Doug Bedell — August 24, 2007, 11:07 am

Costs Worth Preventing

The costs of security hindsight can be enormous, amply justifying far smaller expenditures made in foresight.

An example is a new University of Southern California report on the most likely outcome of another terrorist attack on U.S. commercial aviation – costs of as much as $420 billion.

The report, “The Economic Impacts of a Terrorist Attack on the U.S. Commercial Aviation System,” was done by four scientists at the University of Southern California Center for Risk and Economic Analysis of Terrorism Events, and appears in Risk Analysis a journal published by the McLean, Va.-based Society for Risk Analysis.

It’s premised on a a week-long shutdown of the entire U.S. aviation industry following an attack and a two-year recovery period. The initial shutdown would be three days longer than the one after 9/11 to allow, in part, for “a search of areas surrounding airports and installation of stronger protective and security services at or near air port perimeters.”

Why not, the report suggests, take those protective measures beforehand? “These estimates…suggest that the high costs of effective countermeasures may be justified,” the report states.

The same sort of starkly realistic thinking about the consequences of attacks applies to all sorts of sensitive facilities, public and private.

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