Heard about ATFP lately?

For those who work in the government sector — especially those working at the Department of Defense (DoD) or related government facilities — anti-terrorism / force protection, or ATFP, is a popular topic, and it deserves the attention. A solid understanding of ATFP concepts and strategies is a must for those who share an interest in the DoD environment — regardless of rank or position.

Purpose and Definition

ATFP concepts and strategies are intended to minimize the likelihood of mass casualties resulting from terrorist attacks. The concept is multi-dimensional, in that it encompasses operational, physical and technical countermeasures that span intelligence, security and facility management. For the purpose of this discussion, the ATFP focus is intentionally narrowed to buildings and facilities where personnel live and work. Counter-terrorism is certainly part of the pursuit of terrorists, but it deserves its own coverage.

ATFP is a generic term that is often commingled with force protection in casual conversation, because the two subjects overlap in many areas. The two are actually different in an important, but subtle way: Force protection addresses the protection of personnel in an “all threats” setting, whereas ATFP specifically addresses terrorist threats that would produce mass casualties.

An example of how the two subjects overlap might involve a perimeter security system protecting a large defense installation that includes vehicle barriers, fences, intrusion detection and CCTV. If that system were designed to mitigate terrorist attacks, it would most likely mitigate common criminal threats such as burglary or threats such as espionage. But the effects and benefits of applied ATFP concepts and strategies are not always consistent with an “all threats” force protection initiative, illustrated by the example of an office building that has vehicle bollards. While the bollards would prevent a car or truck from approaching the building, they cannot stop a pedestrian.


The concepts and strategies that underlie the working definition of ATFP are ancient. For as long as man has terrorized man, there have been efforts to counter those attacks. From its earliest days, the U.S. fought terrorism perpetrated by a wide variety of adversaries. Terrorist attacks, methods and related activities were documented and analyzed by historians and military strategists, producing a wide body of information that describes terrorist methods and tactics, effective countermeasures and documentation of past incidents.

Over time, a huge amount of information was compiled. For example, each branch of the military and several civilian agencies had guidelines and standards to counter terrorist threats that included similar design concepts and operations plans. While they all shared the same goals, there were disagreements about how the threat was defined, what countermeasures worked best and what assets required the most protection. Naturally, this led to discussions about minimum standards.

The most recent compilation of this knowledge base is contained in a section of the Unified Facilities Criteria (UFC) called DoD Minimum Antiterrorism Standards for Buildings. It is available in electronic media from many sources including the United States Army Corps of Engineers' Web site at http://www.hnd.usace.army.mil/techinfo/ufc/ufc4-010-01.pdf.

ATFP and UFC 4-010-01

DoD Minimum Anti-terrorism Standards for Buildings is the most widely referenced ATFP criteria publication. It's the product of a significant multi-agency effort to seek effective ways to mitigate terrorist threats. Its contributors include the Undersecretary of Defense, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Naval Facilities Engineering Command and the Air Force Engineer Support Agency. The most recent publication, dated July 31, 2002, was preceded by Interim Department of Defense Antiterrorism / Force Protection Construction Standards dated Dec. 16, 1999.

For those who started ATFP-related projects prior to the most recent publication date, it's important to determine which set of criteria to reference, since most projects initiated before the start of government fiscal year 2004 fall under the older standards.

UFC 4-010-01 is a living document whose contents are constantly updated as events and new information dictates. DoD security personnel should regularly check for updates to be sure they are referring to the latest standards. It's also important to note that the word “minimum” is part of the standard document's title. The level of protection against terrorist attack required for any particular facility must be assessed and defined by the Installation Commander or an equivalent authority in charge of the mission.

What You Should Know Unless You're the ATFP Czar

It doesn't make much sense to commit the entire UFC to memory — what is important is that ATFP concepts and strategies are understood and that the information is available when needed.

UFC 4-010-01 contains a lot of information. More importantly, it makes reference to numerous additional sources of information contained in related publications. The first step in becoming familiar with the ATFP concepts and strategies is to review the referenced publications to become familiar with methods, materials and techniques that mitigate terrorist tactics and weapons.

To get started down the path to ATFP awareness and competence, beginners should review the publications listed in Chapter 1, page 2 of UFC 4-010-01. In addition, some very good background information is contained in the Technical Manuals/Air Force Manual series TM5-853. Some of these manuals are For Official Use Only (FOUO), but can be obtained by contractors under the appropriate authority.


