Research Areas

Risk Assessment

Risk Perception and Communication

Economic Assessment

Risk Management/Operations Research

About Us

University of Southern California
3710 McClintock Ave., RTH 313
Los Angeles, CA 90089-2902
Tel:  213-740-3863
Email:  create@usc.edu 
Website:  http://create.usc.edu/

CREATE Factsheet


Detlof von Winterfeldt - Center Director

Heather Rosoff - Associate Director of Research

Gisele Ragusa - Director of Education

Project Search

Center for Risk and Economic Analysis of Terrorism Events

The National Center for Risk and Economic Analysis of Terrorism Events (CREATE) is based at the University of Southern California and is focused on risk and economic analysis. CREATE's mission is to improve our Nation's security through the development of advanced models and tools for the evaluation of the risks, costs and consequences of terrorism and to guide economically viable investments in homeland security.

Center Activity

Research Project Spotlight:

The CREATE Economic Consequences Analysis Tool (E-CAT) is intended for policymakers and analysts who need quick estimates of the economic impact of threats listed in the Homeland Security National Risk Characterization (HSNRC) Register. It provides estimates of the impact of these threats on US gross domestic product and employment.It is programmed in Excel and Visual Basic in order to facilitate its use.


Originally developed for the Los Angeles Police at LAX, several government agencies are now using customized versions of ARMOR to thwart adversaries and maximize security resources. ARMOR randomizes security schedules and plans, making it difficult for adversaries to plan how to avoid security forces when plotting illegal activities.
DPS DEPLOY  is a real time decision support tool for improving security of the University of Southern California campus and the adjacent community. The system takes as input historical DPS crime data and generates a set of customized risk heat maps.
PORTSEC helps Los Angeles and Long Beach port security officers and analysts perform risk assessments and resource allocation analyses in order to optimally balance security activities and countermeasures, business continuity and daily port activities. The PortSec software analyzes facts and figures about a port’s layout and operations, anticipated attack vectors and methods, and cost of specific countermeasures. PortSec takes into account vulnerabilities, threats and potential resource allocations, and assesses them against consequences and costs.

CREATE Year 11 Project 1-Sentence Descriptions

Project 1.1       Anthony Barrett, Extending Analysis of Current and Future Catastrophic Risks from Emerging-Threat Technologies

The main objectives of the project are to further develop and apply the methodology developed in the first-year project, by (a) increasing the scope of expert elicitation based modeling, (b) performing larger-scale literature synthesis-based modeling and empirical data gathering independent of elicitations, and (c) comparing literature-synthesis and elicitation-based models.  The research will build on the methodology of the first-year project, which provides means to identify ways in which catastrophic terrorist attacks or accidents could occur with new technological developments, to estimate risks, to assess tradeoffs of options, and to update assessments.  The project's methodology will be designed for implementation by risk practitioners.

Project 1.2       Vicki Bier, Assessment of Terrorist Threats to Transportation Security Using Probabilistic Inversion

This project will apply a state-of-the-art expert elicitation method, probabilistic inversion, to quantify weights or likelihoods for various terrorist threats. We plan to identify a case study (e.g., involving transportation security), enumerate a list of potential threats relevant to that case study, and test the method with experts in the unclassified domain. We will also conduct research on the appropriate number and mixture of experts.

Project 1.3       Lance Fiondella, Mitigating the Impact of Transportation Network Disruptions on Evacuation

This project will develop methods to assess the impact of disruptions to the ground transportation network on evacuation planning. The results will be implemented for integration into SUMMIT (Standard Unified Modeling, Mapping, and Integration Toolkit), a decision support tool sponsored by the United States Department of Homeland Security to confront the National Planning Scenarios.

Project 1.4       Richard John and Heather Rosoff, Deterring Adaptive Adversaries: Multi-Attribute Utility (MAU) Analysis, Decision Trees and Value of Misinformation for Informing Cyber Security

This project will advance our pioneering approaching to adversary preference modeling (APM) by applying value-focused thinking (VFT) and multi-attribute utility (MAU) methodologies with attacker-defender decision trees and value of misinformation analysis to the study of a range of deterrent strategies within the cybersphere.

