The Operations Security Professionals Society (OPS), a Maryland-based 501(c) 6 whose purpose is to advance the interests of the United States and its allies by furthering the application of OPSEC as a professional discipline, announced the election of its first woman president, Valerie Simpson.
OPS was founded in 1991 by a group of veteran national security professionals who were instrumental in developing the U.S. military’s official operational security (OPSEC) program during the Vietnam War. The “Purple Dragon” team (as the group was named) was established by Admiral Ulysses Sharp, commander in chief of the Pacific Command, in order to determine how the enemy was able to obtain advanced information on military operations.
OPSEC is generally defined as a process of identifying critical information and subsequently analyzing friendly actions attendant to military operations as well as intelligence systems; essentially, the effort to safeguard critical national security information. The founding members of Operations Security Professionals Society were also responsible for drafting National Security Decision Directive 298 on OPSEC, which was created to promote “operational effectiveness by helping prevent the inadvertent compromise of sensitive or classified U.S. Government activities, capabilities, or intentions.” The directive was implemented and signed by President Ronald Reagan.
“Valerie Simpson is but one of only a handful of people who has the knowledge, drive and vision to serve as our president,” explained Dan Phillips, immediate past president of the OPS. “Ms. Simpson has been involved in OPSEC for over 20 years and is a Life member of OPS. She has been an integral member of the OPS Board and served as chair of the committee responsible for the development and implementation of our new awards program. I can think of no other person better suited or more ready to serve as president of OPS.”
Valerie Simpson has led a distinguished career in the national security arena, most recently serving as a division security manager, Hanscom Air Force Base in Massachusetts. Additionally, Simpson was the second place winner of the National OPSEC Individual Achievement Award in the literature category from the Interagency OPSEC Support Staff, a division of the National Security Agency in 2004, and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency Award for Technical Excellence in 1996.
Understanding the importance of OPSEC and enhancing the professional discipline is at the top of Simpson’s priority list as she begins her tenure as president. Though divulging little detail on how she will lead the society in the coming years, she does note that OPSEC will always remain a national security priority, especially in light of the ongoing realities of both threats and vulnerabilities facing the United States and its key allies.
Awareness and training will always be watchword in the national security profession and looking forward, Simpson poignantly reminds us, “If your eyes are closed, you can’t see what you can’t see.”