Pentagon prepares to issue new classification rules for Replicator

According to a senior official, “the guidance for what will remain classified is not publicly releasable.”
Neon sign top secret (Source: Getty Images)

Senior defense officials are putting the final touches on the first official Security Classification Guidance to direct what can and cannot be disclosed publicly about the Pentagon’s high-stakes Replicator initiative, DefenseScoop has learned. 

Since Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks launched Replicator in August 2023 — as the U.S.’s broad plan to rapidly counter China’s intensifying military buildup by fielding thousands of autonomous systems across conflict domains in two years or less via a process that can be “replicated” — she and other Defense Department leadership have been unapologetically tight-lipped about the programs, capabilities, people and elements that are and will be involved, citing security sensitivities. 

In response to an inquiry from DefenseScoop on Tuesday, Hicks’ Public Affairs Advisor Eric Pahon provided new information about the Pentagon’s in-the-making interim and final Security Classification Guides currently being designed explicitly for the ambitious Replicator initiative.

“Replicator is an impactful program that has elements that require protection,” Pahon said.


DOD regularly issues these types of official resource guides to communicate its decisions and promote uniform derivative classification of information and data that could reasonably be expected to damage national security if there were an unauthorized disclosure.

“Given Replicator is an enterprise-wide initiative, this guidance allows all of our teammates to be consistent with security and information flow. As discussed, parts of Replicator remain classified, and the guidance for what will remain classified is not publicly releasable. This is to ensure our adversaries remain unaware of the full extent of the Replicator initiative and are unable to develop countermeasures to our strategy in advance of its successful operational deployment,” Pahon told DefenseScoop.

He confirmed for the first time publicly that the DOD’s final Security Classification Guidance for Replicator “is currently in coordination and will be completed and shared with appropriate stakeholders in coming weeks.”

Ahead of that insider-only release, Pentagon officials have also produced an interim Security Classification Guide, which Pahon said was created “to protect sensitive information while we were conducting the more detailed analysis to inform the final, more detailed guidance.”

That original version of the new interim Replicator SCG was completed earlier this year, and then subsequently signed out by the Strategic Capabilities Office. According to Pahon, SCO has the appropriate authorities to execute this role in line with typical department processes and was therefore tapped for involvement. 


“The Strategic Capabilities Office was asked to develop interim classification guidance for the Replicator initiative level because of their experience in working complex projects across multiple services,” he explained.

“Each individual service may also provide classification guidance related to specific capabilities,” Pahon added.

Brandi Vincent

Written by Brandi Vincent

Brandi Vincent is DefenseScoop's Pentagon correspondent. She reports on emerging and disruptive technologies, and associated policies, impacting the Defense Department and its personnel. Prior to joining Scoop News Group, Brandi produced a long-form documentary and worked as a journalist at Nextgov, Snapchat and NBC Network. She was named a 2021 Paul Miller Washington Fellow by the National Press Foundation and was awarded SIIA’s 2020 Jesse H. Neal Award for Best News Coverage. Brandi grew up in Louisiana and received a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Maryland.

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