OPSEC and the Donut of Misery

Okay ladies, how many of you have ever heard of the Donut of Misery?  No? Well let me break it down for you. It's an excel program where you plug in the date your loved one left and the date your loved one is anticipated to return. It will tick the time down with a percentage of how much you are gone. I never even bother looking at the damn thing until it passes the 50% mark. It's just depressing if you do.
  While many military wives have been briefed on the importance of not sharing dates and times of troop movements lest they violate OPSEC (operation security for those who get confused by acronyms) and inadvertently place their loved one in danger, the topic of the Donut of Misery and sharing it's percentages has become a hot button topic on many of the Support Pages all over facebook.  They believe that as it is only percentages, it can't violate anything, after all, how can you tell any kind of date by math?
Well that depends. If you're verbally saying to a friend, "hey, I've got 38% left!" then really you can't. However, if you're posting it on a social media platform such as facebook or twitter which use datestamps, that creates a different scenario all together.  All you need is two such postings, no matter how far apart, and you will be able to use simple mathematics to figure it out from there. I truly understand the desire to share your excitement as time ticks down, but just as you wouldn't tell anybody the date of his return, neither should you share your DOM percentages on public media platforms.

To further clarify, I'm going to take a quote from OPSECprofessionals.org.

Q: Is DOM (donut of misery) against OPSEC? (Christa H., USA)
A: Essentially, when you ask if something is "against" OPSEC, the question is really whether or not it can serve as an OPSEC "indicator". In other words, can it serve as a piece of the puzzle that would allow an adversary to gain sensitive of critical information. In this case, the DOM is one of many things that could -potentially- give away more information that would be intended, in the same vein as a countdown timer. To break it down, let's assume that the critical information is the redeployment schedule of a unit. If I'm the "bad guy", I might want to know when a unit will be ready to cycle out, when the new unit will be in, and when I may expect to see complacency being an issue. There's several ways that the DOM could reveal this information; for one, by calculating the rate of change over a short period of time, it's possible to extrapolate the timeframes represented. Another way is by making a realistic assumption based on historical data. For example, if I already know that a particular branch and installation deploys for one year, I could assume that the 50% mark would be approximately six months. So, long answer short, the DOM could very easily give additional information to enemy forces, even if the specific dates aren't displayed. And we know that the enemy is watching, as well. According to a captured Al Qaeda document (referred to as the "Manchester Document"), they expect to be able to obtain no less than 80% of actionable intelligence from public sources, including blogs and personal webpages. Having a countdown timer is a great idea, and can help pass the time, but posting it online may be more risk than its worth.  

And really, isn't that the point? Why take the chance? Why risk it at all? Why get yourself so worked up you're practically drooling on yourself defending a Donut of Misery if there's even the smallest chance you could put your loved ones in danger? Remember the old adage... Loose Lips Sink Ships.



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