Last month, Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana announced the adoption of what it calls a “100 percent shred policy for all paperwork and materials generated on base” as a way of eliminating unauthorized disclosures.
“Shredding is vital to the overall security of our base and our mission,” said Eileen Gallagher, 341st Communications Squadron Base Records Manager. See “Getting into the habit: 100 percent shred policy begins March 17,” Malmstrom AFB, March 10, 2009.
As authority for the new shredding policy, the Air Force cited a March 2008 directive on Operations Security (pdf), which does indeed specify a “100% Shred Policy” (at section 220.127.116.11):
“Whenever feasible, all unclassified paper products across AFSPC [Air Force Space Command], except for newspapers and magazines, will be shredded prior to disposal or removal from the workplace for recycling, preventing our adversaries from exploiting the enormous amounts of crucial information we generate while accomplishing our various mission areas.”
On close inspection, however, the words “prior to disposal” seem to be crucial. The 100% shred policy apparently applies only to records that have been specifically approved for disposal, and not literally to “all paperwork and materials generated on base.” Air Force Manual 33-363 on “Management of Records” (pdf) directs all Air Force employees to adhere to legal requirements on preservation of official records.