->''"DEFCON 5 means 'no danger', DEFCON '''1''' is a crisis!"''
-->-- '''[[InsufferableGenius Sheldon]]''', ''Series/TheBigBangTheory''

In some movies, the phrase "Defcon 5" is used to refer to the highest state of alert.

This is incorrect, and this trope is about the misuse of these terms. Defcon 5 (codename "FADE OUT"[[note]]These codenames are used during exercises to avoid confusion with the real deal[[/note]]) is the ''lowest'' state of alert, aka completely tranquil peace time. Defcon 1 (codename "[[DramaticGunCock COCKED PISTOL]]") is the highest, referring to a confirmed state of war. The use of nuclear weapons is authorized here, but they will still require unlock codes from high authority. The highest state reached for the Strategic Air Command in US history was Defcon 2 (codename "FAST PACE", during the Cuban Missile Crisis), but the Gulf War led to forces in the Middle East reaching Defcon 1, for obvious reasons -- like being at war. The Yom Kippur War of 1973 saw a brief period at Defcon 3 (codename "ROUND HOUSE", with some forces in the Middle East being at 2), as did 9/11. Currently the Defcon level is at 5.

The UK did once operate a 'Queen's Order' level which escalated from 1 to 5, [=QO1=] being the peacetime default and [=QO5=] meaning (at the time) that the [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/V_bombers V-bombers]] had started their one way trip to Russia. The current system, dubbed the UK Threat Levels, doesn't use numbers at all, instead ranking the current likelihood of attack on a scale from Low to Critical (its most recent predecessor, the now-defunct BIKINI scale, used colours). However, these levels do not correspond to US Defcon levels - for example, the UK reached a "critical" Threat Level in 2006 and 2007. Thus, there is currently no real UK equivalent. Other countries have their own status levels, in some cases where this trope is played straight, in others they use phrases or colours instead.

For the Record

* DEFCON 5: Normal peacetime activities
* DEFCON 4: Increased readiness levels, mainly more intelligence and surveillance
* DEFCON 3: Military begins deployment.......this is the first truly "shit is about to get real" phase of the levels
* DEFCON 2: War is to be considered imminent, make all preparations
* DEFCON 1: War is to be expected at any moment, weapons loaded with anticipation of orders to shoot.



[[folder:Anime and Manga]]
* In ''Anime/MacrossPlus'', when the BigBad activates Earth's defense grid, astonished operators gasp "The system's at Defcon Five!", while armed satellites reorient themselves.
* The episode titles in ''Aozora Shoujotai'' start with DEFCON I, counting up to DEFCON V and beyond, with the final episode named DEFCON VI.
* Used correctly in the last episode of ''[[Franchise/SentouYouseiYukikaze Yukikaze.]]'' [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bPVDp0QvGlo The FAF fleet goes to DEFCON I]] as they approach the Passageway to evacuate Fairy... which is guarded by a literal ''[[ZergRush wall of JAM.]]''

[[folder:Comic Books]]
* One ''Franchise/JusticeLeagueOfAmerica'' issue had a rather glaring example; after seeing a city attacked by some kind of aliens and he himself was set aflame, resident angel Zariel responded by shrieking "We are now at Defcon Five!" Lord knows what needs to happen in Franchise/TheDCU for Defcon 1 A few issues later, a RealityWarper turning the cars into goblins and a bank into a giant living monster was referred to as Defcon Four.
* One issue of ''ComicBook/{{Avengers}}'' has Iron Man announcing a situation is at Defcon ''1000'', due to the sudden appearance of Thanos.

[[folder:Films -- Animated]]
* Half-averted in ''WesternAnimation/BeavisAndButtHeadDoAmerica''. When Cornholio talks into the red phone, the person in charge of the Defense Control Center becomes concerned and goes to Defcon 4 (''from'' 5). However, this incorrectly sets off the RedAlert klaxon and everyone scrambles around as if this meant war was imminent.
* ''UltimateAvengers'': The Defcon is raised to 4 when aliens are spotted, and then "raised" again to 5 once the aliens actually begin to attack military installations.

