National security officials have designated January as National Operations Security Awareness Month, in recognition of a presidential memorandum signed Jan. 13, 2021, that designated the National Operations Security Program.
National security officials have designated January as National Operations Security Awareness Month, in recognition of a presidential memorandum signed Jan. 13, 2021, that designated the National Operations Security Program. (Photo Credit: Courtesy graphic) VIEW ORIGINAL

FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. — National security officials have designated January as National Operations Security Awareness Month.

The designation is in recognition of the signing on Jan. 13, 2021, of National Security Presidential Memorandum 28 — the National Operations Security Program — which updates the previous policy issued in 1988, and outlines new requirements for all government departments and agencies.

According to Marti Yoshida, Fort Leonard Wood Operations Security program manager, it’s fitting to start the year with an OPSEC mindset “in everything we do.”

“The threat is real,” Yoshida said. “Having a designated month for OPSEC awareness helps people recognize the things they should be paying attention to on a daily basis to ensure safety and security. Maintaining vigilance with mission-critical and sensitive information is key to combatting terrorism, extremism, insider threats and cybersecurity vulnerabilities.”

Yoshida said OPSEC is a process for protecting information in order to better protect missions and save lives, adding it is “very relevant in today’s highly-dynamic threat environment.”

“In everything we do, we make decisions about sharing, storing, transmitting and disseminating information,” she said. “That’s why it’s important to maintain a constant awareness of your actions, protect information from start to finish, use secure communications to the maximum extent possible, practice careful cyber hygiene, and cease ‘shop talk’ in environments where individuals without the need to know might overhear.”

Additionally, Yoshida asked everyone to:

  • attend annual OPSEC training and as needed with changes to mission;
  • identify information worth protecting; and
  • use measures to protect critical information, such as shredding documents when they are no longer needed, protecting passwords, sharing information only with those who need to know and talking with family members about OPSEC.

“Know who your OPSEC officer is and contact them to report a compromise, and if you are not sure, report it anyway,” Yoshida added.

In previous years, OPSEC was highlighted alongside antiterrorism information during the annual August Antiterrorism Awareness Month campaign.

“OPSEC is one of the pillars of the Army Protection Program in our nation’s defense, and works closely with mission-essential force protection capabilities,” Yoshida said. “Achieving unity of effort and managing issues and tasks in a cross-functional, holistic manner allows Army leaders to rapidly adjust to emerging risks, threats and requirements and better manage the safety and security of our Soldiers, families, civilians and infrastructure.”

Many resources are available online for OPSEC practitioners, leaders and federal personnel wanting to learn more about identifying and safeguarding critical information, Yoshida said. The National Counterintelligence and Security Center — the lead agency for the national OPSEC program — publishes a newsletter that provides OPSEC program updates, training, events and resources. The current issue may be viewed here.

More training resources for OPSEC practitioners are also available from the Interagency OPSEC Support Staff and the Center for Development of Security Excellence websites.

Here at Fort Leonard Wood this month, Yoshida said the OPSEC office completed an Army OPSEC Program Manager/Officer Course, OPSEC Level II, for eight 5th Engineer Battalion personnel Jan. 11 to 13.

One of the attendees — Spc. Xerxes Deguzman, a human resources specialist with Headquarters and Headquarters Company — called OPSEC “a constant job to evaluate that methods are up-to-date, personnel are held accountable and the OPSEC program is in compliance.”

“OPSEC frustrates our adversaries by denying unauthorized access to information about our capabilities, activities, limitations and intentions,” Deguzman added.

Yoshida said additional plans to commemorate the month include a review of the Fort Leonard Wood program plan critical information list and measures. The OPSEC office also plans to engage its more than 50 OPSEC primary and alternate program managers and coordinators with a virtual working group invitation, and plans to conduct OPSEC assessments of office spaces and web and social media sites.

“With office assessments, the OPSEC officer looks to ensure people are protecting information that could be obtained through common access cards, sensitive documents and conversations,” Yoshida said. “Postings to our official web and social media sites are scanned to confirm we are safeguarding sensitive information (online as well).”

Yoshida said there is an ongoing information war, and everyone plays a role in ensuring strong OPSEC measures are in place at all times.

“Adversaries monitoring our activities, conversations and communications use various tactics to gain information that can be used against us,” she said. “We are only as strong as our weakest link.”