Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

December 9, 2011

Summary of the Strategic National Risk Assessment

Filed under: Intelligence and Info-Sharing,Preparedness and Response — by Christopher Bellavita on December 9, 2011

The Strategic National Risk Assessment was written to support the National Preparedness Goal.  You can download an unclassified summary of the National Risk Assessment at this link. (Thank you to the person who sent me the link.)

The seven page summary includes these sections:

  1. Overview
  2. Strategic National Risk Assessment Scope
  3. Overarching Themes to an All-Hazards Approach
  4. Analytic Approach
  5. Limitations
  6. Impacts and Future Uses
  7. Conclusion

Here is an excerpt from the Overview:

The Strategic National Risk Assessment (SNRA) was executed in support of Presidential Policy Directive 8 (PPD-8), which calls for creation of a National Preparedness Goal, a National Preparedness System, and a National Preparedness Report.

Specifically, national preparedness is to be based on core capabilities that support “strengthening the security and resilience of the United States through systematic preparation for the threats that pose the greatest risk to the security of the Nation, including acts of terrorism, cyber attacks, pandemics, and catastrophic natural disasters.”

… The assessment was used:

  • To identify high risk factors that supported development of the core capabilities and capability targets in the National Preparedness Goal;
  • To support the development of collaborative thinking about strategic needs across prevention, protection, mitigation, response, and recovery requirements, and;
  • To promote the ability for all levels of Government to share common understanding and awareness of National threats and hazards and resulting risks so that they are ready to act and can do so independently but collaboratively.

The subsequent pages provide an overview of the unclassified findings and the analytic approach used to conduct the SNRA. It should be emphasized, however, that although the initial version of the SNRA is a significant step toward the establishment of a new homeland security risk baseline, it contains data limitations and assumptions that will require additional study, review, and revision as the National Preparedness System is developed. These limitations are discussed below, and future iterations of the assessment are expected to reflect an enhanced methodology and improved data sets.

Below is a chart (taken from the Assessment) that summarizes:

… a series of national-level events with the potential to test the Nation’s preparedness….

For the purposes of the assessment, DHS identified thresholds of consequence necessary to create a national-level event. These thresholds were informed by subject matter expertise and available data. For some events, economic consequences were used as thresholds, while for others, fatalities or injuries/illnesses were deemed more appropriate as the threshold to determine a national-level incident.  In no case, however, were economic and casualty thresholds treated as equivalent to one another (i.e., dollar values were not assigned to fatalities). Event descriptions in [the table below] that do not explicitly identify a threshold signify that no minimum consequence threshold was employed. This allows the assessment to include events for which the psychological impact of an event could cause it to become a national-level event even though it may result in a low number of casualties or a small economic loss. Only events that have a distinct beginning and end and those with an explicit nexus to homeland security missions were included.

This approach excluded:

  • Chronic societal concerns, such as immigration and border violations, and those that are generally not related to homeland security national preparedness, such as cancer or car accidents, and;
  • Political, economic, environmental, and societal trends that may contribute to a changing risk environment but are not explicitly homeland security national-level events (e.g., demographic shifts, economic trends).

These trends will be important to include in future iterations of a national risk assessment, however.

If you have questions or comments about this initial effort to share the results of the national risk assessments, please let me know (in the comments section of this post) and I will ask around for answers.

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8 Comments »

Comment by John Comiskey

December 10, 2011 @ 8:56 am

Chris,
I sense that the Obama administration is defining homeland security as:

1. Identifying risks to the homeland;
2. Assessing what risks the nation will prepare for; 3. Assessing how to best prepare for risks;
4 “Being resilient.”

O said we should be able to “absorb” an attack: probably not a political gainsay. BTW, I agree with O on this point. While an National Resilience Goal sounds corny,[IMHO] it should be an integral part of the National Preparedness System.

