WASHINGTON – Security conditions at U.S. military bases have been raised because of growing concern of a jihadist threat in the U.S.
The move comes hours after FBI Director James Comey told reporters that there are thousands of ISIS, also known as ISIL, followers online in the U.S.
“We have a general concern, obviously, that ISIL is focusing on the uniformed military and law enforcement,” Comey told reporters Thursday.
The order was signed by Admiral William Gortney, head of the U.S. Northern Command, which oversees all U.S. military installations in the continental U.S.
“We have the same concern about the potential threat posed by violent homegrown extremists,” said Captain Jeff Davis, spokesman for the U.S. Northern Command, or NORTHCOM.
Davis declined to specify the new security measures. But a U.S. official confirmed to CNN that U.S. military bases are now at “Force Protection Bravo,” which is defined by the Pentagon as an “increased and predictable threat of terrorism.” It is the third-highest threat level on a five-tier scale used by the Department of Defense.
A U.S. military official said the order to raise the force protection level to Bravo also applies to all National Guard installations, recruiting stations, and ROTC detachments, though practically speaking, the official acknowledges it will be difficult for the ROTC detachments to do much more than security awareness.
“We are doing this as a prudent measure due to a lot of things in the news lately,” Davis said. “While this change is not tied to a specific credible threat, recent events have led us to recognize the need to take prudent steps to ensure that our security measures can be increased quickly.”
The change could mean more checks of vehicles entering bases, and 100% identity checks of all personnel. Davis emphasized that “this is the new normal, that we are going to have increased vigilance and force protection. We seek to be unpredictable.”
Since NORTHCOM was established in October 2002, the threat level has reached Bravo on four occasions: Feb. 9, 2003, amid concerns al Qaeda was planning attacks on American targets; Dec. 21, 2003, when officials were concerned about attacks during the holiday season; May 1, 2011, in the aftermath of the raid that killed Osama bin Laden; and the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.
It reached “Delta,” its highest level, on Sept. 11, 2001, Pentagon officials told CNN at the time.
– CNN’s Evan Perez, Ross Levitt and Laura Koran contributed to this report.