The U.S. Department of Homeland Security awarded USC’s National Center for Risk and Economic Analysis of Terrorism Events a $15.3 million grant to continue its anti-terrorism research and study natural disasters.
The center received the prize because of its success in finding cost-efficient ways to lower the probability and mitigate the ramifications of terrorism, according to CREATE Director Stephen Hora.
CREATE entered a nationwide competition this fall against several other university anti-terror research centers and was one of 12 to receive a government grant.
CREATE actually has less money, however, to work with from this grant, according to Adam Rose, CREATE Coordinator for Economics.
“Typically, we got $5 million a year,” Rose said.
The $15.3 million is a five-year grant, leaving CREATE with less money per year than before. Rose said this shortage was because of significant budget cuts in the Department of Homeland Security.
Hora said the organization plans to use the money to continue its research in economic and risk analysis.
“We must find better ways to estimate risks of terror and allocate resources to prevent or curtail terrorists,” Hora said.
CREATE, composed mainly of graduate students, professors and experts from the USC Viterbi School of Engineering and the USC School of Policy, Planning, and Development, earned the grant because of several successful projects, Hora said.
One of the most notable was a defense system that saved airports $35 billion.
“Terrorists have these shoulder-launched missiles that can bring down airplanes,” Hora said.
Because the missiles are less accurate at longer ranges, CREATE’s solution was to expand the perimeter of the airport so that when airplanes are exposed they are higher in the sky, thus making them more difficult targets.
Isaac Maya, director of research for CREATE, helped pioneer Game-Theoretic Unpredictable and Randomly Deployed Security — another signature project concerned with deterring terrorists.
“Terrorists are adaptive adversaries that see what you’re doing and adopt strategies to attack you,” Maya said.
GUARDS counters terrorist threats by launching software containing specially designed algorithms to make patrols and Transportation Security Administration searches unpredictable enough so that terrorists are caught off-guard.
Another requirement of the grant was that recipients expand research to cover natural disasters as well as terrorism.
Rose said the organization plans to analyze the direct and indirect consequences of natural catastrophes like earthquakes and hurricanes.
He also seeks to analyze the behavior of people affected by biological contamination and discover methods to bolster the public’s resilience. Examples include having back-up electricity generators or promoting programs that allow private businesses to help troubled businesses relocate after a natural or man-made disaster.
“The key is to take the burden off the government and respond with the private sector,” Rose said.
CREATE was founded by Randolph Hall and Detloff von Winterfeldt in 2004. According to Hall, after competing against 72 universities that year, USC became the first Department of Homeland Security University Center of Excellence.
The interaction between USC faculty and students has proven to be a valuable asset toward finding ways to make the world more peaceful, Hall said.
CREATE plans to develop 26 new homeland security courses for students at USC. In the past, students working with CREATE have earned excellent positions in the Department of Homeland Security, Rose said.
“We have always had the goal to take an imaginative approach toward understanding terrorism so that we can better anticipate future risks and help the nation and the world become safer places,” Hall said.