WISIND – The Security Indicator for Germany

September 6, 2012

On September 6, 2012, the American-German Institute (AGI) hosted a roundtable discussion on “WISIND – The Security Indicator for Germany.” Dr. Tim H. Stuchtey, Executive Director of the Brandenburg Institute for Society and Security (BIGS) and a senior fellow at AGI, discussed his current project: applying economic theory to homeland security issues by developing a system of numerical security indicators that would measure the security level in Germany.

Dr. Stuchtey began by explaining that the goal of this BIGS program – which he jointly conducts with the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW) – is to create a system of indicators, grounded in economics, with which security decisions can be made on a national or international level. The indicator would be a product of three dimensions: actual threat level, perceived threat level, and the level of protection. Each of these dimensions would be further broken down into security concerns, for example: terrorism, organized crime, or cyber threats. He also identified some existing security threat indicators, the most well-known being the traffic light system that was used by the United States from 2001 to 2011. Other attendees suggested additional systems that might be of use, like the Failed State Index, created by the Fund for Peace

Dr. Stuchtey then began to define some of the main terms necessary for creating this indicator, including security, threat, protection, and perceived insecurity. The presentation highlighted the interconnection between the state, society, and the agents of security, with the state serving as both the provider of security and a potential target of the agents of insecurity. It also differentiated between real and perceived threat, and underscored the economic impact that can occur from an oversupply of security due to excessive perceived threat levels. Balanced security, when the level of security matches the actual threat level, is the ideal.

Defining what constitutes a threat is an important aspect of building a security threat indicator, and Dr. Stuchtey identified several different threat types, including general crime, organized crime, corruption, cybersecurity threats, left and right-wing extremism, and indiscriminate or group-based violence. Data concerning each type of threat is analyzed to calculate the risk of being involved in any specific kind of threat, and then to find the financial implications of each threat occurring. He then explained how the level of protection is measured, and the how to calculate the “net worth of protection,” or how effective a certain amount of applied protection has been in avoiding threats.

Dr. Stuchtey also aims to create a separate sub-indicator for the private sector by acquiring data from a panel of companies to gauge the threat level to private industry. This is a mission unique to BIGS, and would allow companies, their industry associations and government to make informed decisions about their security levels based on sound economic information.

Especially in the post-9/11 world, security issues are at the forefront of national politics around the globe. The ability to make informed decisions based on economic data is even more important in a time where money is scarce and federal budgets are tight. It seems that the ability to quantify policy decisions in a dimension of money will be increasingly useful as nations look for new, more efficient ways to gauge their levels of security. Dr. Stuchtey promised he would return to AGI to present some preliminary data. The security indicator project WISIND is funded by the German Ministry for education and research.


Kimberly Frank