Save this content for laterSave this content on your device for later, even while offline Sign in with FacebookSign in with your Facebook account Close

Gazette story prompts new Air Force secrecy efforts

March 14, 2018 Updated: March 14, 2018 at 8:38 am
0
Caption +
Vice President Mike Pence, right, enters the National Space Defense Center for a briefing while touring Schriever Air Force Base Friday, June 23, 2017, during his visit to Colorado Springs, Colo. (AP Photo Pool, The Gazette, Christian Murdock)

The Air Force has decided it needs to be much more secretive since a Gazette story last month on the National Space Defense Center in Colorado Springs triggered a public relations "stand down."

In an email, the Pentagon confirmed the existence of a memo that bans most Air Force public relations worldwide until airmen are trained on operational security.

"In line with the new national defense strategy, the Air Force must hone its culture of engagement to include a heightened focus on sound operational security," says the memo, obtained by The Gazette.

See the Air Force memo here.

A PowerPoint presentation sent out after the memo cited The Gazette's story as one that "inadvertently identified a national center of gravity to adversaries."

Yet the military has publicly acknowledged for three years the existence of the space defense center at Schriever Air Force Base and its relationship with spy agencies, including the National Reconnaissance Office. Top Pentagon officials have cited the center as being at the heart of American efforts to defend military satellites.

It remains unclear why The Gazette story contributed to the stand down.

The story, one of three cited as a reason to cease media outreach, was driven by an Air Force news release that highlighted how the space defense center was entering a new phase with 24-hour operations.

The story was arranged through the Air Force Space Command public affairs office, and the single interview with the center's Col. Todd Brost was conducted in the presence of a public relations expert from the command.

After the story, which focused on the center's partnership between airmen and intelligence agency experts to protect military satellites, the Air Force has banned media visits to bases without Pentagon approval, the memo said.

"Our units are going through operational security training so we've limited some engagements until the training is complete," Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek said Tuesday in an email from the Pentagon.

"As units finish their training, they are being cleared to continue engagements and base visits. Many have already done so. In the meantime, all units are responding to questions."

The Washington D.C.-based Military Reporters and Editors Association reacted with alarm to the Air Force move.

"We worry that the definition of the kind of unclassified information that can be withheld is subjective," association president John M. Donnelly said in a statement. "Given the ambiguity about what's allowed and the message from the top stressing secrecy, officials who are wary about their careers may err on the side of withholding information."

Security classes for Air Force public relations workers have started, and a wider effort is aimed at a "culture shift" toward increased secrecy, according to documents obtained by The Gazette. It's unclear when the service will resume normal public relations efforts.

The service said the secrecy is needed as the country confronts growing military might in Russia and China.

"The security environment has shifted from an unconventional threat to great power competition," documents say.

While the Air Force wants more secrecy, the Pentagon is sticking by its pledges of increased transparency that have come under Trump administration Defense Secretary James Mattis.

"We remain committed to being as open and responsive as possible to the media and the American public while protecting operational security," said Stefanek, the Air Force's chief of media relations, in an email.

-

Contact Tom Roeder: 636-0240

Twitter: @xroederx

Register to the Colorado Springs Gazette
Incognito Mode Your browser is in Incognito mode

You vanished!

We welcome you to read all of our stories by signing into your account. If you don't have a subscription, please subscribe today for daily award winning journalism.

Register to the Colorado Springs Gazette
Subscribe to the Colorado Springs Gazette

It appears that you value local journalism. Thank you.

Subscribe today for unlimited digital access with 50% fewer ads for a faster browsing experience.

Already a Subscriber? LOGIN HERE

Wake up with today's top stories in your inbox

Wake up with today's top stories in your inbox

or
Already a print subscriber?
Already a digital subscriber?
 
This is your last FREE article for the month
This is your last FREE article for the month

Subscribe now and enjoy Unlimited Digital Access to Gazette.com

Only 99 cents for Unlimited Digital Access for 1 month
Then $2.31/week, billed monthly, cancel anytime
Already a print subscriber?
Already a digital subscriber?

 
You have reached your article limit for the month
You have reached your article limit for the month

We hope that you've enjoyed your complimentary access to Gazette.com

Only 99 cents for Unlimited Digital Access for 1 month
Then $2.31/week, billed monthly, cancel anytime
Already a print subscriber?
Already a digital subscriber?
 

Exclusive Subscriber Content

You read The Gazette because you care about your community and the local stories you can't find anywhere else.

Only 99 cents for Unlimited Digital Access for 1 month
Then $2.31/week, billed monthly, cancel anytime
Already a print subscriber? Get Access | Already a digital subscriber? Log In
 
articles remaining
×
Thank you for your interest in local journalism.
Gain unlimited access, 50% fewer ads and a faster browsing experience.