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Improving Risk-Based Decision Making for Terrorism Applications


*Address correspondence to Louis Anthony (Tony) Cox, Jr., Cox Associates and University of Colorado; tel: 303-388-1778; fax: 303-388-0609;


How can we best allocate limited defensive resources to reduce terrorism risks? Dillon et al.'s Antiterrorism Risk-Based Decision Aid (ARDA) system provides a useful point of departure for addressing this crucial question by exhibiting a real-world system that calculates risk reduction scores for different portfolios of risk-reducing countermeasures and using them to rank-order different possible risk mitigation alternatives for Navy facilities. This comment points out some potential limitations of any scoring system that does not take into account risk externalities, interdependencies among threats, uncertainties that are correlated across targets, and attacker responses to alternative allocations of defensive resources. In at least some simple situations, allocations based on risk reduction scores and comparisons can inadvertently increase risks by providing intelligent attackers with valuable information, or they can fail to reduce risks as effectively as nonscoring, optimization-based approaches. These limitations of present scoring methods present exciting technical challenges and opportunities for risk analysts to develop improved methods for protecting facilities and infrastructure against terrorist threats.