Air Force issues gag order to USAF public affairs while reviewing OPSEC policies

Members of the 18th Wing public affairs office monitor local media representatives Feb.14, 2018, at Kadena Air Base, Japan. Media Organizations were invited to tour the various squadrons that comprise the 18th Wing. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Benjamin Sutton)

The US Air Force has issued restrictions on media access to USAF bases and personnel interviews as the entire public affairs branch is retrained on Operational Security (OPSEC).

Outlined in a memo issued on March 1, all responses to reporter questions about operations, training and readiness now must be approved by the Air Force’s public affairs headquarters at the Pentagon.

According to the Stars and Stripes, the USAF has not restricted PA units in Europe of the Pacific.

“We have not ceased or reduced engagements with our audiences or the media,” said Gabriel Myers, spokesman for U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa. “The memo and the training provides us with an additional opportunity to ensure we are protecting sensitive information.”

Meanwhile, the US public affairs units are on lockdown, in an effort to bolster OPSEC awareness.

“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 memo read. “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.”

It is unknown why such a lockdown was initiated, why it only affects certain theaters or what may have triggered it, though the USAF claims it is part of an ongoing strategy.

“As we engage the public, we must avoid giving insights to our adversaries which could erode our military advantage,” the memo read. “We must now adapt to the reemergence of great power competition and the reality that our adversaries are learning from what we say in public.”

Until then, however, media embeds, base visits and interviews are suspended until further notice with limited exceptions.

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