[[folder:Films -- Live-Action]]
* ''Film/HowToLoseAGuyIn10Days'': "I have to crack this guy. I mean, this is Defcon Five, and I have to do something truly appalling. It's not funny." Which possibly makes sense in this context, since Ben is doing everything he can to keep the relationship peaceful while Andie is trying to get dumped.
* ''Film/UndercoverBrother:'' "That's Right! It's goin' to the streets. Hey y'all! It's revolution up in this Bitch! Set the alarm for Defcon 5! It's on, baby... it's on!"
* In ''Film/CrimsonTide'', Defcon 2 is the level at which the ''USS Alabama'' is authorized and directed to launch its nuclear missiles at Russian military targets, particularly land-based silos that are prepping to launch themselves. Contrast to ''Film/WarGames'', in which no strikes were ever authorized. This might be intentional, though, as the US is not at war with another nation--the nukes are aimed at a GeneralRipper who's commandeered a Russian nuclear base, not Russia in general.
** It went through the scale properly:
*** The mission started at DEFCON 4 when the Russian general command lost control of the base to the GeneralRipper.
*** DEFCON 3 was invoked when the Russian launch codes were compromised, i.e. Launch Possible.
*** DEFCON 2 was when fuel trucks were parked at the silos, i.e. Launch Imminent.
* In ''Film/CanadianBacon'', Defcon 4 means "imminent nuclear attack."
* Done correctly in ''Film/TheSantaClause 2'', of all places, where the North Pole's "Elfcon" warning system goes from five to one.
* The horrible 1980's cold war film ''Film/{{Defcon 4}}'' incorrectly gave Defcon 4 as the highest state of alert. The fact that they couldn't even be wrong in the usual manner was not the worst thing about this movie.
* The 2007 ''Film/{{Transformers}}'' film handled this in an interesting fashion. The Secretary of Defense announces the country was now at "Defcon ''Delta'', our highest alert level." The oddness is reconciled given the depth of cooperation he received from the United States armed forces: in the real world, Threat Conditions Alpha through Delta are used in the military to denote the likelihood of a ''terrorist/surprise'' attack (as opposed to a general state of hostilities and war), with 'Alpha' meaning 'remotely possible' and Delta meaning 'attack imminent or has just taken place'. Most likely, it was kept as "Defcon" in the film because [[SmallReferencePools that's what people would recognize.]]
* In ''Film/IndependenceDay'', the president says, "We may need to upgrade to Defcon 3", [[FridgeBrilliance which could either be correct or incorrect. Either way, no one could accuse them of screwing up.]]
* Averted in ''Film/ThirteenDays'', where a general specifically mentions that the US is not at war until DEFCON 1. He also gets angry with a general for going to DEFCON 2 in spite of his orders to go DEFCON 3, as the US now looks more aggressive than he wanted.

* In ''Literature/{{Cryptonomicon}}'', the narrator refers to "some very high Defcon level, the one just short of all-out nuclear exchange." Its vagueness prevents it from falling down either way.
* Creator/TerryPratchett uses it metaphorically in ''Discworld/WitchesAbroad'': "Asking someone to repeat a phrase you'd not only heard very clearly but were also exceedingly angry about was around Defcon 2 in the lexicon of squabble."
* Also using metaphorically and correctly in Creator/StephenKing's non-fiction essay ''Head Down'' (about his son Owen's championship-winning Little League season) there is a scene where King is driving his son and a few of his friends back from a game. One of the boys really, ''really'' needs to take a leak. They find a gas station "just as [his] bladder is going to DEFCON-1".

