April 24, 2013 -- By Bill Johnson-Miles, MCSC Corporate Communications
Foreign Disclosure Officers are fairly new to the Marine Corps, but as the program grows and expands, so does the number of FDOs. In just nine years their ranks have grown from two to 43. That number includes a team of three FDOs who work for International Programs, or IP, at Marine Corps Systems Command. The IP team conducted this year’s Marine Corps Foreign Disclosure Working Group, a meeting hosted by MCSC last week at the Gray Research Center in Quantico, Va.
Foreign Disclosure is the review, release determination and sanitization, if required, of all U.S. government controlled information prior to its release to a foreign entity. FDOs provide recommendations for the disclosure and/or release of classified information and controlled unclassified information to foreign governments and international organizations.
“Safeguarding controlled information helps the U.S. maintain the technological edge and protects the warfighter from enemies using this technology against them,” said Mike Ansley, MCSC’s Foreign Disclosure team lead. “The other part of FD is sharing with partners to provide them the capability to handle their own issues or be able to participate in peace-keeping operations or other coalition events.”
Each year Plans, Policies and Operations at Headquarters Marine Corps, also referred to as PP&O, asks a different command to host the annual Foreign Disclosure Working Group. This year was MCSC’s turn.
“I welcomed the opportunity for others to come into our AOR [area of responsibility], to hear firsthand what MCSC is about and how our Foreign Disclosure program works,” Ansley said. “Attendees not only received briefs from the MCSC IP FD team, but also from our IP director and our commander.”
Brig. Gen. Frank Kelley, MCSC commander, opened the meeting.
“There’s a fine line between protecting the technology of our gear and opening it up to coalition partners,” Kelley said. “We’re relying on your intellect and training. Our Marine Corps trusts your intuition.”
The working group’s objectives included providing training to FDOs and key personnel who work foreign disclosure issues, collectively developing better foreign disclosure guidance, networking with peers from other commands, and updating potential training and career path information for the foreign disclosure community. Attendees included personnel from most major Marine Corps commands, and 25 such commands were represented.
“The majority of FDOs are at operational commands,” said Cindy Davis, Marine Corps Foreign Disclosure program manager, PP&O. “They are more concerned with foreign disclosure as it applies to sharing operational and intelligence information during exercises, operations and during visits by foreign personnel to their commands. If what they share regards ground equipment, they must go to MCSC to get guidance. If they want to share intelligence, they must go to DIRINT [director of Marine Corps Intelligence], unless disclosure authority has been delegated to them from DIRINT.”
MCSC’s foreign disclosure team has different concerns.
“MCSC FDOs are responsible for safeguarding controlled information that helps the U.S. maintain the technological edge and protects the warfighter from enemies using this technology against them,” Davis said.
She also outlined the times command personnel should contact their FDO.
That call should be made “as soon as they know they will be in contact with a foreign person or government,” Davis said. “This includes foreign visits, combined military exercises, combined military operations or training of foreign personnel.”
According to Davis, the FDO should ensure foreign disclosure is considered in all plans for foreign engagements. She said the only time command personnel can disclose information to a foreign person without first going through an FDO is when they are completely sure the information is available to the public domain or that it has been approved by a public affairs officer.
Davis said she expects more commands to add FDOs to their ranks soon, and that is why an annual conference is so important. Most of the attendees indicated the three-day working group was highly beneficial.
“Verbal feedback from participants was all positive,” Davis said. “MCSC did an outstanding job. Execution of the working group was nearly flawless.”
Next year’s event will be hosted by Marine Forces Command in Norfolk, Va.