President Trump told Philippine President Duterte that there were two nuclear submarines ready to respond to North Korea…and you would have thought the world ended on social media. After making the mistake of engaging on this subject on Facebook, I figured I’d break it down here for everyone.

NO, the presence of nuclear submarines near Korea isn’t classified. It would be impractical to do so, since we announce when they pull into port. The unnamed Pentagon officials (if they even exist) are completely wrong, because we do talk about submarines, in the countless Sailor evaluations and fitness reports, unit awards and in unclassified documents submitted to Congress to justify continued funding of the submarine program.

And even if it was classified, the President can decide to declassify that information. All previous Presidents have done so, including President Obama. It’s part of their job description, check out Executive Order 13526 when you get a chance. Us in the military don’t always like it, but it’s not our job to decide that. The overwhelming majority of military members are derivative classifiers, meaning we classify things according to rules handed down by others. It also means we can’t declassify most things on our own, and the constant “leaking” of information by “unnamed” officials is a far bigger problem than the President’s comments.

How is this different from what Secretary Clinton did? Easy. She wasn’t declassifying anything. She was transmitting classified information via unsecure means, and doing so intentionally. Considering the level of information she sent, that will have far larger consequences than anything President Trump has talked about so far.


This post represents the views of the author and not those of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or any other federal agency. Unlike “unnamed officials” from those agencies, I actually use references.

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