Magazine article National Defense

A Domestic Counterterrorism Agency? It's a Numbers Game

Magazine article National Defense

A Domestic Counterterrorism Agency? It's a Numbers Game

Article excerpt

* The question of whether to create a standalone domestic intelligence agency for counter-terrorism comes down to some cold, hard math, said The Rand Corp. in a recent study.

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Members of Congress are asking if it is in the nation's best interest to create a dedicated agency that would be responsible for ferreting out terrorists. This hypothetical agency would operate independently from the FBI, CIA, National Counterterrorism Center and the thousands of state and local law enforcement agencies that should be on the lookout for homegrown plots.

The Department of Homeland Security, at Congress' behest, commissioned Rand to look at the pros and cons of creating such an agency. The result was a research brief, "Should the United States Establish a Dedicated Domestic Intelligence Agency for Counter-Terrorism?"

It's all in the numbers, the report's authors said.

Lawmakers reading the report will not find any straight-ahead pro and con arguments, though. And they had better understand the somewhat complicated discipline of risk analysis.

The cost of setting up such an agency would vary depending if it were truly a standalone organization or an "agency within and agency" like the FBI's national security branch.

That must be measured against the reduction in the amount of risk a domestic counterintelligence agency would achieve.

Annual losses for the 9/11 attacks were estimated at $1 billion to $10 billion per year. If a new agency were to cost $500 million per year to operate, and the annual risk was assumed to be $1 billion, then for the nation to "break even" on the deal, it would have to reduce the nation's risk of terrorism by 50 percent. …

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