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USC Center to Study Terror

November 25, 2003|Stuart Silverstein | Times Staff Writer

USC will serve as a key national center for research into potential targets of terrorism and approaches to minimize terror's effects, under a $12-million federal grant to be announced today.

The agreement makes USC the first university in the nation named by the federal government as a Homeland Security Center of Excellence. Such centers are envisioned as multi-disciplinary research centers that will tap the expertise of academics in evaluating security risks.

USC's facility will emphasize research on threats to electrical power plants, transportation and telecommunication systems and other infrastructure components. It will be known as the Homeland Security Center for Risk and Economic Analysis of Terrorism Events.

Heading the center will be Randolph Hall, a USC professor of industrial and systems engineering who has expertise in transportation issues, and Detlof von Winterfeldt, the deputy dean of USC's School of Policy, Planning and Development and an expert in decision and risk analysis.

They will be joined by other specialists at USC and more from UC Berkeley, New York University and the University of Wisconsin-Madison with expertise in such other areas as economics and computer system security. "No one discipline has all the knowledge to solve this problem," Hall said.

USC's proposal for the center emphasized the campus' existing strengths in research related to natural disasters, system safety and nuclear threats.

In a prepared statement, USC President Steven B. Sample called the center "a perfect fit for our strengths in engineering and policy research, as well as our focus on interdisciplinary research and national service."

Charles McQueary, the undersecretary for science and technology with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, said in a news release that officials are confident that the center "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."

Negotiations are underway to complete the details of USC's three-year, $12-million federal grant, which also calls for the university to offer master's degree and certificate programs in security-related fields.

The USC proposal was one of 72 bids from across the country for the first such academic center. Federal officials plan to establish as many as nine more centers to focus on areas such as biological and agricultural terrorism and the behavioral issues related to terrorism.

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