OPSEC Purple Dragon
The OPSEC Purple Dragon. (Courtesy graphic)
Operations security and emergency management

Commentary by Vic Duckarmenn
21st Space Wing OPSEC Program Manager

7/21/2008 - PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Somewhere a terrorist is capable and has the intent to use chemical, biological, nuclear, radiological weapons and explosives.

In order to deter, detect and defend we must think like the adversary in the prevention and preparation phase of emergency management. The EM Program cannot prevent terrorist use of CBRNE. The only measures indicated are in our Comprehensive EM Plan 10-2 and Air Force Instruction 10-2501. Air Force Emergency Management program planning and operations that help mitigate the consequences of such attacks are more appropriately addressed under preparedness, recovery, response and mitigation.

Preparation for terrorist use of CBRNE includes thinking like the adversary first. Operations security, or OPSEC, is the five-step risk management tool that identifies the threat, protects critical controlled unclassified information, identifies your vulnerabilities, assesses the risk and defines the measures to take - before you have to deal with a full blown CBRNE attack.

Terrorist use of CBRNE materials is separated from CBRNE warfare because of the legal requirements for handling the terrorist incident as a crime scene. The information generated from the scene is critical, sensitive and possibly classified. If a national defense area is declared, even the trash from that area must be under full military control. OPSEC must be considered in the planning phase of emergency management as well as during the response. The incident commander's planning staff must establish the initial plan of action or friendly course of action. Steps must be taken to mitigate the adversary's advantage of surprise.

Our future response to terrorist use of CBRNE requires many of the same response actions as other types of incidents. However, responders must also establish and maintain a chain of custody for evidence preservation as directed by the incident commander. The terrorists may try to destroy the evidence, and this creates additional planning burdens. Think like the wolf -- responders must be alert for physical indicators and other outward warning signs of additional CBRNE events, including armed assault. Also, they must consider the potential for secondary attack, such as chemical dispersal devices, secondary explosive devices or booby traps.

Throughout the recovery phase, planners and responders must continue to ensure that sensitive information and evidence is preserved and controlled. A mission recovery plan must include the opposing force. They may still desire to continue the attack. In fact, it may be their final goal to disrupt the mission even further. Is this scenario unthinkable? No, it's not.

Mitigation occurs throughout preparedness, prevention, response and recovery. Planners must develop operational and tactical safety and security plans. This is where OPSEC is your finest tool. Our installation conducts and updates our vulnerability assessment in accordance with AFI 10-245. The Crisis Action Team must be prepared to deploy resources in response to specific threats or potential incidents. Another form of mitigation is ongoing educational activities designed to "think like the bad guy." That's what OPSEC means to you.