Shaping a Culture of Privacy in the DoD

Shaping a Culture of Privacy in the DoD

by Michael E. Reheuser

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I read with interest your December 6th article entitled The Military's Cultural Disregard for Personal Information. The authors have done well to bring to light a continuing challenge not only for the Department of Defense, but for all government agencies. They rightly point out the overreliance on Social Security Numbers as a common identifier and the risks which its pervasiveness present to military personnel both at home and deployed across the globe.

For more than 30 years the Defense Privacy Office -- now Defense Privacy and Civil Liberties Office (DPCLO) -- has worked across the DoD Components to address a myriad of risks to personal information. Over that time the Department has instituted numerous policies to protect the privacy and secure the records of its personnel and their dependents, sometimes revolutionizing entire business practices in the process. Today the Department faces just such a watershed moment.

Download The Full Article: Shaping a Culture of Privacy in the DoD

Michael Reheuser is the Director of the Defense Privacy and Civil Liberties Office (DPCLO) and DoD's Deputy Civil Liberties Officer. Before joining the DPCLO, he served as an Associate Deputy General Counsel in the DoD Office of General Counsel where he was responsible for all FOIA litigation involving the Office of the Secretary of Defense, and provided legal advice to DoD components on FOIA and Privacy Act matters. Before coming to DoD, he was a partner in the Virginia law firm, Jordan Coyne and Savits, L.L.P. where he focused on complex litigation in state and federal court. Mr. Reheuser spent more than twenty-five years in the United States Marine Corps Reserve, retiring in 2009.

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Michael Reheuser: "While it can be difficult to impart on everyone the necessary sense of urgency in protecting the privacy of our military and civilian personnel and their dependents, it is a battle which the Department takes seriously."

C'mon Mr. Reheuser, take it a from a guy who remembers when his service number was take away and who's gone through all of the ensuing years of knowing that DoD essentially viewed all of us as OD green property, DoD has NEVER taken the protection of personal information seriously.

From the prominent display of SSAN on every PCS, TDY or award order, on every OER, on every piece of paper generated to document one's service life, to the failure to protect computer systems, it's clear that DoD never, ever gave a damn. Way back when DoD adopted the use of SSAN over the objections of the Social Security Administration the privacy issues were pointed out, as were the questionable legal bases used by DoD to legitimize SSAN use. DoD didn't care.

Now DoD cares. Or so you say. You've taken an unconscionably long time to move at all on active duty personnel. Finally, to much fanfare and self-congratulation, you're going to perhaps undo some of the harm you've done over the years with the active population. But what about us retirees? What about civilian employees? We all know the answers to those questions.

How many military personnel even KNOW that DoD has a "Privacy and Civil Liberties Office?" Since 1975? First I ever heard of it. Guess they've been hiding from a sense of modesty over their many accomplishments.