[[folder:Live-Action TV]]
* ''Series/TopGear'' got it wrong too, where Clarkson stepping up his Bugatti Veyron (the world's fastest-ever production car) to no-spoiler fast mode took him from Defcon 3 to 4. Clarkson has also announced that it's time to go to 'Defcon Stig' once.
* Upheld in the ''Series/{{Angel}}'' episode "Dad". Lilah refers to Wolfram and Hart as being at "Defcon, like, a thousand" over Connor's birth, Lilah being a civilian lawyer who apparently knows nothing about the military. What she was ''trying'' to say was that they were at DEFCON 1.
* Done in an episode of ''Series/TheAdventuresOfPeteAndPete'' with Little Pete's "LOVECON" alerts, with 5 being the highest level of "danger" (i.e., lovesickness).
* Parodied in ''Series/{{Chuck}}'': "We're at Defcon 1, or 5, or whichever means HURRY!"
* In one episode of ''Series/TheOfficeUS'', [[JustifiedTrope Michael Scott]] declares DEFCON 10 because he is afraid of an upcoming meeting with Jan. Later in the episode, he "increases" it to DEFCON 20.
* In ''Series/MadMen'' (season 6 episode 1), Peggy knows the correct usage but she is annoyed by Burt Peterson who gets it wrong twice. First he uses DEFCON 4 as a synonym for a crisis and then when told he has it backwards he says they are at DEFCON 0.
* {{Lampshade|Hanging}}d by ''Series/ThirtyRock'':
-->'''Liz''': Listen up, jagweeds, it's go time. We are at Defcon Five here!\\
'''Toofer''': The ''lowest'' level of defense preparedness? Fantastic.
* ''Series/ChicagoFire'' manages to avert this in the aptly named episode "Defcon One." The episode focus on the serial arsonist upping his campaign against Firehouse 51. In a sub plot line, a rival bar starts to actively sabotage Herrman's bar. When he mentions they just went to DEFCON 5, Otis quietly mentions that is in fact the lowest level.
* ''Series/ByAnyMeans'' 1x06: Charlie is trying to persuade Jessica to take things easy, telling her "It's like that whole DEFCON thing. You have DEFCON 1 then DEFCON 2 - you don't just start at DEFCON 5, do you?" She corrects him: "Yeah, actually you do - you start at DEFCON 5, work your way up to 1!"
* In the ''Series/{{Tremors}}'' episode "Night of the Shriekers", Burt Gummer is ironically scolded for inappropriately going to Defcon Five over the presence of Shriekers by someone who is treating the Shriekers as no threat.
* In ''{{Series/Community}}'':
-->'''Dean Pelton''': From this moment, people, we are at DEFCON 4, if that's the highest DEFCON, and if high [=DEFCONs=] are worse than low ones.
* In the ''DoctorWho'' episode "The Poison Sky, Colonel Mace uses the correct term when he declares that NATO has gone to DEFCON 1 to meet the Sontaran threat.

* Platinum Blonde's 1983 hit "Standing in the Dark" contains the line "Defcon 5 / We're ready to explode.".
* Music/NoxArcana's ''Zombie Influx'' album contains the track "[[OffTheScale Defcon Six]]."
* PowerMetal band Vicious Rumors has a line in the song ''Warball'' -
-->Situation Def Con Five
-->No one gets out of here alive

* Averted in ''VideoGame/RuinerPinball''; the peacetime at the start of the game is DEFCON 5, and the player must raise it to DEFCON 1 and start WorldWarIII.

[[folder:Stand-Up Comedy]]
* Creator/RonWhite had a joke about his mother calling him about a change in the "Heightened State of Awareness." He came up with a simple change.
--> '''Ron:''' Here's my solution for the Heightened State of Awareness. '''1.''' Go find a helmet. '''2.''' Put on the damn helmet.

[[folder:Video Games]]
* ''VideoGame/CommandAndConquerRedAlert2: Yuri's Revenge'' uses it correctly in the intro cinematic, with a background voice stating "we are now at Defcon 2".
* The aptly-named ''{{VideoGame/Defcon}}'' correctly goes through the entire scale as part of regular gameplay. The game starts at Defcon 5 (which is the phase where you place your assets on the map), non-nuclear attacks become available at Defcon 3, short-range nuclear attacks are available at Defcon 2, and ICBM nuclear launches are only authorized once the game has reached Defcon 1 (and continues until most of the nukes in the game are launched).

