Challenge: Managing Risks from Terrorist Threats
Improved counter-terrorism intelligence is helping Homeland Security authorities
identify credible attack threats more effectively. However, this progress highlights critical downstream problems for decision-makers:
- Assessing credible, but imprecisely defined threats
- Formulating alternate strategies to prevent, recover from and respond to terrorist attacks
- Evaluating the likely impacts of alternate strategies and identifying the most robust plan
- Re-validating or adjusting strategies as the security landscape evolves over time.
Problem: Counter-Terrorism Is More Than a Numbers Exercise
Conventional decision support tools lack the horsepower required to address
these needs effectively. Spreadsheets and other simulators excel at manipulating
numerical data, projecting quantitative trends, and the like. However, they fall
short in modeling and reasoning about qualitative factors; complex relationships
and situational forces; disruptive events; and uncertain and rapidly changing information. Capturing and
leveraging expert knowledge about terrorist behavior patterns and domestic
vulnerabilities in actionable forms is problematic.
Transfer (Staging) Threats are as Important as Direct Attack Threats
Homeland Security efforts today focus primarily on threats of direct attack; they model risk
in terms of the threat (i.e., likelihood), vulnerability and consequences of particular modes
of attack against specific targets (e.g., blowing up a port facility with a truck bomb). Authorities
then design security measures to try to prevent attacks that bear the greatest risk, as well as prepare to respond to,
and recover from such attacks should interdiction efforts fail. Given that many attack scenarios
presuppose prior transfer into our borders of terrorists and weapons from foreign countries, risks of
direct attacks can be reduced by interdicting such transfers. Unfortunately, standard risk models
cannot be applied to transfer threats because they are typically not associated with specific targets and attack modes.
Our Solution Approach: Test-Drive Strategies to Reduce Risks from Terrorist Threats
Our TRANSEC solution enables modeling of both categories of terrorist threats in one system - direct attacks and international transfers of
terrorists and materiel. To analyze transfer threats, we partnered with Teledyne Brown Engineering, a leading government contractor, to construct a risk model derived from reliability engineering
methods for protecting technology systems from failure. We then apply ForeTell's scenario-based simulation process to project
the likely efficacy of alternate counter-terrorism strategies against both kinds of threats.
Model Quickly and Easily with Pre-Made Building Blocks
TRANSEC provides a library of pre-defined components for building models quickly, including:
terrorist organizations; countries and transfer points (originating, destination), international transports, attack threats, situational forces,
counter-terrorism strategies; and events. These elements can be entered manually or imported via SQL interfaces to Government databases or by loading data files in XML or CSV exchange formats.
Capture the "Physics" of Counter-Terrorism
TRANSEC's simulation engine computes the projected improvement of security effectiveness likely to result from implementing proposed
security measures. Security changes are simulated over the lifetimes of security measures at key points in the transportation network, as well as the resulting reductions in risk. Key
"nodes" include embarkation and debarkation points such as ports, airports and borders, and vessels and aircraft.
Analysts assess these outputs to identify and mitigate gaps and weaknesses in candidate security measures before deploying them.
TRANSEC simulations can also factor in the effects of different assumptions about future environmental changes, such as socio-political forces, trends, and events and potential adaptations by
terrorists to defeat new security strategies.
The net results of analyzing transportation security with TRANSEC are
more consistent, cost effective, and robust counter-terrorism strategies.