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OPSEC -- needed more than ever

ELLSWORTH AIR FORCE BASE, S.D. -- As life becomes more and more involved in the "electronic" world, the ability to protect information along with the vulnerability to attack increases greatly. When sending an e-mail, submitting a form, or shopping online, it can't be guaranteed where information goes or how it's protected.

Military operations have significantly increased in frequency and risk over the past few years. Now more than ever, operational security needs to be practiced and applied to all areas - both at home and work.

However, Operations Security cannot be treated as just another "mandatory training program." It needs to become a way of life.

At a news conference March 20, 2003, formenr Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz said, "As we remain fully engaged in the [Global War on Terror], protection of critical information and our intentions is essential to preserving the lives of the men and women involved in those operations, and to the success of the operation themselves.

"We need to consider OPSEC at the outset of operations and integrate it effectively throughout the planning and execution phases. Failure to do this will significantly weaken our ability to function effectively and to protect American lives."

Our adversaries constantly strive to find out our military capabilities. They have methods of collecting valuable information about U.S. military activities and operations. Small pieces of information gathered from multiple sources can reveal a much larger picture, and potentially jeopardize an entire military operation.

Servicemembers need to always assume adversaries are interested in and are actively collecting their unit's critical information. This information needs to be protected at all levels. There are programs in place to protect classified information, but it's the sensitive, unclassified information that is most vulnerable.

Various groups are out there trying to learn our information. Applying OPSEC principles throughout an operation is the best way to protect critical information.

The threat isn't just focused on our most secretive installations and programs. Intelligence services cut their risk and cost by gathering information through open sources, such as cellular phones, computers and servicemembers. Personnel have to be aware all the time.

All 28th Bomb Wing members need to practice good OPSEC both at work and at home more than ever. Implementing OPSEC in everyday life contributes to the protection and success of the 28th Bomb Wing mission. 

For more information about OPSEC, e-mail 28.BW.OPSEC@Ellsworth.af.mil.

The 28th Operations Support Squadron offers the following tips:
 - Pay close attention to all items thrown away and recycled. Personal or operational information can often end up in the wrong hands by an adversary simply going through dumpsters or buying base recycling. Bottom line, if you don't want an enemy to see it, shred it.
 
- Before sending an e-mail, re-read it for sensitive information. If it's mission related, make sure you aren't revealing information that needs to be protected. 

- When talking on the phone, do not reveal sensitive information about yourself, unit or unit personnel unknowingly. You never know who you're talking to or who is listening. 

- No matter how proud you are of yourself, spouse or co-workers, do not discuss mission information outside the office. A group of military personnel or spouses is easy to spot and is an easy target for exploitation. 

- Protect personal information. Shred all mail with addresses or other personal information on it. 

- Pay attention to the little things. You would be amazed at the accurate picture that can be painted from collecting small, seemingly insignificant pieces of information.