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DEFCON is the abbreviation for Defense Readiness Condition. This is an alert state, which is being used by the Armed Forces of the United States. This system was implemented by Joint Chiefs of Staff along with the collaboration of Specified and Unified Combatant Commands. 

DEFCON explains the five different levels of readiness for the United States military. This is a scale where DEFCON 5 is associated with the least severity, and DEFCON 1 is associated with the most severity. Each level of severity matches with different military situations. You can also call this a properly defined system, which shares a series of alert conditions. It can be used during emergency conditions as well.

Understanding the levels of DEFCON

DEFCON is all about the five different levels associated with it. Hence, it is important to clearly understand these five levels and figure out what is represented by every level. The defense readiness conditions would usually vary between different commands. They have evolved significantly along with time in the past as well. The United States Department of Defense uses the different DEFCON levels throughout workouts, along with real operational commands.

Here’s a quick overview of the five different DEFCON commands.

  • DEFCON  1 

DEFCON 1 command is associated with the exercise term cocked pistol. This signifies that a nuclear war has already started or such a nuclear war is imminent. Once this alert is issued, the military should get prepared with maximum readiness. They should provide immediate responses, as well.

  • DEFCON 2 

DEFCON is associated with the exercise term fast pace. It represents that the next phase would be a nuclear war. Hence, the armed forces will get ready to proceed with deployments. The military forces will be prepared here to proceed with deployments within just six hours.

  • DEFCON 3 

DEFCON 3 is the roundhouse. This is where an increase in forces is made to ensure force readiness. It is associated with a higher level of military readiness when compared to normal military readiness. In here, the Air Force would be available to mobilize within just 15 minutes.

  • DEFCON 4 

DEFCON 4 is the exercise term given for double-take. This is where the intelligence watch is increased. Moreover, security measures will be increased here. It provides above normal readiness.

  • DEFCON 5 

DEFCON is the name for exercise term fade out. This is representing the lowest state of readiness. In other words, you can tell that it is representing normal readiness at all times. 

Operations of DEFCON

DEFCON is operated mainly by the Secretary of Defense in the United States and the President of the United States. They will have to go through the Combatant Commanders and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Staff to implement the readiness level. As you saw in the previous section, every single level of DEFCON explains a specific security measure. It also highlights the response and activation scenarios that are linked to different situations, as well.

You can find many different branches in the Armed forces of the United States. They include the United States Army, United States Air Force, United States Navy, United States Space Force, United States Coast Guard, and United States Marine Corps. They are spread across different command groups and bases. All these different entities will come across different conditions. Due to the same reason, you will not find a single common DEFCON status, which can be used for a specific country. It can only be implemented by considering a specific geographical area. 

According to the previous records, the maximum DEFCON level that has ever been recorded is DEFCON level 3. It has been DEFCON 2 during the 1991 Gulf War and the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. 

While you are going through DEFCON levels, you need to make sure that you are never getting confused with the other systems used by the United States Military. They include Information Operations Condition, Readiness Condition, Force Protection Conditions, Watch Condition, and Cyber Operations Condition. 

Examples of different DEFCON levels reached in the past

DEFCON 2 level was reached during the Cuban Missile Crisis, which took place back in 1962. This year, the United States Armed Forces were given the order to raise the DEFCON level to DEFCON 3. However, it was later decided that the armed forces are remaining at DEFCON 2. 

Likewise, DEFCON 2 level was declared during the Persian Gulf War, which took place in 1991. On the 15th of January, 1991, the Joint Chiefs of Staff came up with the decision to declare DEFCON 2. This happened along with Operation Desert Storm’s launch phase, which took place during the Persian Gulf War.

DEFCON 3 level was reached during the Yom Kippur War. This happened in the year 1973. Syria and Egypt went ahead to launch a joint missile attack on Israel. This caused the breakout of the Yom Kippur War. The United States got involved in this war due to the intervening of the Soviet Union. As a result, United States Forces were placed at DEFCON 3 level. 

DEFCON’s main reason was increased to DEFCON 3 level is that the Soviet Union launched a ship that carries nuclear weapons. This ship was sent to Egypt. However, the troops from the Soviet Union never landed. Only the ship went to Egypt. No other records on what really happened to this ship are available in the historical records. 

The most recent incident where the DEFCON level was increased was during the September 11 attacks in 2001. During this time period, Donald Rumsfeld, who was working as the Secretary of Defense, ordered the DEFCON level to be increased up to DEFCON 3. However, it was later decided that remaining in DEFCON 2 is sufficient as the United States’ armed forces have got control over the situation. 

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