Air Force Issues Gag Order on Media Interaction
In 2017, Secretary of Defense James Mattis remarked that he didn’t plan on telling our enemies every military plan we have in advance. Since then he has kept his podium press conferences to a minimum. But according to Military.com, the service branches, including the Air Force, have now followed his lead and clamped down on media outreach. Even media embeds, base visits, and interviews are suspended until further notice.
“PA offices should account for and re-assess all potential media coverage that may result from previous interviews that have yet to be published. The PA office should review all information provided to ensure it protects operational security, and if necessary, work with/advise higher headquarters of the potential coverage.” Public Affairs Guidance: OPSEC and Public Engagement Reset memo from March 1
Media Frozen out?
Defense News reported,
The U.S. Air Force is slashing access to media embeds, base visits and interviews as it seeks to put the entire public affairs apparatus through retraining — a move it says is necessary for operational security, but one which could lead to a broader freeze in how the service interacts with the public.
According to March 1 guidance obtained by Defense News, public affairs officials and commanders down to the wing level must go through new training on how to avoid divulging sensitive information before being allowed to interact with the press.
The effort, which represents the third major Defense Department entity to push out guidance restricting public communication over the past 18 months, creates a massive information bureaucracy in which even the most benign human-interest stories must be cleared at the four-star command level.
Instead of out and out denial of the press from all things Air Force, the USAF has settled on “retraining” personnel on how to avoid sensitive issues when dealing with the media. But if every time a reporter does an interview or innocuous human interest story it has to go through the chain of command for approval…eventually there will be a hiccup in the process.
“In today’s challenging information environment marked by great power competition, we will continue to be as transparent with the American public as possible while protecting sensitive information on our operations and capabilities. We owe both to the public, and it is vitally important for the public to understand what we are doing on their behalf and with their tax dollars.” Brig Gen Ed Thomas
“Operational security” is extremely important. Protecting sensitive information matters greatly. But will the “fake news” media accept this new procedure? That remains to be seen.
Featured photo: Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Dave Goldfein answer questions from the media. A new memo may put a freeze on Air Force communications with the public. (Staff Sgt. Rusty Frank/U.S. Air Force)