Secrecy News

USAF Adopts More Expansive Disclosure Policy

The US Air Force should practice an information policy of “maximum disclosure, minimum delay,” says a newly revised Air Force directive. See Air Force Instruction 35-107, Public Web and Social Communication, 15 March 2017.

“The free flow of information between the government and the public is essential to a democratic society. It is also essential that the government minimize the federal paperwork burden on the public, minimize the cost of its information activities and maximize the usefulness of government information,” the Instruction said.

Information that is classified, inaccurate, or obscene is not to be posted. But Air Force websites should maintain online reading rooms for information “that has been requested via FOIA or could be requested via FOIA [emphasis added].”

Furthermore, “the Air Force views personal Web sites and weblogs positively, and it respects the right of Airmen to use them as a medium of self-expression.”

By itself, the new policy does not mean that the Air Force is now practicing maximum disclosure or that it will necessarily do so in the future. The policy is not self-enforcing.

Still, it represents an official statement of Air Force values, and it therefore provides a point of leverage that can be used by anyone, in the service or among the public, who would seek to uphold those values in practice.

The new version of the Instruction contrasts with the previous version of AFI 35-107 that was released in 2009 and that took a notably less upbeat and more restrictive approach to public disclosure of Air Force information.