Yet, I am growing impatient with the O administration’s seemingly ad hoc approach to the National Preparedness System:

It should be emphasized, however, that although the initial version of the SNRA is a significant step toward the establishment of a new homeland security risk baseline, it contains data limitations and assumptions that will require additional study, review, and revision as the National Preparedness System is developed.

Will we have to wait for O’s second term or a new administration for a National Preparedness System.?

RE: Representatives from the offices of the Director of National Intelligence and the Attorney General, as well as other members of the Federal interagency, supported this effort.

Who are the “other” members of the Federal interagency and where are the locals?:
Representatives from the offices of the Director of National Intelligence and the Attorney General, as well as other members of the Federal interagency, supported this effort.

You and others have raised the question: What is homeland security? Most recently, I have been asked that question by non-homeland security academics. Most equate HLS with terrorism and were surprised by my attempt at a broader definition that included a collaborative multidisciplinary initiative to prevent, mitigate, communicate, respond to and recover from “all-hazards.” All-hazards was broadly defined as intentional threats (crime, terrorism, 21st century war), natural threats (storms, hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes, others), and accidental threats (nuclear [e.g.]Japan 2010], industrial [eg. DWH 2010]).

I sense that my HLS definition is in synch with Os.
You have said that HLS is in a pre-paradigm stage. I agree and sense that the National Preparedness System is a leap toward a HLS paradigm.

Comment by Claire B. Rubin

December 10, 2011 @ 9:12 am

I think it is too bad more could not be said about natural hazards. Seems to me more information about risk from such hazards could have been revealed without affecting national security.

Comment by Alan Wolfe

December 12, 2011 @ 10:32 am

So I’m wondering how many future annual National Level Exercises are going to address natural threats/hazards and/or technological threats/hazards? Or are we going to continue to overly obsess over the very low probability events in the adversarial/human-caused category?

Comment by William R. Cumming

December 12, 2011 @ 6:43 pm

Is it just me or is the absence of regulated entities and systems and processes ignoring the likely major targets? I note that this AM papers indicate Newt Gringrich long interest in an EMP attack. Should that have made the assessment?

Comment by Alan Wolfe

December 12, 2011 @ 8:17 pm

“I note that this AM papers indicate Newt Gringrich long interest in an EMP attack. Should that have made the assessment?”

NO. This has been another edition to simple answers to simple questions.

Pingback by Summary of the Strategic National Risk Assessment | #UASI

December 13, 2011 @ 5:19 am

[...] the HLSwatch.com [...]

Comment by Greg Brunelle

December 13, 2011 @ 10:18 pm

To John C’s point, it was interesting to see what they excluded up front as I thought perhaps we were seeing a refinement of the definition of HS but then on page 6 they reintroduce the broadest definition of HS by including “steady state” threats (e.g. economics, border/immigration, etc). I agree that the ‘steady state’ issues need to be included in the definition of HS. Perhaps there are two definitions to HS: an inner “core” HS circle (Contingency Events) and an “outer” peripheral circle (“Steady-state” threats) (inner planets and outer planets in the solar system of HS).

Regarding the contingency events they identified:

I disagree that the detonation of a fissible device requires targeting of a “major population center” to be a national level event. If a terror group detonates a nuclear device in a remote part of the nation, destroying only purple waves of amber grain, it would still have national implications and require a national response.

I don’t believe the threshold at a nuclear power plant should require “reactor core damage”. The release of radioactive steam from the plant, even if the reactor shuts down safely and the core is undamaged, would require a significant federal response and have implications nationally (including other metrics mentioned in the tools such as displacment, economic loss).

It was interesting that so soon after the mega-outbreak of tornadoes earlier this year that tornado events were only given passing mention at the end.

I look forward to seeing the classified version of the report.

Pingback by Military Climate Strategy Vital, Not Political Chicken Game

May 28, 2014 @ 10:10 pm

[...] The projected impacts of climate change should be integrated fully into Homeland Security’s National Infrastructure Protection Plan and Strategic National Risk Assessment. [...]

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