Project 1.5       Michael Orosz, Daniel Salazar, Samrat Chatterjee, Development of Big Data Analytics for Infrastructure System Security

This project will identify and apply data-driven statistical learning methods to detect security-related anomalies and events affecting operations at a seaport (with a focus on generalizing the technology where possible). Real-time spatiotemporal maritime vessel tracking data will be analyzed to define system performance under "normal" operations and mathematical models will be developed to detect when "abnormal or unusual" operational patterns are recorded.

Project 1.6       Detlof von Winterfeldt, Spatially Layered Defenses Against Terrorism Using Decision and Risk Analysis, Phase II

This project will use advanced risk and decision analysis models to design, analyze, and evaluate counter-terrorism strategies that use multiple layers of defenses, for example in nuclear and radiological detection, border control and in the detection and response to biological attacks. The new models will be applied to improve the design of the GNDA architecture for detection and interdiction of nuclear and radiological materials (see the figure below from DHS). The models will also be generalized to apply to other contexts including layered customs and border protection (CBP) and detection of conventional weapons (IDA).

Project 1.7       Jun Zhuang, Validating Models of Adversary Behavior

This project will help transition models of adversary behavior, demonstrate their validity and applicability to real-world problems by bridging theoretical and empirical bodies of research in adversarial modeling, and develop policy insights for the end users.

Project 1.8       Ali Abbas, Isaac Maya, Nathaniel Heatwole and Henry Willis, CBP Border Security Metrics Study

The objective of this project is to provide expert advice on options CBP should consider for developing a small set of strategic measures that address core concerns and issues.

Theme 2       Risk Perception and Communication

Project 2.1       William Burns and Paul Slovic, Modeling the Dynamics of Risk Perception and Fear: Examining Amplifying Mechanisms and Their Consequences

This project uses system-dynamics and agent-based modeling to understand how the public responds to different types of disasters, and how these reactions lead to social and economic ripple effects. Data from hypothetical scenarios as well as the longitudinal tracking of response to actual events are used to estimate response functions and explore emergent behavior. In addition, a field experiment is proposed in which the efficacy of different risk-communication strategies are tested. The end goal is to understand how people respond to a wide array of hazards, and to advise risk managers on how they might anticipate and respond to such public reaction.

Project 2.2       William Burns, Paul Slovic and Daniel Salazar, Examining the Potential of Using Twitter Data to Study Public Response to Terrorist Threats

This project studies the use of social media in connection to homeland security as (i) an instrument to gauge public sentiment and mood with respect to disastrous events, and (ii) a proxy for changes in economic and societal activities related to such events. Twitter data will be used to understand public sentiment and mood with respect to the attacks on Boston, and to compare these findings with survey data that tracked public response in the months following the attacks. A content analysis of Twitter data in the month prior to the Boston attacks and over a six-month period following the Boston attacks will be used to understand public perceptions of risk, emotional reactions and behavioral intentions with respect to the threat of terrorism. A comparison will be made to what was learned about public reaction using longitudinal survey data that we have collected from a nationwide sample. The end goal is to understand how people respond to a wide array of hazards, and to advise risk managers on how they might anticipate and respond to such public reaction.

Project 2.3       Robin Dillon-Merrill, Risk Perception and Communication: Near-Misses and Risk Inoculation

This project will continue on-going work that is collaborative with other CREATE researchers including William Burns, Richard John, Heather Rosoff, Paul Slovic, and Timothy Sellnow. As described in past project research summaries, we have been developing models that explain how people interpret near-miss events where near-miss events can include incidents of terrorism, natural disasters, and man-made accidents. This research focuses on examining near-misses as possible risk inoculation messages, examining behavioral economic impacts of near-miss events with and without risk messaging, and conducting public and decision-maker risk perception surveys and impact of inoculation/near-miss messages. One output of this work will be recommendations for modeling the economic consequences of near-miss events in contrast to the modeling of successful attacks or natural disasters as is traditionally done. We will specifically focus on a range of FEMA and TSA scenarios and threat vectors. This research will provide new knowledge to help DHS' risk communication efforts around near-miss events and risk inoculation and to help the economic modeling efforts of CREATE.

