Risk Modeling and Communication for TSA and other DHS Organizations

Principal Investigator: Robin Dillon-Merrill


The purpose of this research is to improve first the risk modeling and decision support in DHS organizations and second to support risk communication efforts for DHS after risk modeling is performed. This proposed work specifically supports efforts begun by Dr. William Burns at the TSA. Our focus will be on supporting on-going TSA efforts to strategize for a more dynamic aviation risk management approach but the knowledge and research developed at TSA has broader applicability across DHS. The goal of risk modeling is to produce results that are as objective as possible – striving to remove from risk computations the influence of preferences, risk attitudes, and judgment biases. But decisions rarely can be made based on such an ideal risk model, because decisions cannot be made without an explicit value system (e.g., such as one’s willingness to pay for the benefits). Our role in the risk modeling efforts for TSA will be to contribute to the development of utility functions and multi-attribute models that quantify trade-offs for example between security effectiveness, cost, industry vitality, and passenger experience. In the course of this research, we will provide decision and risk analysis expertise in developing metrics to quantify the needed utility functions and the corresponding trade-offs, and to strategize future dynamic risk management processes. In parallel to improving the risk modeling efforts at TSA, we will continue working to understand the influence and benefits of risk inoculating messages and near-miss events on future public actions after a significant hazardous event, again here focusing on aviation events to keep the scope of the project manageable.