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Security Classification of Information: Table of Contents

Appendix D.


Most of the following information on classification of military weapons was taken directly from Chapter 4, "Classifying Hardware Items," of Department of Defense (DoD) 5200.1-H, Department of Defense Handbook for Writing Security Classification Guidance.1 As used in this appendix, "hardware" is synonymous with "military weapon." Although the following information was developed for military weapons classification guidance, some of that information should also be useful to Department of Energy and other federal agency classifiers when they are considering whether to classify technical information.

Military weapons or hardware items that comprise military weapons are classified because of the information revealed by or obtained from those weapons or items. A piece of hardware conveys information about itself or the system of which it is a part just as readily as a narrative describing the hardware. The following are some basic considerations for classifying hardware items:

1. An item of hardware does not necessarily need to be classified simply because it is part of a classified product or effort.

2. Unclassified off-the-shelf hardware items, unless modified in some way to make them perform differently, can never be classified even though they constitute a critical element, become an integral part of a classified end product, or produce a classified effect. However, the association of otherwise unclassified hardware with a particular effort or product may reveal something classified about that effort or product. Common integrated circuits that control frequencies are notable examples. In such cases it is the association with the effort or product that reveals the classified information, not the circuits themselves. Decisions regarding what aspect of the system to classify may be difficult, but it is necessary to consider the effect of association and how that association could reveal classified information.

3. Frequently, classified information pertaining to a hardware item can be restricted to the paperwork associated with the item. When this is possible, the hardware itself should be unclassified.

4. Unusual, unique, or peculiar uses or modifications of ordinarily available unclassified materials or hardware items may create a classifiable item of information. In another instance, the mere fact of use of a particular material in a particular effort might reveal a classifiable research or development interest. In such cases, it is especially important to accurately identify the classified information to determine whether the hardware or material itself reveals this information or whether it is merely the association or use of the hardware item with a particular effort that reveals it. In the latter case, classification of the hardware itself would not be proper.

5. At some stage in a production effort, production and engineering plans are drawn. Usually a family-tree–type diagram is prepared to assist in determining what components, parts, and materials will be required. This diagram supplies a good basis for determining where and when classified information will be involved in the production effort.

6. Another step in production engineering is the development of drawings for all the individual elements that go into the final product. These drawings show design data, functions, and specifications, all of which are closely tied to items of information that may be classified. From these drawings it is possible to determine exactly which elements of the final product will reveal classified information. It is also possible to determine associations between hardware items that reveal classified information. It is necessary, of course, to determine the classifications, if any, to be assigned each drawing. Accordingly, a classification team should take part in the production engineering phase to assist in identifying and isolating classification situations.


Operational capability, and the efforts to develop operational capability, should be classified.2 In the latter case, the goal is to buy lead time. In the former case, classification prevents the adversary from knowing exactly what can be done and how that capability is achieved. Details of these capabilities that could be classified are given in the following subsections.

Performance or Capability


Technological Lead Time


Vulnerabilities and Weaknesses


Critical Elements

Manufacturing Technology




Appendix C of DoD 5200.1-H lists many items of information for use in determining whether strategic or tactical capabilities and vulnerabilities are disclosed (a comprehensive check list). The listing is not all-inclusive nor completely applicable in every instance. Those items of information are as follows:


1. U.S. Department of Defense, Department of Defense Handbook for Writing Security Classification Guidance, DoD 5200.1-H, March 1986.

2. W. P. Raney, "The Sea Lanes & Their Challenges," J. Natl. Class. Mgmt. Soc., 13, 17–22 (1977) p. 21.

On to Appendix E.

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