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Mershon Center for International Security Studies

GelpiC hires

Christopher F. Gelpi, professor in the Department of Political Science, has been named director of the Mershon Center for International Security Studies at The Ohio State University effective Jan. 1, 2018, to June 30, 2022.

The mission of the Mershon Center is to advance the understanding of national security in a global context. The center was founded in 1967 as the fulfillment of a bequest by Ohio State alumnus Col. Ralph D. Mershon for the civilian study of national security.

The Mershon Center encourages interdisciplinary faculty and student research and organizes speaking events, conferences and symposia in three primary areas:

  • The use of force and diplomacy
  • The ideas, identities and decisional processes that affect security
  • The institutions that manage violent conflict.

“I am so pleased and honored to be able to serve as the next director of the Mershon Center for International Security Studies,” said Gelpi, whose primary research interests include the sources of international military conflict, strategies for conflict resolution and American public opinion on foreign policy issues.

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Bear Braumoeller

Research could help tackle hunger-related violence

While it may sound hard to believe for many Americans, in some parts of the world, violence breaks out simply because people don’t have access to food.

The issue is often worse in places such as Africa that experience extreme weather. Drought, for instance, can be devastating for farmers and for the local economy, often leading to outbreaks of violence.

While research has shown a link between climate-induced food shortages and violence, findings out of Ohio State suggest there’s more to the story.

The research, led by political science Mershon affiliate Bear Braumoeller, associate professor of political science, reveals another factor that plays a huge part in this complex equation — the strength of the country’s government.

“A capable government is even more important to keeping the peace than good weather,” said Braumoeller.

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Mark StewartJohn Mueller

Since 9/11, airline passengers have learned to put liquids in 3-ounce containers, take off their shoes, and go through full-body scanners, all in the name of protecting themselves from terrorism. But are these extra measures making us any safer?

About $10 billion is spent each year to deal with terrorist attacks to aviation, yet these expenditures are rarely subjected to cost-benefit or risk analysis. Are We Safe Enough? Measuring and Assessing Aviation Security, by Mershon affiliates Mark Stewart and John Mueller, seeks to fill that void.

The book, published by Elsevier, explains how standard risk and cost-benefit analysis can be applied to aviation security in a systematic, straightforward, and fully transparent manner. It constructs a full model of the security system, describing the effectiveness, risk reduction, and cost of each layer, from policing and intelligence, to checkpoint passenger screening, to armed pilots on the flight deck.

Stewart and Mueller conclude that it is entirely possible to attain the same degree of safety at far lower cost by shifting expenditures from measures that provide little security at high cost to ones that provide more security at lower cost.

For example, the air marshal program in the United States costs more than $1 billion per year, but reduces risk of a terrorist attack by only 0.2 percent. Installing secondary barriers to cockpits would see a greater reduction of risk while saving hundreds of millions of dollars to both taxpayers and airlines.

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RudesillD hires2

Ohio State interdisciplinary exercise offers real-world experience

It’s 9:53 on Saturday morning and Dakota Rudesill is about to cause an earthquake in San Francisco. That’s bad. The North Korean nuclear missile test coming next might be worse.

Welcome to the Ohio State National Security Crisis Simulation. The simulation is a two-day exercise at The Ohio State University that immerses students from law, policy, intelligence and media in real-world roles as they confront a seemingly never-ending series of crises.

Rudesill, a law professor at the Moritz College of Law, is the simulation’s architect, instructor and puppet master. He and a control team operated behind closed doors, injecting chaos at every turn to challenge the students to work through problems.

And the problems are legion. Over the course of the simulation last week, the crises included terror attacks, natural disasters and cyber warfare. The examples are often drawn from real life.

“If while we’re working through the issues we are coming up with today, we come up with a brilliant policy response or legal response to something, that’s wonderful,” Rudesill said. “But what this is really about is professional skills development.”

A roster of real-world experts advise the students throughout the simulation. Senate President Larry Obhof, former Congresswoman Mary Jo Kilroy and journalist Philip Bump were some of the professionals guiding the students from crisis to crisis.

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