Project 2.4       Timothy Sellnow, Inoculation Strategies for Risk Communication Messaging

This project identifies inoculation strategies in formal and interpersonal communication that can help maintain and regain consumer confidence in the wake of terrorism events.  This study will: (a) provide an assessment of current best practices for pre-crisis communication, (b) test the effectiveness of inoculation messages in general, particularly when interpersonal communication is involved, (c) provide a case analysis of interpersonal exchanges on Twitter to determine their potential function as inoculation messages, and (d) produce the basis for ultimately developing a "playbook" of message strategies that can be taught to and applied by practitioners, particularly at government agencies, as they plan for and respond to crises.

Theme 3       Economics Analysis

Project 3.1       Peter Dixon, Reduced Form CGE Models for the Economic Analysis of Terrorism Events

The project will create reduced form versions of the models and applications developed under our FY2014 project, and transfer these to DHS staff via training programs and user-friendly modelling packages.  The research will have two objectives. The first objective is transition. We will equip in-house policy analysts at DHS with user-friendly reduced-form versions of CGE models that can be readily turned to the analysis of the economic consequences of a wide range of threat scenarios. This will involve: (i) development of standardized reduced-form versions of the models; (ii) development of user-friendly computer interfaces that abstract from the need for users to have expert programming or economic modelling skills; (iii) creation, within the reduced form models, of scenarios describing the FY2014 terrorism applications; (iv) creation of training materials for DHS staff; and (v) training courses for DHS staff in the use of the reduced-form models and associated software. The second objective is policy-focused research. In developing (iii) above, we will collaborate with DHS researchers in investigating the economic consequences of selected threat scenarios that are of policy concern to DHS. We would aim to write joint-authored research publications from this work.

Project 3.2       Scott Farrow, Towards an Economic Behavioral Science Approach to Cyber Security

This project synthesizes risks and consequences identified in cyber security implementation guidance with existing or slightly modified micro-economic models to provide a new level of detail that does not appear in the literature.  This synthesis will establish a scientific foundation for further quantitative estimation and monetization.  The more detailed structure will assist in identifying sources of appropriate data to parameterize the models to inform regulatory and strategic and tactical decision-making.

Project 3.3       Howard Kunreuther and Erwann Michel-Kerjan, Enhancing Post-Disaster Economic Recovery: How Improved Flood Insurance Mechanisms Can Help

The proposed studies build on ongoing research with CREATE on flood risk insurance in the US that will be conducted in close collaboration with the top management of FEMA at the US Department of Homeland Security. Floods are the one natural disaster where the federal government currently plays a major role in designing and implementing strategies for reducing future losses and aiding financial recovery through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).

Project 3.4       Adam Rose, Economic Consequences of Terrorism

This project will specifically address direction from and collaboration with Federal Coordinating Committee (FCC) members and agencies.  This project will continue to enhance, broaden and transition the CREATE Economic Consequence Analysis Framework.  It will place a greater emphasis on transforming CREATE's sophisticated/high performance computing CGE models to "reduced form" regression equations that can readily be used in-house by DHS staff, beginning with the Office of Policy / Strategy, Planning, Analysis and Risk (SPAR).  CREATE will continue to explore refinements of the framework to application to cyber threats, and will work with DHS to develop a CREATE capability in Security Economics more broadly.

Project 3.5       Adam Rose and Isaac Maya, CBP US Virgin Islands Study

CREATE will conduct an independent assessment of US Customs Officers Pre-Departure Inspection at the US Virgin Islands (USVI), with the goal of quantifying the economic impact of the CBP presence in the USVI. The research questions to be addressed include 1) To what extent do the US Customs Officers pre-departure inspections effect individuals travel decisions? and 2) What impact would a decrease in US Customs Officers pre-departure inspection have on the USVI economy?

