Henry H. Willis

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Director, Homeland Security Operational Analysis Center (HSOAC) Strategy, Policy, and Operations Program; Senior Policy Researcher; Professor, Pardee RAND Graduate School
Pittsburgh Office


Ph.D. in engineering and public policy, Carnegie Mellon University; M.A. in environmental engineering and science, University of Cincinnati; B.A. in chemistry and environmental sciences, University of Pennsylvania

Media Resources

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Henry H. Willis is director of the Homeland Security Operational Analysis Center (HSOAC) Strategy, Policy, and Operations Program; a senior policy researcher at the RAND Corporation; and a professor of policy analysis at the Pardee RAND Graduate School. He is a recognized expert in homeland security risk management. Recent work analyzes terrorism warning indicators; border security efforts; critical infrastructure resilience; and national preparedness to chemical, biological, nuclear, and radiological attacks.

Willis is an active contributor to policy research, having served as the risk management research theme leader at the DHS Center for Risk and Economic Analysis of Terrorist Events at the University of Southern California and as a principal investigator at the DHS National Center for Border Security and Immigration at the University of Arizona. Through his work he testified before Congress; served on several committees of the National Academy of Sciences; advised government agencies across the United States, Europe, Australia, and the United Arab Emirates; and published dozens of journal articles, reports, and op-eds on applying risk analysis to homeland security policy. Willis is the treasurer of the Society for Risk Analysis and has served on the editorial board of the international journal Risk Analysis.

His work in homeland security policy evolved from his work on program evaluation at the White House Office of Management and Budget and infrastructure design as a water and wastewater engineer. He earned his Ph.D. in engineering and public policy at Carnegie Mellon University.

Pardee RAND Graduate School Courses

Recent Projects

  • Characterizing National Exposures to Infrastructure from Natural Disasters
  • Measuring the Resilience of Energy Distribution Systems
  • Enhancing U.S. Coast Guard Metrics
  • 2018 Homeland Security National Risk Characterization
  • Developing the Pardee RAND Food-Energy-Water Security Index

Selected Publications

Henry H. Willis, Mary Tighe, Andrew Lauland, Lissa Ecola, Shoshana Shelton, Megan Smith, John Rivers, Kristen Leuschner, Terry Marsh, Daniel G. Gerstein, Homeland Security National Risk Characterization: Risk Assessment Methodology, RAND Corporation (RR-2140-DHS), 2018

Michelle Abbott, Morgan Bazilian, Daniel Egel, a nd Henry H. Willis , "Examining the Food-Energy-Water and Conflict Nexus," Current Opinion in Chemical Engineering, 18(November), 2017

Russell Lundberg and Henry H. Willis, "Examining the effectiveness of risk elicitations: comparing a deliberative risk ranking to a nationally representative survey on homeland security risk," Journal of Risk Research, (January), 2019

Henry H. Willis, Anu Narayanan, Jordan R. Fischbach, Edmundo Molina-Perez, Charles Stelzner, Katie Loa, and Lauren Kendrick , Current and Future Exposure of Infrastructure in the United States to Natural Hazards, RAND Corporation (RR-1453-DHS), 2016

Scott Savitz, Henry Willis, Aaron Davenport, Martina Melliand, William Sasser, Elizabeth Tencza, adn Dulani Woods, Enhancing U.S. Coast Guard Metrics, RAND Corporation (RR-1173), 2015

Henry Willis and Katie Loa, Measuring the Resilience of Energy Distribution Systems, RAND Corporation (RR-883), 2015

Brian Jenkins, Andy Liepman, and Henry Willis, Identifying Enemies Among Us: Evolving Terrorist Threats and the Continuing Challenges of Domestic Intelligence Collection and Information Sharing, RAND Corporation (CF-317), 2014

Melissa Finucane, Noreen Clancy, Henry Willis, and Debra Knopman, The Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force's Infrastructure Resilience Guidelines: An Initial Assessment of Implementation by Federal Agencies, RAND Corporation (RR-841), 2014

Honors & Awards

  • Member, Council of Foreign Relations

Recent Media Appearances

Interviews: CBS Evening News; Charleston Post and Courier; Journal of Commerce; NPR; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette; Talk Media News; Voice of America; WRC-TV Online

Commentary: The Cipher Brief; Houston Chronicle; Los Angeles Business Journal; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette; San Diego Union-Tribune; United Press International; USA Today; U.S. News & World Report


  • Protective barriers are placed along a bike path near a memorial for the victims of the October 31 attack in New York City, November 3, 2017

    America Is Great at Fighting Terrorism, but Terror Is Alive and Well

    When terrorists adopt a strategy of pure terror, it's hard to prevent attacks like those in Nice, Columbus, London, Barcelona, or New York. Instead, strategies are needed to counter terrorism's ultimate aim—to instill fear—and to remove some of the incentives of potential attackers.

    Nov 16, 2017 Fortune

  • A still from footage of Dylann Roof, who was convicted of killing nine people at a historically black church in South Carolina

    The Wrong Terrorism Narrative

    Solving the problem of homegrown terrorism in the U.S. requires understanding the true nature of the complex problem of violent extremism. With such knowledge, authorities and communities will be better able to develop strategies to prevent the next tragic terrorist killing.

    Jan 15, 2017 U.S. News & World Report

  • A boy takes pictures at Narita International airport in Narita, Japan, March 25, 2016

    Terrorism Shouldn't Affect Travel Plans

    Evidence suggests that the threat of terrorism need not affect individuals' behavior and travel decisions, not even in the wake of attacks such as those in Brussels and Paris.

