Michael Hoffman of Air Force Times adds another element to the story of “Dozer,” the F-22 pilot who was the subject of a recent operations security (OPSEC) briefing, compiled by the Air Force Office of Special Investigations. As we noted in a recent series of recent posts, the AFOSI presentation suggested that Dozer divulged operational and technical details of the fifth-generation fighter, through his comments on a popular internet aviation forum. Yet, our own analysis revealed that virtually all of the information discussed by the pilot was already in the public domain.
As this blog reported last week, the Air Force reached the same conclusion. An OPSEC study by Air Combat Command (ACC) and a security review by an Air Force acquisitions directorate determined that Dozer’s on-line comments did not divulge classified information.
The widely-circulated OPSEC briefing was prepared by the OSI’s detachment at Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona after completion of the ACC study and the security review. Members of the Davis-Monthan detachment were not involved in the study or review, and the base has no role in the F-22 program.
In an e-mail exchange with Mr. Hoffman , Dozer said he was unfairly targeted by the briefing, which highlighted his various forum posts and responses to questions by other participants. Dozer, who now serves as commander of an F-22 squadron in Alaska, said he was cautious in posting information about the Air Force’s newest stealth fighter:
I only discussed items that were open source and available to the public,” he said. “It is also why I did not answer many of the questions that were asked because they would have touched on issues that were not appropriate.”
Two Pacific Air Forces officers, who asked to remain anonymous because of the story’s sensitivity, said they were surprised a training tool would use a current commander as an example of inappropriate behavior.
“How is he supposed to ever counsel an airman on OPSEC again?” one officer asked
A better question might be why the briefing was prepared in the first place. An AFOSI spokeswoman told us last week that someone at ACC identified the F-22 incident as a “good example” of on-line security hazards. Members of the Davis-Monthan detachment then prepared their briefing, which was presented to the base Threat Working Group last month.
While the OSI stresses that the unclassified presentation was intended for training purposes only (and not for wider release), those caveats are not listed in the 28-slide briefing. And, while the presentation does not describe Dozer’s on-line activity as an OPSEC violation, it suggests that potential adversaries could have gained valuable information on the F-22 through the internet discussion.
The briefing is also misleading in terms of its suggested scope. On the cover slide, there is a silhouetted F-22, along with the shields of the AFOSI, the FBI, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Inclusion of those shields implies that the other agencies assisted in preparation of the presentation.
In fact, none of those organizations participated in development of the briefing. The OSI says the organizational shields were included because those agencies assist the Air Force in the investigation of cyber-crimes, and participate (as required) in base-level threat working groups, the intended audience for the F-22 presentation.
But we'd guess that’s little consolation for Dozer, whose professional reputation was unfairly maligned in the briefing. In reality, he had been encouraged by Air Force leadership to discuss the F-22, and served as one the program’s most visible representatives.
Before taking command of the Alaska unit, Dozer served as the Air Force’s first F-22 demonstration pilot, showcasing the jet at air shows around the country. He also appeared—with the service’s blessing--in several television documentaries on the jet. During those appearances, his name, rank and status as an F-22 pilot were clearly identified.
Some would say that the OSI owes Dozer an apology, but we say that process ought to begin at ACC. It’s a bit odd that someone on the staff would identify the on-line comments as an example of a security risk—after the same headquarters conducted an OPSEC review that exonerated the F-22 pilot.
In fairness, we should note that the ACC staff is very large; it’s quite possible that the OPSEC study was conducted by a different directorate than the one that communicated with the OSI detachment at Davis-Monthan.
But there’s also the possibility that the ACC tipster had some knowledge of the original OPSEC study, and misrepresented its findings.
If that was the case—and it’s a very big “if”—then Dozer may have been the target of a personal vendetta. And that’s a matter worth looking into.
Author’s note: In preparing our posts on the F-22 matter, we elected not to publish “Dozer’s” real name. The pilot’s identity had already been established in various websites, articles and on-line forums. In our judgment, reprinting “Dozer’s” name and rank would not add to our coverage. We also believed that Dozer was entitled to the same degree of privacy he sought in making his on-line comments.