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Review of the Department of Homeland Security’s Approach to Risk Analysis
ment of scientific practice both depend on the continued development of an adequate in-house workforce of well-trained risk assessment experts. The need for technical personnel skilled in risk analysis throughout DHS should be addressed on a continuing basis. Decision support requires the ready availability of such resources, to ensure that specific risk assessments are carried out according to the appropriate guidelines and their results are clear to risk managers. Such a staff would also be responsible for the development and periodic revision of risk analysis guidelines. As DHS expands its commitment to risk analysis, personnel who are up to date on scientifically grounded methods for carrying out such analyses will be increasingly in demand. In the course of its study, the committee saw little evidence of DHS being aware of the full range of state-of-the art risk analysis and decision support tools, including those designed specifically to deal with deep uncertainty. Recruitment of additional personnel is clearly needed, and continuing education for personnel currently in DHS and working for contractors and personnel exchange programs between DHS and other stakeholders are also paths that should be followed.
To fully develop its capabilities for making strong risk-based decisions, DHS is critically dependent on staff with a good understanding of the principles of risk analysis who are thoughtful about how to improve DHS processes. DHS needs more such people; the lessons provided by the experience of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and similar risk-informed agencies are instructive. At present, DHS is heavily dependent on private contractors, academic institutions, and government laboratories for the development, testing, and use of models; acquisition of data for incorporation into models; interpretation of results of modeling efforts; and preparation of risk analyses. While there are advantages in relying on external expertise that is not available within DHS, in-house specialists should be fully aware of the technical content of such work. In particular, they need to ensure the scientific integrity of the approaches and understand the uncertainties of the results that are associated with risk models and the products of these models. Contractor support will remain essential, but the direction of such work should be under the tight control of in-house staff. In-house staff would also provide the linkages with other agencies that are so critical to success and ensure that these interagency efforts are scientifically coordinated and appropriately targeted.
To truly become a risk-informed organization, DHS needs a long-term effort in recruiting and retaining people with strong expertise of relevance to the multidisciplinary field of risk management along with programs designed to build up a risk-aware culture. For example, there are pitfalls in the use of risk analysis tools (Cox, 2008). Sometimes they are minor, but other times they might invalidate the results. DHS needs some deep knowledge in risk analysis to guard against misapplication of tools and data and to ensure that its risk analysis produces valid information. The need to build up a risk-aware culture might very well extend to taking responsibility for training DHS partners in states, localities, tribal areas, territories, and owners and operators of Critical Infrastructure and Key Resources (CIKR) assets.