mark Esper said the department is committed to transparency, but emphasized that unclassified information is not publicly releasable until it is approved for release. 

“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,” Esper wrote.  No matter the cause, he noted -- whether “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.”

Esper ordered all personnel to take online training courses on OPSEC awareness, unauthorized disclosure of classified information, insider threat awareness and information security.

Citing “a culture of insufficient OPSEC practices and habits,” Esper reminded staff to be careful with all policy information and proposals. “Just because someone has a clearance, or previously worked for DoD, does not mean they have a need to know,” he wrote. Staff must comply with DOD policies regarding public disclosures and prepublication review policies and are instructed report certain contacts to their security offices, in compliance with security clearance-related obligations.

Personnel who violate operations security policies may face consequences.

“Any transmission or communication of non-public information to the public or an unauthorized recipient is considered an unauthorized disclosure,” Esper wrote. Such actions, he added, “can result in adverse personnel action, including unsatisfactory performance evaluations, records of formal counseling, the loss of security clearances or termination of employment, or even criminal prosecutions.”

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