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Homeland Security: Key Elements of a Risk Management Approach

NCJ Number
Raymond J. Decker
Date Published
11 pages
This paper presents testimony by Raymond J. Decker, Director, Defense Capabilities and Management, before the House Subcommittee on National Security, Veterans Affairs, and International Relations and the House Committee on Government Reform on the key elements a risk management approach toward homeland security.
Risk management is a systematic and analytical process to consider the likelihood that a threat will endanger an asset, individual, or function and to identify actions to reduce the risk and mitigate the consequences of an attack. Risk management principles acknowledge that while risk generally cannot be eliminated, enhancing protection from known or potential threats can reduce it. A good risk management approach includes three primary elements: a threat assessment, a vulnerability assessment, and a criticality assessment. Threat assessments are important decision support tools that can assist organizations in security program planning. A threat assessment identifies and evaluates threats based on various factors, including capability and intentions as well as the potential lethality of an attack. Two other elements of the approach--vulnerability assessments and criticality assessments--are required to prepare better against terrorist attacks. A vulnerability assessment is a process that identifies weaknesses that may be exploited by terrorists and suggests options to eliminate or mitigate those weaknesses. A criticality assessment is a process designed to systematically identify and evaluate an organization’s assets based on the importance of its mission or function, the group of people at risk, or the significance of a structure. Criticality assessments are important because they provide a basis for prioritizing those assets and structures that require higher or special protection from an attack. The approach described could help the United States against a terrorist threat and permit better direction of resources to areas of highest priority. After threat, vulnerability, and criticality assessments have been completed and evaluated in this risk-based decision process, key actions can be taken to better prepare the United States against potential terrorist attacks. If the Federal government were to apply this approach universally and if similar approaches were adopted by other segments of society, the United States could effectively and efficiently prepare defenses against acts of terrorism.