An ISI team working under the auspices of the Department
of Homeland Security-funded Center for Risk and
Economic Analysis of Terrorism Events (CREATE) is creating
that will speed and help make more consistent
the difficult task of quantifying risk estimates to guide
Information Sciences Institute project leader Michael Orosz
is leading the team working
on the tool, called Risk Analysis Workbench, or RAW, which
will ultimately be used at all eight DHS research centers, not
just CREATE, which is located at the University of Southern
California. ISI is part of the USC Viterbi School of
Engineering, which also is co-host of CREATE.
The project brings together longstanding ISI strengths in
resources, information sharing and artificial intelligence to
the task of gathering and distributing the specific data
necessary to perform the tree analyses and other problems
of "what-if" risk analysis in a speedy and -- above all -- in a
ISI insights and inventions around the
"semantic web," -- systematic structuring of database
make it more accessible over the Internet -- are a major
part of the system, which is also incorporating efforts by
ISI's Robert Neches and Tatiana Kichkaylo.
RAW grows directly out of work by CREATE director Detlof
von Winterfeldt, a professor in the Viterbi School department
of industrial and systems engineering with a distinguished
career stretching back decades in the field of risk
In an interview, Von Winterfeldt illustrated the way that the
by pointing to a specific CREATE study he himself completed,
about the dangers posed by a small, man-portable anti-
aircraft rockets being used to bring down a passenger
airline, tracking consequences out a "decision trees" of
alternate possibilities to evaluate costs and benefits.
The estimate for the cost of installing countermeasures,
Winterfeldt says, is about $30 billion for the air fleet, which
at first sight seemed completely out of line with the damage
that an attack would cause. But tracking out the decision
trees, more and more costs appeared growing out of a
successful attack, widening impacts.
The bottom line of the study was that the installation of the
defenses would be cost effective if three conditions prevail:
1) the probability of a MANPADS attack is greater than 40
percent over 10 years; 2) the economic losses are very
large (greater than $75 billion); and 3) the countermeasures
are relatively inexpensive (less than $15 billion) to
This analysis by Von Winterfeldt was a widely admired
achievement of CREATE's first years - but the intensity of
effort required to reach the conclusions raised an obvious
question. Risk assessments have historically been what the
British call "one-off" cases &ndash isolated single efforts attacking
a single problem.
But the wide needs of Homeland Security in many areas for
parallel products has led to the RAW effort, an integrated,
generalized toolbox designed to be used by risk analysts all
over the nation, at all the centers, in a standardized but
RAW is still in development. The current version is RAW 2.0,
which according to Orosz will be distributed in July an 'alpha'
or research version, rather than a "beta" - ready for trial use
in the field.
As an example problem, the ISI team is now working to
integrate into RAW risk analysis resources used in foot and
mouth disease research being undertaken at one of the
other centers, the Center for Foreign Animal and Zoonotic
Disease Defense, (FAZD), located in Texas, and will be
reaching out to the other 6 centers for subject matter.
The system, says Orosz, "it is designed so that you don't
have to be a computer scientist to use it."
Orosz hopes to distribute a beta version of RAW later this