University of Southern California Chosen as First Homeland Security Center for Excellence

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For Immediate ReleaseOffice of the Press SecretaryNovember 25, 2003

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is proud to announce that the University of Southern California (USC) has been chosen as the first Homeland Security Center of Excellence (HS-Center). The Department anticipates providing the University with $12 million over the course of the next three years for the study of risk analysis related to the economic consequences of terrorist threats and events. The Department of Homeland Security and the USC are now undergoing grant negotiations to formalize this partnership.  

"Secretary Ridge and I are delighted that the University of Southern California is partnering with the Department in our efforts to ensure domestic security," said Dr. Charles McQueary, Under Secretary, Science and Technology. "We are confident that the cooperative efforts of the first Homeland Security Center of Excellence will greatly enhance our ability to combat terrorism by empowering the best scientific minds at our nation's universities to tackle the challenges we face."

The first HS-Center at USC, known as the Homeland Security Center for Risk and Economic Analysis of Terrorism Events, will address both the targets and means of terrorism, with emphasis on protecting the nation's critical infrastructure systems, such as electrical power, transportation and telecommunications.  In addition, the HS-Center will develop tools for planning responses to emergencies, to minimize the threat to human lives and reduce the economic impact in the event of an attack.

The HS-Center will be headed by Dr. Randolph Hall of USC's School of Engineering, an expert in transportation, logistics, engineering and mathematical modeling and Dr. Detlof von Winterfeldt of the USC's School of Policy, Planning, and Development, an expert in risk and decision analysis, with particular interest in the application of these fields to the environment, technology, and weapons of mass destruction. They have assembled a team of experts across the country, to include partnerships with other universities such as New York University, the University of Wisconsin at Madison and the University of California at Berkeley.

"We are very excited about welcoming this first Homeland Security Center of Excellence to the University of Southern California," said Steven B. Sample, USC President. It is a perfect fit for our strengths in engineering and policy research, as well as our focus on interdisciplinary research and national service.

The HS-Center will leverage USC's expertise in natural disasters, system safety and nuclear threats. Two existing centers within USC's School of Engineering, the Integrated Media Systems Center (A National Science Foundation Engineering Research Center) and the Information Sciences Institute will also contribute research in advanced computer modeling and cybersecurity.

The HS-Center intends to deliver a strong integrated program of research, education and technology transfer that uses risk-based economic analysis to advance the nation's security. Courses and a certificate program in risk and decision analysis offered to their distant learning engineering students, development of professional workshops, fellowships and outreach to local and regional communities are just some of the examples of how USC will integrate education into the HS-Center's research activities.

The Department of Homeland Security and outside advisors reviewed more than 70 proposals to establish the first HS-Center. The Department plans to establish a number of additional HS-Centers across a spectrum of short- and long-range research and development areas, such as agro-terrorism countermeasures and behavioral research on terrorism.  In early December, the Department will release the next Broad Agency Announcement to establish HS-Centers focusing on agro-terrorism.  

"I would like to congratulate the University of Southern California for being selected as the first Homeland Security Center of Excellence," said Representative Christopher Cox (R-CA), Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee. "I share the Department's view that the USC team is uniquely qualified to enhance homeland security as a result of the depth of its talent in risk and economic analysis of major disasters, advanced computation and emergency response.  The USC Center will serve the nation's interests by providing tools and guidance to decision makers that will help prioritize counter-measures,entify areas where investments are likely to be most effective, computing relative risks associated with a potential terrorist events, and estimating the social consequences of terrorism."

The HS-Centers program, which is operated by the Department's Science and Technology division, will establish university-based centers of multi-disciplinary research where areas critical to homeland security can be analyzed, debated and shared. Through this program, the Department of Homeland Security and partner universities will bring together the nation's best experts and focus its most talented researchers on a variety of threats that include chemical, biological, nuclear and radiological, explosive and cyber terrorism.