U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson (R) participates in a conversation during an event sponsored by Defense One at the District Architecture Center December 7, 2015 in Washington, DC.
Chip Somodevilla—Getty Images
December 7, 2015 11:59 AM EST

In the wake of mass shootings in both Paris and San Bernardino, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson announced Monday that the government will change the national terror alert system in response to increasingly complex information about threats.

The current version of the National Terror Advisory System (NTAS) is a two-tier system that replaced the much-criticized color-coded alerts put in place after 9/11. But the two-tier system has never been used because a terror threat has to be extreme in order to prompt public alerts. Johnson said during a forum hosted by website Defense One that the Department of Homeland Security will add a third tier because “not having a specific credible piece of intelligence specifying a plot isn’t the end of the story.”

“It has this trigger that’s a pretty high bar, which is why we’ve never used it,” he said of the current system. “I believe we need to do a better job of informing the public at large about what we are seeing—removing some of the mystery about the global terrorist threat and what we are doing about it and what we’re asking the public to do.”

Write to Eliana Dockterman at eliana.dockterman@time.com.

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