Theme 4    Risk Management/Operations Research

Project 4.1       Henry Willis, Using Risk Analysis to Assess the Value of Improved Biosurveillance

This project will develop risk and decision analysis tools to help DHS evaluate the strategic value of enhanced biosurveillance information and analysis to improve decisions about whether and how to respond to detection of a possible biological event of national concern.

Project 4.2       Milind Tambe, Game Theory for Security: Large-Scale Data-Driven Approaches

This study will develop a tool that can be used to assess the implications of strategies to enhance biosurveillance and to improve decisions about whether and how to act after detection of a biosurveillance signal during a bioterrorism event.

Project 4.3       William Burns, Robin Dillon-Merrill, Richard John and Milind Tambe, TSA Dynamic Aviation Risk Management System (DARMS): A Proof of Concept Study Incorporating Game Theory and Multi-Attribute Utility

The goal of this study is to compare flight-by-flight security in quantitative terms relative to non-flight-by-flight operations using a game theoretic model. We will illustrate how this quantitative benefit is impacted by different environmental conditions. There are three main questions that need to be addressed to appropriately manage risk in a cost effective manner consistent with desired risk tolerances:

1.How to articulate the fundamental objectives that lead to an understanding of consequences the TSA (and other stakeholders) cares about?  For example, security is of critical and unquestionable importance, but so are operational efficiency, industry vitality, the potential economic impacts of a terrorist attack on an airline and perhaps passenger experience.

2.How to address the complex interaction between an adaptive adversary and the countermeasures implemented by DARMS? It is recognized that adversaries will seek to adapt to different security postures in place throughout the aviation system. This dynamic relationship leads to a dynamic dependency between threat and vulnerability. Risk calculations need to take this into account.

3.How to determine whether a DARMS-based, flight-by-flight risk management approach achieves greater security efficiencies than the current approach?

Project 4.4       Vicki Bier, Improving Evacuation Strategies through Adaptive Planning

This project will apply the idea of adaptive protective-action zones to improve the methods used for emergency planning in response to chemical, biological, and other attacks, to take advantage of modern technologies for dispersion modeling, geographic information systems, and real-time mobile communications.

Project 4.5       Hugh Medal, Efficient Resource Allocation Strategies to Mitigate Against Wildfire-Terrorism

This research will conduct a three-part pilot risk assessment consisting of: 1) a consequence assessment (CA), 2) a likelihood assessment (LA), and 3) a vulnerability assessment (VA). Specifically, this study will provide the following new analyses:

1.analysis of the consequences of wildfires with multiple-ignition sites (which is a likely case for pyro-terrorism) (CA),

2.an analysis of pyro-terrorism-related content on the internet (LA), and

3.a survey of managers' attitudes and behaviors toward pyro-terrorism (VA).

The goal of this pilot study is to educate the homeland security community about pyro-terrorism and generate interest, providing the groundwork for additional work. If this pilot study sufficiently demonstrates that pyro-terrorism is an important risk, we will propose a follow-on project, which will provide a more comprehensive risk assessment. Phase One of this follow-on work will involve creating a dataset with geo-coded consequence, likelihood, and vulnerability assessments. Phase Two will use optimization modeling to develop strategies for mitigating against pyro-terrorism.

Project 4.6       Isaac Maya, Support for DHS Risk Executive Steering Committee

This project will support the DHS Risk Executive Steering Committee by conducting two sub-projects: 1) a survey and review of similar guidance used across the US government, as well as other sources (e.g., the National Academies and various professional societies), covering areas that may be of relevance to homeland security enterprise, such as risk, economic impact, benefit-cost, decision and sensitivity analyses, and 2) a survey of the use of Technical Advisory Committees (TACs) and similar boards across US government departments and agencies, including organization, date established, how established (e.g., legislation or agency initiative), objectives/mission, scope, membership, whether subject to Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA), structure, budget, how they operate, etc.

