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Edward H. Kaplan: Terror queue staffing and the detection of terror plots

Abstract: How many good guys are needed to find the bad guys? To answer this question, simple staffing formulas are developed with the objective of preventing a specified fraction of terror attacks (or related objectives). These results depend upon the terror queue model of the detection of terror plots. Terror queue models equate newly hatched terror plots to arriving customers, ongoing terror plots to the queue of customers waiting for service, and undercover agents or informants to service providers. Not all plots are interdicted (receive service); successful terror attacks correspond to customers who abandon the queue! Motivated by a recently published estimate of the probability distribution for the duration of Jihadi plots in the US (time from plot initiation until interdiction or an attempted attack, whichever comes first), the staffing formulas are shown to hold for terror queues with proportional hazards, that is, when the instantaneous probability of detecting a plot is proportional to the instantaneous chance of a terror attack.