NORTHCOM Responsible for Setting Base Force Protection Levels
By Sgt. 1st Class Gail Braymen, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service
PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo., July 3, 2007 Alpha, Bravo, Charlie and Delta are the four levels of force protection applied to every American military installation, with Alpha being the lowest level and Delta being the highest. And it's the commander of U.S. Northern Command who determines what the minimum force protection level will be for every American installation in the continental United States.
"Eighty-five percent of the installations in the armed forces, in the Department of Defense, exist within the NORTHCOM area of responsibility," said Army Col. Jim Brown, chief of NORTHCOM's force protection and mission assurance division.
NORTHCOM 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 U.S. European Command and U.S. 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 necessary, Brown said, but they must adhere to at least the minimum level prescribed by NORTHCOM.
"Most of our facilities in the United States are at Alpha right now; several are at Bravo; and a couple are at Charlie," Brown said.
Force protection can include procedures as basic as checking identification cards at installation entrances and requiring credentials to get inside buildings. However, when necessary, force protection procedures can become as stringent as inspecting every vehicle, person and bag entering an installation.
"It's layered; it's well thought out; it's well –resourced; and it's there," Brown said. "But the question is: where should it go? How should we improve our force protection?"
The constant challenges to maintaining effective force protection are understanding potential threats and avoiding routines and standard procedures that can be exploited, Brown said.
"It's important always to ask the question: what should I change? How should this system of force protection that we've put in place evolve so that it moves ahead of the possible plans of people who would do us harm?"
Although NORTHCOM sets the minimum force protection level, the command does not tell individual commanders specifically how to protect their installations and facilities.
"We do not like to, what I term, pick up a 1,000-mile-long screwdriver and turn it in the front gate of Vandenberg Air Force Base, (Calif.,)" Brown said. Vandenberg and all other military installations have commanders with oversight of their facilities. "And we are here to facilitate them, and to assist them, and to give them guidance that makes protecting (their base or facility) easier."
NORTHCOM is the unified combatant command responsible for defending the homeland and providing defense support of civil authorities. Its subordinate commands are Joint Forces Headquarters National Capital Region, Joint Task Force Alaska, Joint Task Force Civil Support, Joint Task Force North and Standing Joint Force Headquarters North.
(Army Sgt. 1st Class Gail Braymen is assigned to the combined Public Afairs Office of North American Aerospace Defense Command and U.S. Northern Command.)