September 8, 2006

A Framework for Evaluating Counterterrorism Regulations

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Many analysts and decision makers have called on government to prioritize security initiatives based on risk assessment and cost effectiveness. Few, however, have explained why a comprehensive regulatory analysis framework is necessary to accomplish this. In this paper, we present a six-element regulatory analysis framework for such regulations.

  • IDENTIFY THE DESIRED OUTCOMES. If government does not specify the desired outcomes, then there are no concrete goals to guide action. Outcomes defined in terms of risk reduction and damage mitigation provide realistic benchmarks that measure the real benefits citizens receive from counterterrorism regulations.
  • ASSESS EVIDENCE OF MARKET FAILURE. Understanding the specific reasons that private action is insufficient and government action is necessary helps decision makers identify why people and assets are at risk. If we know why people and assets are at risk, we can better craft solutions that actually stand a chance of protecting them.
  • IDENTIFY THE UNIQUELY FEDERAL ROLE. Multiple levels of government, businesses, civil society, and individuals all have security responsibilities. To ensure that the most critical jobs get done, each should focus on what it is uniquely situated to do.
  • ASSESS EFFECTIVENESS OF ALTERNATIVE APPROACHES. Different regulations can accomplish the same or similar goals with vastly different levels of effectiveness. Regulators and legislators should seek the most effective means of accomplishing the goal.
  • IDENTIFY COSTS. Adopting a regulation directs government and private resources in one way instead of another. Decision makers should be conscious of the foregone benefits, or "opportunity costs," associated with each alternative.
  • COMPARE COSTS WITH OUTCOMES. Some security regulations will sacrifice other values identified with the American way of life. Government owes citizens a transparent accounting of how much the sacrifice of such values improves security and at what cost.