USAF Chief of Staff opens up about crackdown on public affairs due to OPSEC issues

U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein speaks to members of Team Andersen during an all call at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, Feb. 8, 2018. Goldfein shared his thoughts about the future of the Air Force and how Team Andersen's work plays a strategic role. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Christopher Quail)

The Air Force Chief of Staff is doubling down on the service’s decision to be less open with the press in terms of operational details, adding that the USAF is still obligated to speak with the public.

“We’ve done some very significant training not only with our public affairs but also with our commander,” Chief of Staff General David Goldfein said during a March 29 Defense Writers Group breakfast in Washington.

According to the seasoned combat pilot, the Air Force changed how they interacted with the press after determining they needed to adapt to a changing threat climate.

“We are coming out of 17 years of conflict where we really haven’t been in the great power competition game and so therefore we have been a little looser on the things we talk about and then we as an Air Force had three of four instances in a row where we just skirted the edge. We just got to the point where the secretary [of the Air Force] and I were just uncomfortable about the operational details we were talking about,” Goldfein said.

Essentially, potential future conflicts with peer adversaries have created a new need for heightened levels of operational security (OPSEC).

Still, the USAF is still obligated to speak to the press on multiple levels.

“It’s always a balancing act. We have an obligation to speak to the American people and tell them what’s going on. We have an obligation to speak to [the press]. We take that obligation seriously and so hopefully what [the press] will report back to me is that there will be no difference because that obligation has not changed,” Goldfein said.

According to Federal News Radio, not everyone sees it that way.

Adam Marshall, a Knight Foundation litigation attorney at the Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press, expressed his concern about the Air Force’s new policies.

“When press access is restricted, it’s the public that loses out the most by having less information about what its government and military are doing,” Marshall said. “Reducing journalists’ access to the people, places, and sources of information that contribute to complete, accurate reporting is not the way to strike the balance between national security and a free press.”

As tensions ramp up between global superpowers, many experts and analysts are left to wonder- will the US Air Force be the tight-lipped organization of Cold War days gone by or the open-door of information that the 21st Century has grown accustomed to?

While only time will tell, one thing is for certain- the enemy is always watching.

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