By Eric PilgrimFebruary 19, 2019
Recent discussions about Force Protection Condition levels in meetings at Fort Knox showed Installation Protection Branch officials that there is a need for the community to know more about them.
James Moody, Fort Knox antiterrorism officer, said there is often confusion regarding FPCON levels and each individual's roles. Part of the confusion could be because the system was revamped in 2016.
"It was tailored down, and it was put into what they call a three-part model - which means effects, the actual levels, and then the measures," said Moody. "A lot of people said, 'this stuff makes my head hurt.'"
Moody explained that the measures are those things that commanders can put in place to counter the threats, and the Defense Department in 2016 shrunk the mandatory list considerably, from 58 measures across all four levels down to about 23.
Another area where people get confused, according to Moody, are the differences between threat conditions and force protection conditions.
"Threat conditions are the things that are going on in the world, and the FPCON measures are those things we put into place to counter them," said Moody. "Sometimes people get that confused. The analogy is, if the heat's on in the world, then the FPCON is the air conditioning that you turn up to mitigate that."
The condition levels are broken into four categories: Alpha, Bravo, Charlie and Delta. Corresponding to those levels are generalized measures that each installation is required by regulations to put into place. Those measures are identified as Deter, Detect, Delay, Deny and Defend; what Moody calls the five Ds.
According to regulations, the foundation for all protection conditions is what DOD calls FPCON Normal, which applies at all times because "a general threat of terrorist attack/hostile act always exists in the world." There are six measures at Normal.
Moody said the rest of the levels build upon that foundation, depending on what FPCON level DOD officials declare. Each level also corresponds to timeframes. For instance, Bravo measures can last years, whereas Charlie measures may last for months, and Delta measures for weeks.
At FPCON Alpha and Bravo, law enforcement agencies focus on deterring potential threats and detecting suspicious activities. As levels move toward more critical phases in Charlie and Delta, efforts focus also on delaying the planning and execution of adversaries, denying physical access as well as limiting freedom of movement, and defending the installation from an imminent threat.
Moody said a lot of people misunderstand what happens to the FPCON levels during heightened threat levels.
"They think if something happens we automatically trigger to FPCON Delta, but when you look at the conditions, that threshold is pretty high," said Moody.
He explained that mandatory measures in each level come from DOD assessments, not locally. Therefore, while all armed forces remain at FPCON Bravo because of the existence of a predictable threat of terrorist attack or hostile act, one installation could experience an actual attack.
In those specific cases, supplemental measures are built into the template that allow commanders the flexibility to adjust to local changes in threat levels while DOD remains at FPCON Bravo.
"We can't get out from under the mandatory measures," said Moody. "But there is a need for supplemental measures to achieve more effects. It's tailored to the commander's footprint based on the current threat and the current operating environment."
Moody said what all this means to the average Soldier and civilian employee working on post is awareness and patience.
"The average [person] should know the level, and what it means," said Moody. "Everybody that comes through that gate is subject to search. When they go to their office and park in the parking lot, everybody is compelled to support the building manager, report suspicious packages, and keep their eyes open.
"Another thing that the average [person] should know - the higher the threat, the higher the FPCON; the higher the FPCON, the more disruptions."