September 5, 2023 | Susan Napier-Sewell

Safeguards & Security: Classified Work Communications

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Protection of sensitive work activities includes the training of all personnel working on a project that is utilizing classified information regarding the protection of project documents, material, tools, waste, etc.

Sufficient training of project personnel, especially those who do not work regularly on the project, is key to the protection of classified information.

Instructions involving the use of classified information must be clear and all involved personnel must ensure that the instructions are understood prior to starting or continuing work. It is the responsibility of project management to ensure that project staff are adequately trained prior to starting work.

Also, ensure that all cleared/uncleared personnel appear on a maintained list to protect classified as well as unclassified critical information.


It was discovered that staff members working on a project involving classified information failed to properly protect classified information. The classified information was moved outside of the security area and was left in a property protection area for an extended period of time.


Upon review of this event, it was determined that there was inadequate training provided to the staff members who mishandled the classified materials. The briefing that was shared regarding the project also did not specify the requirements associated with the handling of the classified information

Recommended Actions

  • Establish a dedicated security role that develops and implements a security training plan for personnel in the project.
  • Implement the security training plan across the project to all personnel who handle classified materials.
    Safe Conduct of Research (SCOR) Principles: A statement or short paragraph on the applicable SCOR principle and the positive or at-risk behaviors demonstrated.

Maintain a healthy, informed process for what can go wrong with classified information

When staff members working on a classified project have been made aware of the requirements, it would be easy for them to project what can go wrong and prevent that from happening. Understanding requirements allows better work planning that will ensure that security and safety procedures are understood and implemented.

This Lessons Learned is from ORNL (Oak Ridge National Laboratory); originator: Pamela Rohde. Published by DOE OPEXShare.

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