    May 21, 2016 USA Today

  • Travelers wait in line at a security checkpoint at La Guardia Airport in New York City, November 25, 2015

    Out of Line: How to Better Protect Airports from Terrorist Attacks

    In airport security, it's not the size of a potential terrorist bomb that matters most, it's where it detonates. Fortunately, new technologies may present opportunities to get travelers out of line and keep them safe.

    May 2, 2016 U.S. News & World Report

  • Transportation soldiers and civilian harbormasters move cargo containers onto awaiting vessels in a training exercise at Joint Base Langley-Eustis

    Ten Years After the Safe Port Act, Are America's Ports Secure?

    The economic importance and visibility of America's ports make them attractive terrorism targets. Port security has improved, but many of the threats that motivated the Safe Ports Act in 2006 remain, and new dangers have emerged, including cyber threats.

    Apr 6, 2016 The Cipher Brief

  • A U.S. Department of Homeland Security employee works in front of a U.S. threat level map and monitoring display

    Streamlining Congressional Oversight of DHS

    At a time when terrorist threats abound both at home and abroad, the DHS and Congress should be working as one to bolster America's defenses. To do this Congress should simplify the way it oversees homeland security.

    Jul 29, 2014 The RAND Blog

  • Officer Eric Darnsteadt from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection service inspects shipping containers arriving at Port Newark with a truck-mounted X-ray machine

    Securing America's Ports by Better Measuring Capabilities

    Funding for improving U.S. port security has declined from $389 million in 2008 to $100 million in 2014. This makes it more important than ever to ensure the highest possible return on investment from grant funding.

    Jun 13, 2014 The RAND Blog

  • The Tribute in Light is illuminated on the skyline of New York's Lower Manhattan as people look across the Hudson River in Jersey City, September 11, 2013

    3 Terrorism Risk Insurance Act Facts for Congress to Consider

    With the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act set to expire this year, Congress is currently revisiting a crucial question: What is the appropriate government role in terrorism insurance markets? As the debate unfolds on Capitol Hill, policymakers should consider three key research findings.

    Jun 12, 2014 U.S. News & World Report

  • The first U.S. Customs and Border Protection unmanned aerial vehicle in 2004.

    Improving DHS Accountability for Acquisitions

    While management at the Department of Homeland Security progressed in many areas during the past decade, there is still plenty of room for growth and improvement, especially in the area of acquisition management.

    Apr 22, 2014 The RAND Blog

  • Masked Sunni gunmen chant slogans during a protest against Iraq's Shiite-led government

    Fight Today's Terrorist Threat, Not Yesterday's

    Counterterrorism is not just about daring raids and drone strikes. It is about the hard work of collecting and sifting through vast amounts of information and managing relationships among organizations that often regard sharing information as an unnatural act.

    Feb 7, 2014 U.S. News & World Report

  • President Barack Obama shakes hands with Jeh Johnson during an announcement for Johnson to be his nominee for Secretary of Homeland Security

    Challenges and Opportunities Ahead for New Homeland Security Secretary

    To ensure the Department of Homeland Security makes progress in the current constrained budget environment, its new secretary must put in place a strategic perspective to guide priorities for how to address the country's most pressing problems in disaster management, immigration reform, cybersecurity, violent extremism, and nuclear terrorism.

    Oct 24, 2013 The RAND Blog

  • Homeland Security Investigations agents capture Mexican national wanted for kidnapping

    Border Security Is Key to Immigration Reform

    Two important aspects of border security bear continued attention: strategy must be developed as one part of a holistic system of immigration management and any progress on improving this system is reliant on having concrete and sensible objectives and measures of success.

    Jul 15, 2013 Houston Chronicle

  • Massachusetts National Guardsmen in Boston

    Reacting to Boston

    Basing public safety decisions on risk analysis allows authorities to devote public resources to those counterterrorism measures that have the potential to do the most good, writes Henry Willis.

    Apr 22, 2013 U.S. News & World Report

  • The Harbor Police K-9 Team explosive detection canine perform a search on luggage at San Diego International Airport

    More Secure or Less Free?

    It is thus not surprising that people report a willingness to trade convenience, money, and liberty for security. Legal precedent reinforces that decreased civil liberties may be accepted when confronting existential threats with demonstrably effective security—to a point, writes Henry H. Willis.

    Dec 17, 2012 The RAND Blog

  • Container/cargo ship

    Revisiting 100% Inspection

    It is good that the congressmen have asked the Obama administration to revisit supply chain security. However, precipitous changes to how the global supply chain operates do not seem warranted, may not in fact improve security, and could have costly unintended consequences, writes Henry Willis.

    Jul 6, 2012 The RAND Blog

  • The Upside of Snowmageddon

    The city's lame response shows, yet again, why we need more cooperation among local governments.

    Mar 28, 2010 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

  • Speed Low-Risk Travelers Through Increased Security

    Published commentary by RAND staff: Speed Low-Risk Travelers Through Increased Security, in Los Angeles Business Journal.

    Sep 4, 2006 Los Angeles Business Journal

  • Securing America's Ports

    Published commentary by RAND staff: Securing America's Ports, in the San Diego Union-Tribune.

    Mar 26, 2006 San Diego Union-Tribune

  • Katrina Shows Supply Chain Needs National Attention

    Published commentary by RAND staff: Katrina Shows Supply Chain Needs National Attention in the Los Angeles Business Journal.

    Sep 26, 2005 Los Angeles Business Journal

  • Securing U.S. Supply Chain

    Published commentary by RAND staff:Securing U.S. Supply Chain appearing in United Press International.

    Aug 29, 2005 United Press International

  • Quality, Not Quantity

    Published commentary by RAND staff.

    Sep 26, 2004 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette