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News | March 20, 2017

Public release of information applies to everyone

By Christine Born

Anyone working with or for the federal government quickly learns there are rules and regulations for just about everything. Some apply to everyone; others are for only a small percentage of people.

But one rule that’s important and includes everyone deals with reviewing information for public release.

Public release, the way the Defense Department means it, is a security and policy review of all official, and some unofficial, DoD information intended for release to the public when that information is about military matters, national security issues, or subjects of significant concern to DoD or DLA.  All unclassified information, such as papers, presentations, videos, images and news releases, must be reviewed before it’s released to the public.

“All information, not just classified, can be used against us so it is important all DLA employees are aware of the processes and procedures for clearing information slated for public release,” said Matt Baker, DLA headquarters information security and operations security manager.

 In the current environment, where there are daily reports of sensitive information finding its way to the news, review for public release is doubly important. DLA employees access a variety of complex information and are often asked to provide it to different audiences in the form or reports or presentations.

By regulation,  the director of DLA Public Affairs must review all information considered for public release as required by DoDD 5230.09 Clearance of DoD Information for Public Release and DODI 5205.02E: DoD Operations Security Program. At DLA the public release program is directed  as part of DLAI 5205.02. DLA Intelligence and DLA Public Affairs share the program responsibilities.

“The goal is to identify and protect unclassified information that may lead to the compromise of sensitive or classified information,” said Michelle McCaskill, chief of media relations for DLA Public Affairs. “That’s the operations security part of the review that DLA Intelligence performs.  In the public affairs portion, we look for facts that are incorrect, ideas that misstate the DLA position on a subject, or descriptions that reveal the proprietary information of our vendors. Those are just a few of the things we review for employees.”

The process is simple. The creator of any form of communication, written to video, intended for publication or presentation to an audience of other than DLA employees, vendors, or customers must submit a DLA Form 1923. The employee fills out the form, routes it to their supervisor who sends it to the local DLA Intelligence office for review. That office ensures it does not contain classified or sensitive information not releasable to the public. From there goes to the local command public affairs office for final approval.

Public venues can include universities, conferences, local newspapers, trade magazines, meetings of professional organizations or social media sites. Types of materials include books, presentations, research papers, articles or videos.

When sensitive information about defense activities is published in open sources such as technical articles, videos, books, the Congressional Record, or contract awards, it can prove to be a detriment to U.S. interests, McCaskill said.

“The public release process is designed to help the employee identify critical information and operations security indicators, and avoid putting that vulnerable information where someone with bad intentions can view it,” Baker said.

Several DLA organizations are involved in monitoring the public release process and ensuring employees are aware of their responsibilities.

For example, DLA Training ensures the DLA OPSEC orientation course is available to all new employees within the first 60 days of their employment, and annually thereafter.

The main OPSEC and public release courses are OPSEC 1301, OPSEC Fundamentals, and OPSEC 1500, OPSEC and Public Release Decisions; in addition, there are the annual Information Assurance and Personally Identifiable Information training.

DLA public affairs specialists, webmasters and content managers who post information external to DLA review the information prior to release to ensure critical and sensitive information is not posted on public websites. These employees complete OPSEC 1301 and 1500 training as part of their position requirements.

“Everyone needs to take this process seriously and understand the implications of not doing a proper review of all material released to the public,” McCaskill said.

Beginning in 2017, DLA Public Affairs and DLA Intelligence will enter the trackable portions of the public release and OPSEC programs into the new GRC-RM tool developed by DLA Strategic Plans and Policy (J5) and DLA Finance (J8).

“Using the GRC-RM tool lets us track the submitted DLA Forms 1923 and compare them with evidentiary materials such as senior leader calendars, news stories, and conference agendas,” Baker said. “It will also let us check training certificates, appointment letters, working-group meeting notes and other related documents and sources to determine if proper procedures were followed. We want to reduce and mitigate the risk for this program.”