Pay careful attention to the stated intent of UFC 4-010-01. To paraphrase, it says that the standards are intended to minimize the possibility of mass casualties in DoD facilities by establishing a minimum level of protection where no known threat of terrorist activity currently exists. The philosophy that underpins the criteria is based on value. It supports the argument that it would be cost-prohibitive to design facilities that address every conceivable threat but instead that it is possible to provide an appropriate level of protection for all personnel at a reasonable cost.

Broad Categories

The main issues in UFC 4-010-01 are organized using terms that are more common in the architectural and engineering community than they are in the security field. For this reason, the security practitioner should become familiar with the following terms:

  • Site Planning is concerned with minimum standoff distances, building separation, unobstructed space, drive-up and drop-off areas, access roads and parking beneath or on rooftops of buildings. The common denominator is that minimum ATFP standards provide specific guidance on these elements to counter terrorist threats and that these elements are related and interdependent.

  • Structural Design elements of the ATFP standards are primarily concerned with avoidance of progressive collapse caused by a terrorist attack. Structural design includes the fundamental components of the building — including columns and walls, floors and the specific performance characteristics of major load-bearing elements such as beams or columns. The performance of the structure is measured through engineering analysis to determine if the building can withstand removal of at least one major structural element without triggering progressive collapse.

  • Structural Isolation, also considered under the broader topic of structural design, involves portions or additions to buildings that may (or may not) be constructed in a way that would prevent collapse of the whole structure if one portion was subject to attack. A good example of this issue is when additions have been made to buildings that physically tie the structures together at points above the foundation. Building overhangs and under-building parking are also parts of this issue, since they may introduce vulnerabilities that are not necessarily concerns for the base structure.

  • Architectural Design includes many components of building architecture, including glazing, window frames, exterior doors, sealing and architectural layout. Doors and windows should meet minimum requirements for blast resistance and fragmentation. A simple example is to ensure that exterior doors open outwards to prevent them from becoming flying hazards in the event of an explosive attack.

  • Sealing Methods should be considered to prevent the migration of airborne hazards such as chemical, biological or radiological threats. Architecturally, sealing has to do with caulking, window gaskets and door seals — not with building air handling equipment. It's important to remember that preventing migration of airborne hazards within the building is equally important since internal migration may leave the building uninhabitable even though the attack was initially directed at only one area. Architectural layout of entrances and the location of functional areas such as mailrooms should be considered to mitigate terrorist threats. A good example of layout concerns would be the orientation and location of building entrances relative to lines of site from outside the installation. The mitigation concept is to avoid direct lines of sight that would give an adversary visibility of building operations or a clear shot at personnel from a safe distance.

  • Electrical and Mechanical ATFP Design concerns include electrical distribution systems and HVAC systems. Often referred to as critical infrastructure, they include fresh-air intakes, ventilation systems and electrical service connection points. The major concern is applying methods of construction and locating critical equipment to minimize vulnerabilities that terrorists could exploit.

For HVAC systems, the two main objectives are to locate fresh-air intakes so that it would be difficult to introduce contaminants into a building; and the ability to shut down HVAC systems if an attack is imminent or under way. For electrical infrastructure, the objectives are to protect critical equipment such as transformers and switchgear and to design electrical systems with a level of redundancy that would support the continuing operation of the building even if an attacker successfully interrupted a primary electrical source.

The last issue under mechanical and electrical design is to ensure that a method of mass notification is included in the overall mitigation strategy. This might be part of a fire alarm system, for example, but isn't necessarily integrated with conventional life/safety systems. There are many possible means to provide mass notification that may include public address systems, audible and visual annunciators or personal communication devices such as pagers, radios or PDAs.

The concepts and strategies for effective antiterrorism and force protection measures are varied and extensive. DoD security personnel and their colleagues in similar government roles should, at the very minimum, have a grasp of the subject. A clear understanding of how ATFP differs from “all threats” force protection is critical, as is the relationship of possible issues and mitigation strategies that span site planning, structural design, architectural design and critical infrastructure design.

Roger B. Hutchins, CPP, is associate vice president of Kroll's Security Services Group, Vienna, Va.