A Department of Homeland Security Center of Excellence led by the University of Maryland

A consortium of researchers dedicated to improving the understanding of the human causes and consequences of terrorism

Center of Excellence collaboration examines critical infrastructure


Center of Excellence collaboration examines critical infrastructure

START and CIRI team up to evaluate vulnerabilities and threats

September 7, 2016Jessica Rivinius

Two Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Centers of Excellence recently teamed up with DHS for a workshop to examine terrorist threats to critical infrastructure, as well as potential responses to those threats. The National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) hosted researchers from the Critical Infrastructure Resilience Institute (CIRI) and practitioners in a daylong effort to identify the vulnerabilities of critical infrastructure and discuss research that can assist decision makers as they build protection and recovery plans.

“While the public often focuses on the threats to human life that terrorism poses, there are also key threats to critical infrastructures,” said Amy Pate, START research director. “Many extremists target infrastructure as frequently, or even more frequently, than they target people. Furthermore, when critical infrastructures are attacked, the resulting damage can have significant economic and social impact.”

Erin Miller, the program manager for START’s Global Terrorism Database (GTD), kicked off the workshop by detailing historical patterns of attacks on critical infrastructure in the United States. John Villasenor, a UCLA-based CIRI researcher, spoke about his research into implicit interactions that occur within critical infrastructure systems. David Nichol, the chief scientist for CIRI, led a discussion detailing risk assessments for cyber access to critical infrastructures. Gina Ligon, a START researcher at the University of Nebraska Omaha, then addressed current and potential public-private partnerships that could aid in protecting critical infrastructure.

“We at START were appreciative for this opportunity to collaborate with our sister Center of Excellence, CIRI,” Pate said. “CIRI’s research portfolio is particularly strong in cyber aspects of threats to and resilience of critical infrastructures, which was a good complement to the focus of the GTD study on physical threats.”

The workshop was funded by the DHS Science and Technology Directorate Office of University Programs.