US Northern Command boss Adm. Bill Gortney raised the force protection condition level for all Defense Department bases and activities from alpha to bravo late on May 7, NORTHCOM spokeswoman Army Maj. Beth Smith told Air Force Magazine. The move came the same day FBI Director James Comey warned that thousands of ISIS sympathizers could be living inside the United States. Smith said the increase in threat level was not “tied to any specific threat,” though she acknowledged Comey’s announcement played a role in Gortney’s decision. “Due to the current conditions our commander thought it was prudent to raise the threat condition level to remind [troops] to stay vigilent,” said Smith. There are five force protection conditions—normal, alpha, bravo, charlie, and delta. Alpha has been the baseline since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Bravo means there is an “increased or more predictable threat of terrorist activity,” said Smith. Though most DOD installations were at alpha before the threat level was raised, individual commanders have the authority to implement additional security measures. The Pentagon was doing so “for some time,” said Air Force Lt. Col. Tom Crosson. The 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks was the last time the threat level was raised. It remained at bravo from Sept. 4-14, 2011. Smith could not say how long the threat levels would remain raised this time, citing operational security concerns.
The Air Force overall reduced its size by 120 aircraft in fiscal year 2021, but kept about the same number of fighter, bomber and attack aircraft, according to data supplied by the service. The F-35 fleet saw the biggest increase while the B-1B bomber fleet saw the largest decline.