Henry H. Willis

Henry H. Willis
Senior Policy Researcher; Professor of Policy Analysis, 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

This researcher is available for interviews.

To arrange an interview, contact the RAND Office of Media Relations at (310) 451-6913, or email media@rand.org.

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Henry H. Willis is a senior policy researcher at the RAND Corporation and a professor of policy analysis at the Pardee RAND Graduate School. He previously served as deputy director of the RAND Homeland Security Division and director of the division's Strategy, Policy, and Operations Program and Infrastructure, Immigration, and Security Operations Program.

Willis is a recognized expert in risk analysis and management. Recent work analyzes biosecurity risks and biodefense capabilities; border and terrorism security; climate and natural disaster risks; critical infrastructure resilience; and national preparedness to chemical, biological, nuclear, and radiological attacks. 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 a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and serves on the Science and Governance Committees of the Society for 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, M.S. in environmental engineering from the University of Cincinnati, and B.A. in chemistry from the University of Pennsylvania.

Recent Projects

  • Examining the Food-Energy-Water and Conflict Nexus
  • Characterizing National Exposures to Infrastructure from Natural Disasters
  • Measuring the Resilience of Energy Distribution Systems
  • 2018 Homeland Security National Risk Characterization
  • Enhancing U.S. Coast Guard Metrics

Selected Publications

Willis, Henry H., Mary Tighe, Andrew Lauland, Liisa Ecola, Shoshana R. Shelton, Meagan L. Smith, John G. Rivers, Kristin J. Leuschner, Terry Marsh, and Daniel M. 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

Willis, Henry H., Anu Narayanan, Jordan R. Fischbach, Edmundo Molina-Perez, Chuck Story, Kathleen 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

Jenkins, Brian Michael, Andrew Liepman, and Henry H. 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 on Foreign Relations
  • Member, Risk Sciences Committee, Society of Risk Analysis

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; WPXI-PIT (NBC) - Pittsburgh, PA


  • Critical Infrastructure Protection

    Grounded: The FAA Alert System Failure Could Be a Wake-Up Call

    It turned out to be a system failure that grounded thousands of flights on January 11, but U.S. critical infrastructure faces a range of threats—from Russian hackers, to weather events, to angry individuals with guns. The government and organizations responsible for critical infrastructure can take steps to actively manage these risks.

    Jan 13, 2023

    The Hill

  • Counterterrorism

    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


  • Domestic Terrorism

    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

  • Transportation Security

    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

  • Transportation Security

    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

  • Border and Port Security

    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

  • Terrorism Threat Assessment

    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

  • Border and Port Security

    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

  • 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

  • Military Acquisition and Procurement

    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

  • Security Cooperation

    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

  • Homeland Security Legislation

    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

  • 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

  • Emergency Preparedness

    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

  • Terrorism Threat Assessment

    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

  • 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