Force Protection Condition Levels (FPCON)

Updated: July 7, 2021

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    Have you ever been on a military base and seen a sign with the words—FPCON ALPHA? Whether you are a military member, civilian employee, dependent, or just a visitor, it’s a sign you need to pay attention to.

    Force Protection Condition Levels (FPCON) Force Protection Conditions, or FPCON for short, is a counter-terrorist threat system used by the U.S. military to indicate a terrorist threat. FPCON outlines steps that security agencies need to take in response to various levels of terrorist threats against military facilities. This article will give you all of the information you need to know about FPCON’s, how to find out the current FPCON, and how the FPCON affects you.

    What Is FPCON?

    Force Protection Condition Levels (FPCON) is a system used by the U.S. military to decrease its exposure to a possible or actual terrorist attack. As the threat of an attack changes, the protective measures and FPCON change. Personnel assigned to military bases or anyone who enters the installation should be aware of the FPCON and take steps to ensure they stay as safe and secure as possible. Force Protection Conditions are increased to provide added safety and security when threat levels increase. Military installations will display signs in highly visible locations and post notices on social media/websites that indicate the current FPCON. Don’t confuse FPCON with DEFCON—they are very different.

    The FPCON, is used to respond to terrorist or other threats to U.S. military installations in two ways:

    • It sets one of the FPCON levels: Normal, Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, or Delta.
    • Once the FPCON level is set, specific force protection actions are implemented. For example, if an Air Force base goes to FPCON Charlie, you might see increased security measures at gates, gate closures, or the presence of added security forces.

    What Is The Difference Between FPCON and DEFCON?

    The most significant difference between FPCON and DEFCON is the target of the threat. FPCON focuses on the terrorist threat against military installations. Defense Ready Condition (DEFCON) assesses the probability of an attack against the civilian population. DEFCON’s are on a scale from one to five and indicate the current level of threat and readiness. DEFCON also indicates how serious a nuclear, biological, or chemical threat might be.

    What Are The Levels Used In The FPCON System?

    FPCON levels increase from the lowest condition of Normal to the highest and most protective level of Delta. The FPCON levels are:

    FPCON Levels

    Printable Force Protection Conditions (FPCON) Level Charts

    • Normal: Routine security posture
    • Alpha: Possible terrorist activity
    • Bravo: Predictable terrorist threat activity exists
    • Charlie: Terrorist targeting against personnel and facilities is imminent
    • Delta: Terrorist action against a specific location is imminent

    Normal: This is the minimum FPCON for most military installations. FPCON Normal indicates that a general global threat of terrorist activity is possible.

    Alpha: FPCON Alpha indicates an increased general threat of possible terrorist activity against personnel or facilities. The nature and extent of the threat are unpredictable. Guards at gates may conduct random ID card checks, vehicle searches, and other measures directed by the installation commander.

    Bravo: FPCON Bravo indicates that there is an increased and more predictable threat of terrorist activity. Security checks will increase, and it may take more time to get around the installation because of more searches and inspections. Security forces at gates will conduct random ID card checks. Additional security forces may also be present.

    Charlie: FPCON Charlie means that an incident has occurred or there is intelligence suggesting some type of terrorist action or targeting against personnel or facilities is likely. You may see additional security forces and more patrols around the installation. A 100% ID card check at gates and certain facilities is required.

    Delta: This indicates that a terrorist attack has occurred in the immediate area, or intelligence has been received that terrorist action against a specific location or person is imminent. A 100% ID card check at gates and certain facilities is required. Entry onto installations may be limited to essential personnel.

    FPCON Enhancement: An FPCON level may be boosted with a plus sign (“+”). This indicates that further measures are required above and beyond the basic precautions required with the current level. FPCON+ requires additional security, including added patrols, installation of monitoring equipment to enhance perimeter fence protection, increased ID checks, and added troops for force protection.

    Note: FPCON levels can also be raised in a non-progressive manner. The FPCON level can jump from FPCON Normal to FPCON Charlie without progressing through FPCON’s Alpha and Bravo.

    Who Sets The FPCON?

    For military installations in the contiguous United States, the commander of U.S. Northern Command controls the minimum FPCON level. Other combatant commands, like U.S. Pacific Command or U.S. Central Command, set the FPCON for U.S. installations in their areas of responsibility (AOR). Individual facility and installation commanders may increase their local force protection levels as necessary, but they must follow the minimum level prescribed by combatant commanders.

    What Type Of Security Precautions Are Taken To Ensure The Safety And Security Of The People And Assets On An Installation?

    Security measures can be as simple as checking ID cards at the gates or requiring passes to get inside a building. When necessary, force protection procedures can become as strict as inspecting every vehicle, person, and bag entering an installation. As the FPCON increases, traffic flow on base may be altered or restricted. There may be more patrols and added security forces.

    When Are FPCON Levels Raised?

    FPCON levels are raised when the threat of a terrorist attack increases or if an attack has happened.

    How Do I Find Out The FPCON On The Installation?

    FPCON’s are posted at every gate entrance and all entrances to installation facilities. It’s also found on the homepage of every U.S. military installation.

    How Will The FPCON Level Affect My Access To The Installation?

    For FPCON’s Normal, Alpha, and Bravo, you may have to provide your ID to get onto the installation. You may have to also go through a more rigorous security check like searches of your vehicle or bags. It’s also a good idea to always carry two forms of ID with you at all times.

    During FPCON Charlie, which indicates that a threat is likely, plans are put into place to limit personnel entering the installation. Usually, that means that nonessential personnel may not be allowed on the base. If you are unsure if you are essential or nonessential personnel, check with your supervisor.

    During FPCON Delta, access to the installation is limited to mission-essential personnel and other key personnel.

    Note: All service members and their families usually have Charlie and Delta access. Civilian employees, host nation employees, and contractors will be identified with their level of access. Access is determined by their position and supervisor.


    About The AuthorJim spent 22 years on active duty, climbing the ranks from Airman Basic to a decorated Air Force Major. Stationed all over the world, he held many high-level posts, including Chief of Foreign Military Sales at the U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Jim earned his Ph.D. through the Montgomery Era GI Bill and spent 13 years teaching African Studies in Pennsylvania. Jim is also an award-winning travel writer.


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