Theme 5       Research Transition - E2E

Project 5.1       Erroll Southers, E2E Transition Pipeline

CREATE has extensively revised its E2E Research Transition pipeline to further enhance the prospects of its research efforts leading to practical applications, either within DHS governmental use or commercial applications.  CREATE has implemented research work plan tasks and milestones in all projects to enable improved monitoring and tracking of a project's transition progress, and thus is potential for transition success.  In addition, CREATE has aggressively explored transition of several on-going projects that have been identified as demonstrations of the improved processes.  Furthermore, this task has added an extensive a Professional Development Program (PDP) to enable DHS staff and other professionals to benefit from the educational opportunities afforded by CREATE's researchers.

Project 5.2       Michael Orosz and Isaac Maya, Patrol Deployment Project (DPS_DEPLOY): Adaptive Real-Time Security - Integrated Risk Assessment, Machine Learning and Adaptive Adversary Modelling for Campus Security

The purpose of this project is to develop tools and methods for risk-driven intelligence collection analysis and decision-making. CREATE has a suite of successful transition models in use in the aviation transportation and maritime domains. This research will leverage the knowledge of the stakeholders, in this case the University of Southern California (USC) Department of Public Safety (DPS) and the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) in combination with the advanced risk-based technology developed at CREATE. Law enforcement deployments in general and counterterrorism efforts specifically, address a diversity of criminal elements, some of which are adaptive in nature, in response to security countermeasures. This project proposes developing a working prototype that combines adaptive adversary, risk assessment and smart random resource allocation (game theoretic-based) components into a linked open-loop system.

Theme 6       Education and Outreach Research Project

Project 6.1       Lloyd Mitchell and Anne Garland, Working Together for A Safer Tomorrow

Working Together for A Safer Tomorrow attempts to reduce the economic impact of terror and disaster events in Tribally Inclusive Geographic Areas (TIGA), provides educational opportunities and outreach to underrepresented and rural populations, and analyzes the economic implications of FEMA's Government-to-Government' post-disaster relationships with Tribally Inclusive Geographic Areas.

Student Opportunities at CREATE

CREATE has a range of educational programs that train students and professionals in an effort to develop the next generation of homeland security leaders and enhance the knowledge of the current workforce focused on these critical issues.

A major part of CREATE's mission is to develop the next generation of leaders in risk and economic analysis for homeland security. In addition to our research projects, CREATE is developing professional capacity in the field of homeland security. The ultimate goal of these programs is to augment the number of people qualified to practice within the government or private companies to improve homeland security.

CREATE's educational program focuses on workforce development through research assistantships, university courses, master's and certificate courses, professional short courses, internships, seminars and events. 

Executive Program in Counter-Terrorism

Certificate in Homeland Security and Public Policy


Technology Transition

CREATE’s End-to-End, Engage-to-Excel, Excellence-to-Enterprise (E2E) program is intended to closely align the activities of the CREATE Center of Excellence with the needs of specific agencies in the DHS enterprise, focusing work on producing solutions for existing problems in a near- to intermediate time frame.  CREATE, which has responsibility for Risk and Decision Analysis, Economics, and Operations Research, has projects that are on the cusp of transition, and projects in earlier stages of development with the promise of transition in the future. 


Research Partners

Georgetown University
Global Catastrophic Risk Institute
Haskell Indian Nations Foundation
Mississippi State University
RAND Corporation
University of Massachusetts Dartmouth
University of Buffalo, SUNY
University of Kentucky
University of Maryland Baltimore County
University of Pennsylvania Wharton School
University of Wisconsin Madison
Victoria University


Selected Government Agencies Leveraging CREATE’s Capabilities
Department of Homeland Security:
• U.S. Coast Guard
• Transportation Security Administration
• Federal Air Marshall Service
• U.S. Customs and Border Protection
• Domestic Nuclear Detection Office
• U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement
Department of Justice
Los Angeles International Airports
Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, California
California Emergency Management Agency
Los Angeles County Sheriff ’s Department
California Department of Corrections
Joint Regional Intelligence Center
Ohio State Patrol
California Energy Commission

CREATE Resources

All resources can be found on the CREATE website.