[[folder:Web Animation]]
* Parodied in the flash cartoon ''[[http://www.newgrounds.com/portal/view/267776 BadGuys]]'', where one of the characters activates an alarm and shouts "Go to Defcon 62!"

* During a CrossOver between the {{webcomic}}s ''[[WebComic/RoomiesItsWalkyJoyceAndWalky It's Walky!]]'' and ''Webcomic/{{Fans}}'', a strip was originally drawn with this error. When readers pointed this out, the strip was [[http://www.itswalky.com/d/20030508.html corrected]], with a note of thanks added to those who mentioned the error (though it was not included later in the StripArchive).

[[folder:Web Original]]
* ''WebVideo/{{Unskippable}}'' highlights the way that getting it wrong is bad for dramatic tension with more informed players when looking at ''Creator/TomClancy's VideoGame/GhostRecon Advanced Warfighter 2''.
-->'''Paul''': (sarcastically) Oooh, Defcon 4. Just so you know, Defcon 4 is not that scary. The US is currently at Defcon 3.\\
'''Graham''': Defcon 3 is worse, by the way.
* ''The Young Turks'' have a running gag of mocking people who invoke this trope with the SarcasmMode declaration, "Defcon 28 is imminent!"

[[folder:Western Animation]]
* In ''WesternAnimation/AmericanDad'', Stan keeps a [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terror_Alert_Level colour coordinated terror alert system]] on his fridge, which he'll adjust according to his paranoid delusions.
* A version of this in ''WesternAnimation/AaahhRealMonsters'', has an alert system that starts at '[=DefDump=] 5' and correctly gets lower as the situation intensifies.
* Semi-correct in ''WesternAnimation/ThePenguinsOfMadagascar'', when Skipper briefly considers declaring "Defcon Red", (the coordinating color to Defcon 2). When Marlene asks what that means, Skipper says "Classified. Just hope you never live to see one, sister."
* Santa's Workshop gets it right in ''Mickey's Twice Upon a Christmas'', of all places. The code for catastrophe is "Elf-Con 1"
* ''WesternAnimation/CodeMonkeys'' gets it right in the episode "Trouble in the Middle East", as a US general explains what they think [[{{Qurac}} Khakistan]] is up to, with every [[ItMakesSenseInContext ImpalaVision game console stolen]], an animation on the top of the screen correctly goes from DEFCON 5 to DEFCON 1.
* ''WesternAnimation/XMenEvolution'': Defcon 4 at the Xavier Institute means that the entire mansion is now in multi-layer steel-doors-all-around lockdown. Nothing gets out or in, and anything that tries to get in gets blasted by laser cannons.

[[folder:Real Life]]
* According to some accounts of the 1981 shooting of UsefulNotes/RonaldReagan, Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger wanted to go to DEFCON 2. He believed it meant a low state of military readiness, slightly higher than DEFCON 1, which to him meant tranquil peacetime.
* A conservative radio show host has threatened to go to [[UpToEleven DEFCON 6]] if California's ban on same-sex marriage is overturned, which [[CriticalResearchFailure if taken at face value]] means he intends to just give up.
* American bases in the Pacific have a similar system, Tropical Cyclone Condition of Readiness, or [=TCCOR=], designed to give personnel and their families time for last-minute preparations before a major storm hits. [=TCCOR=] 4 means winds in excess of 50 knots are expected in 72 hours or less. Each successive [=TCCOR=] state indicates a further level of preparedness you should be at (you should have all of your lawn furniture and trash cans tied down or brought inside by [=TCCOR=] 2, for example), and by [=TCCOR=] 1, all non-essential personnel should be at home, in an emergency shelter, or if they live in a low-lying area, [[ScrewThisImOutOfHere staying some place else for the time being.]]