The end of the Cold War in 1989 was a watershed event for the world. Nations across the globe began reducing their armed forces in response to the perceived increase in world stability. Unfortunately, the euphoria was short lived as international terrorism became a major concern. Prior to 1993, the United States had been relatively unaffected by terrorism within its borders. However, in February 1993, externally supported terrorists attacked the World Trade Center in New York City. In April 1995, the U.S. was shocked by the devastating domestic terrorist attack against the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.
More emphatically, the events of September 11, 2001, demonstrated the ability of terrorists to cause civilian deaths and property damage at levels not seen since the waning days of World War II. These horrific terrorist attacks changed forever the way American federal, state, and local government agencies, and many other organizations around the world, would look at national security and the need for protection from terrorism.
The need to protect military facilities, civilian populations, and infrastructure systems from terrorist attacks and social/subversive unrest has increased in many parts of the world. This need dramatically underscores the necessity to develop protective technologies over and above those related to military-sponsored work on fortifications.
It was for this reason that CIPPS was created: To develop innovative theoretical, numerical, and experimental approaches to protect society from terrorism and weapons of mass destruction in a well-coordinated collaboration between governments, academic institutions, and private organizations. Such technologies are vital for insuring the safety of the people and the preservation of valuable national assets.
Current CIPPS research includes the progressive collapse of multi-story buildings, software development for structural response analysis, explosive load definition, material response to high-rate loading, and improved vehicular armor design. Future programs in the College of Engineering on related topics funded by various sponsors in the U.S. and abroad will also take place at CIPPS.
Unlike the politically and ideologically motivated global conflicts of the past, dominated by well-organized military forces, most of the armed conflicts in the last two decades have been local or regional, and dominated by social, religious, economic, and/or ethnic causes. Attacks are carried out by a few individuals or small groups against selected strategic targets and are intended to inflict considerable economic damage and loss of life.
The causes for this terrorism are related to a broad range of important areas (e.g., culture, history, sociology, politics, economics, religion, life sciences and medicine, psychology, etc.). In addition to the serious need for innovative developments in these areas, society must invest in developing effective capabilities in intelligence, law enforcement, and preparedness. Therefore, the scope of the research conducted by CIPPS will likely extend beyond engineering to include the physical sciences, health sciences, agriculture, law, and the social sciences.
Any successful defensive approach will require a well-planned, multi-layered methodology that strikes a fine balance between assuring a nation’s security and maintaining the freedoms that a modern society enjoys.