DIMACS, LPS, Rutcor, Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering &
DyDAn Homeland Security Joint Seminar

Speaker: Robert G. Ross, Department of Homeland Security

Title: Managing Homeland Security Risk: A New Approach

Date: Tuesday, November 6, 2007 5:00 - 6:00 pm

Refreshments: 4:30 pm - IE Lounge Area (outside CoRE 201)

Location: DIMACS Center, CoRE Bldg, Room 431, Rutgers University, Busch Campus, Piscataway, NJ


Many have called for major Homeland Security decisions to be "risk-based." While fundamentally sound, this approach has not been without problems. Chief among them are bureaucratic infighting over risk management responsibilities, confusion over appropriate analytic techniques and honest but malignant misunderstanding of what the terms "risk" and "risk-management" even mean. This presentation will provide a conceptual discussion of "risk" as that term applies to homeland security. The decision-making process will be examined, as will the complex-adaptive systems created by the interaction of reactive, intelligent and strategically driven security and terrorist adversaries. Drawing on cutting edge thinking on "risk governance," differences will be drawn between "simple risks" and those, which are characterized, by complexity, uncertainty and ambiguity. Long accepted work on "social complexity" and the difficulties inherent in making public-policy decisions about "wicked problems" will also be considered. High technical complexity, uncertainty and ambiguity, coupled with homeland security's high social complexity, require risk assessment and decision-support tools that differ from methods historically applied to less daunting issues. Unfortunately, many of the risk assessment methodologies offered to homeland security decision-makers to date are inadequate or inappropriate. Recommendations will be offered on desirable characteristics of homeland security risk analytic tools and on a risk-informed decision-making approach that is better suited to the demands of homeland security. Finally, the presentation will close with two case studies in which collaborative, non-probabilistic and non-quantitative risk assessment and consensus-building decision-support processes of the type recommended were successfully used to deal with highly charged "wicked problems."