What is FPCON?


In United States military security parlance, force protection condition (FPCON) is a counter-terrorist threat system overseen by the United States Department of Defence directive.

It describes the number of measures needed to be taken by security agencies in response to various levels of terrorist threats against military facilities, as opposed to DEFCON, which assesses the amount of military forces needed to be deployed in a situation with a certain likelihood of attack against the civilian population.

The decision on what level of FPCON to implement is affected by the current threat of terrorism towards military facilities and personnel, the amount of security forces available, and current relationships between the United States and the world, which may affect the chances of an attack. FPCON was previously known as THREATCON, until it was renamed in June 2001 due to confusion with United States State Department system of threat assessment.

Other Systems

Should not be confused with similar systems used by the US military, such as:

Descriptions of FPCONs

There are five Force Protection Conditions; the commander of US Northern Command determines what the minimum force protection level will be for every American installation in the continental United States. USNORTHCOM sets the force protection condition level for so many installations because it is the Unified Combatant Command whose geographic area of responsibility is North America. Other combatant commands, such as US European Command and US Southern Command, set the force protection condition levels for American military installations in their areas of responsibility. Individual facility and installation commanders may increase their local force protection levels as they feel is necessary, but they must adhere to at least the minimum level prescribed by USNORTHCOM. Force protection can include procedures as basic as checking identification cards at the entrance to an installation and requiring credentials to get inside a building. However, when necessary, force protection procedures can become as stringent as inspecting every vehicle, person and bag entering an installation.

The five Force Protection Conditions are:

FPCON NORMALDescribes a situation of no terrorist activity. The only security forces needed are enough to stop the average criminal, similar to civilian police forces (Usually must show only one military ID at base entrance gates). Force Protection Level I Antiterrorism Training defines FPCON Normal as: FPCON Normal applies when there is a general global threat of possible terrorist activity but it warrants only a routine security posture. A terrorist attack is always possible, but the best information available offers no indication of probable attack. You can expect a routine posture at installation gates.
FPCON ALPHADescribes a situation where there is a small and general terrorist threat that is not predictable. However, agencies will inform personnel that there is a possible threat and standard security procedure review is conducted. (Usually must show one or two military base IDs at gates.) Force Protection Level I Antiterrorism Training defines FPCON Alpha as: FPCON Alpha applies when there is a general threat of terrorist activity, the nature and extent of which are unpredictable, against personnel and facilities. General conditions suggest possible violence, but nothing indicates that this installation is targeted. You can expect random vehicle checks and increased crime prevention efforts.
FPCON BRAVODescribes a situation with a somewhat predictable terrorist threat. Security measures taken by agency personnel may affect the activities of local law enforcement and the general public. (Must show military base ID at gates.) Force Protection Level I Antiterrorism Training defines FPCON Bravo as: FPCON Bravo applies when an increased and more predictable terrorist threat activity exists. Specific information suggests probable violence, but nothing indicates that this installation is targeted. Extra precaution is appropriate to deter terrorist planning. Additional measures may affect operational capability and relations with local authorities. You can expect stricter inspections of vehicles, deliveries, and ID checks. You will see a greater presence of guards on your installation.
FPCON CHARLIEDescribes a situation when a global terrorist attack has occurred or when intelligence reports that there is local terrorist activity imminent. (Must show two IDs at gates. Military installation traffic routes are restricted.) Force Protection Level I Antiterrorism Training defines FPCON Charlie as: FPCON Charlie applies when an incident occurs or intelligence is received indicating that some form of terrorist action against personnel and installations is imminent. Evidence of terrorist attack planning may exist, such as terrorist surveillance or reports from local sources. Strong protective measures are required, but the installation must continue its regular mission activities. You can expect rigorous efforts to inspect vehicles and facilities. Military personnel may be required to participate in special guard duties.
FPCON DELTADescribes a situation when a terrorist attack is taking place or has just occurred in the immediate area. FPCON Delta usually occurs only in the areas that are most vulnerable to or have been attacked. One notable example of a general FPCON Delta was directly following the September 11, 2001 attacks, when all military installations were placed at FPCON Delta and restricted to only military personnel. Force Protection Level I Antiterrorism Training defines FPCON Delta as: FPCON Delta applies when a terrorist attack has occurred or when intelligence indicates imminent terrorist action against a specific location. FPCON Delta is normally declared as a localised warning. The installation moves to a high state of alert, and mandatory security measures are implemented. Commanders are also authorised and encouraged to supplement mandatory security measures. FPCON Delta may cause delayed or cancelled mission activities. You can expect delays and interruptions to daily routines.

The key significant difference between FPCON Charlie, and FPCON Delta, is that FPCON Delta references a specific, known threat, whereas FPCON Charlie is used to prepare for imminent threats of a general, non-targeted nature. FPCON Charlie can also be maintained for a significant length of time, several weeks, while FPCON Delta is generally only maintainable for several days.

An FPCON level may also be designated as “+”, meaning the facility shall institute extra security measures beyond those specified for the FPCON Level. Generally this is used to provide an extra layer of security for FPCON Alpha. There is a list of extra security measures that may be initiated for a “+” security level; normally the facility Force Protection NCO will choose two or three for his installation, and switch them out randomly to prevent predictable response. Some, however, are nearly always used. For instance 100% ID checks of all incoming persons is nearly always used at FPCON Alpha+, while armed fenceline patrols may be done for two days, then stopped and replaced with anti-surveillance measures to increase randomness and decrease predictability of defense.

FPCON levels can also be raised in a non-progressive manner; for example, the FPCON level can jump from FPCON NORMAL to FPCON CHARLIE, completely skipping the ALPHA and BRAVO levels.

In the 2009 science fiction movie Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, the US military assumes Condition Delta when they believe that the arrival of multiple Decepticons to Earth is a string of massive terrorist attacks around the world.

In the 2011 science fiction movie Battle: Los Angeles, the US Marines use the term THREATCON Delta when they discover that the “meteors” are actually alien ships.

In a 2003 episode of the political drama The West Wing, “Red Haven’s on Fire”, President Bartlet orders military bases in Africa and Europe to go to THREATCON Charlie after a suicide bombing.

In a 2003 episode of JAG called “Empty Quiver” (S08E17), a navy base is shown to be on THREATCON Delta after a nuclear warhead goes missing.


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