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    Marine Corps Increases Enforcement of Restrictions on Personal Device Use During Operations

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    In a significant policy shift aimed at enhancing operational security and safety, the United States Marine Corps has enacted stringent regulations on the use of personal electronic devices by Marines during training, armed duty, and aviation operations.

    The order, dated March 26 and signed by Commandant Gen. Eric Smith, specifies the need for heightened restrictions, acknowledging that personal portable electronic devices—ranging from cellphones to smartwatches—can diminish situational awareness, infringe on privacy, and jeopardize operational security.

    The directive supersedes previous guidance that provided more discretion to unit commanders in setting their policies.

    Under the new regulations, personal devices are generally prohibited during field training exercises, with commanders able to authorize limited use at temporary encampments.

    Armed duty, high-risk training events such as live-fire and water survival training, and operations involving government-owned vehicles and equipment, are now no-go zones for such devices.

    The rules also extend to areas “actively involved with Marine Corps aviation operations,” including hangars, flightlines, and aircraft, to prevent distractions and mitigate risks.

    Aircraft passengers who are not crew members may still use their devices with the aircraft commander’s approval, and aircrew without government-issued devices are permitted to carry powered-off personal gadgets solely as a last-resort communication means during emergencies. However, the order stipulates that commanders are not authorized to create permanent exceptions based on billet, rank, or seniority.

    In an effort to foster a “cultural shift,” the Marine Corps expects leaders to educate their Marines on the perils associated with device usage and to implement tools for monitoring emissions.

    Violations of the new rules mandate commanders to report and manage them appropriately, with an emphasis on using such incidents as educational opportunities rather than punitive measures.

    In December 2023, Marines were instructed to conduct official business exclusively through Microsoft Teams accounts or government emails. This measure aims to prevent the transmission of official information via personal texts, even on government-issued devices.

    In cases where official business is inadvertently conducted on personal devices, Marines are required to document the communication by sending screenshots to their government email accounts, as per protocol outlined in a Marine Corps bulletin.

    Reflecting on the impetus behind these restrictive measures, military leaders have voiced concerns over the vulnerabilities associated with personal electronic devices.

    A telling anecdote from 2016 recounted by then-Commandant Gen. Robert Neller revealed how the electromagnetic signature from Marines’ cellphones could expose a headquarters’ location during a training exercise. Neller warned, “If you can be seen, you will be attacked.”

    Similarly, insights gleaned from Russia’s conflict in Ukraine, as articulated by then-Commandant Gen. David Berger in 2022.

    In contrast to the Marine Corps’ stringent stance, the Army has taken a more accommodating position regarding personal cellphone use. A “bring-your-own-device” initiative approved in 2023 for around 20,000 soldiers and Army civilians permits them to conduct official business on personal phones through a secure, cloud-based application.

    Relevant articles:
    Marine Corps tightens rules on personal cellphone use in training, Marine Corps Times

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