Creating Resilient Environments

Subject Matter Experts


In a world of fragile and post-conflict states, the security sector plays a significant role in creating environments conducive to peace-building, democratic consolidation, and resilience against violent extremism and the effects of bad neighbors. National police, armies, secret services, and intelligence institutions must thus be examined as explanatory variables for post-conflict outcomes, but also as dependent variables explained by culture, prior conflict lessons, natural resources, or foreign tutelage.


“No matter how clearly one thinks, it is impossible to anticipate precisely the character of future conflict. The key is to not be so far off the mark that it becomes impossible to adjust once that character is revealed.” - Sir Michael Howard

Global trends highlight that the increasing instability is affording increased opportunity for intra-and inter-state confrontation and conflict. In particular the global security environment reflects a growing trend in international security of failed (or failing) states (that is those in which there is ethnic and sectarian violence, weak institutions that are unable to exert control and little rule of law) that potentially require third-party intervention. When, how, and if at all, third-parties (such as the United States and other Western Governments) intervene diplomatically, economically or militarily has significant ramifications on the re-emergence of peace or potential continuation and escalation of violence.

Furthermore, once a decision is made to intervene (militarily or otherwise) how that strategic mission is enacted on the ground is also a significant factor in the outcome of any conflict.

Given the importance of both decisions to intervene, and the form and function of interventions themselves, researchers at CTSS conduct scholarly research focused on both the process of how decisions to intervene in conflicts are made, as well as how militaries attempt to achieve this political and strategic mission on the ground. Projects [past and present] in this domain include:


Under extreme levels of physiological and psychological strain, members of the Armed Forces wrestle with uncertainty, complexity, time pressure and accountability in order to operate within a set of strategic, ethical and legal boundaries. Navigating such environments requires effective and timely decision making. Current theories and doctrine center on the Military Decision Making Process (MDMP) – a linear process of identifying, evaluating and choosing the best course of action – but it is clear that decision making during combat is far more complex. A further issue is that while prescriptive models (such as the MDMP) culminate in selecting the ‘best’ course of action the reality is that, in warfare, there rarely is a ‘best’ option. Most options are high-risk and most will carry many negative consequences – whatever the course of action. In such instances decisions instead involve choosing the least-worst outcome. In collaboration with the Harnessing Emerging Research Opportunities to Empower Soldiers (HEROES) Center at UMass Lowell this research investigates the psychological process through least-worst decisions are made.


In response to the needs of the United Kingdom Ministry of Defense this project offered a data-driven examination of the green-on-blue attacks (also called "insider attacks") that occurred in Afghanistan between 2007 and 2013. By analyzing a large (yet inevitability incomplete) open-source database developed this project offered troops deploying to Afghanistan (and those directly involved in training with the Afghan forces) data on the attacks, the perpetrators and the victims. In addition research staff at CTSS are now using this event data to investigate the spatial and temporal aspects of green-on-blue attacks.


The monthly tally of civilian casualties in Afghanistan traces the war's grim trajectory. Thousands of Afghan bystanders are killed and maimed each year in clashes between insurgents and the coalition military forces. The ebb and flow of casualties reveal a worrying trend: As the coalition troops withdraw from Afghanistan, the population is suffering ever greater losses. These data, released by the U.K. Ministry of Defence for a study conducted by Neil Shortland, Ph.D., of the Center for Terrorism and Security Studies at the University of Massachusetts, Lowell, have now been published with the journal Science as part of a special feature on the human cost of war in Afghanistan.

More Information:

Other Affiliated Projects at UMass Lowell