The Operational Assessment of Risk

A Case Study of the Pueblo Mission

by Ralph E. Strauch


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An analysis of the operational assessment of risk in situations in which risk is ill-defined and inherently unquantifiable. The vehicle for the analysis is a case study of the risk assessment process for the mission on which the USS Pueblo was seized in January 1968. Background material on that mission, and the surface surveillance program of which it was a part, are summarized from 1969 Congressional hearings. The risk assessment process prior to the mission is described, and compared with a set of standards derived from conceptual principles used in the theoretical analysis of risk assessment problems. The deficiencies noted stem in part from the assumption (made in the analysis) that the objective of the risk assessment process was the assessment of risk. An alternative objective, verification that the risk appeared negligible, is also discussed.

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