Evaluating Risk

Two USF Sarasota-Manatee students have received a unique learning opportunity through a partnership with a Washington, D.C.-based consultant.

Security Management International (SMI), which provides intelligence and security services for Fortune 500 companies, defense contractors and government agencies, recently invited interdisciplinary social science majors Sami Araboghli and Paige Morrison to complete an internship and mentoring exercise.

Araboghli and Morrison attended a crash course in assessing risks and vulnerabilities in critical infrastructure. The two spent five days in Vienna, Virginia, training on a decision-making strategy known as CARVER (Criticality, Accessibility, Recuperability, Vulnerability, Effect and Recognizability).

Created in the 1970s by CIA counterterrorism officials, CARVER is used by intelligence officers, special ops teams and risk-management professionals to assess and rank vulnerabilities and risks to infrastructure such as railroad stations, power plants, shopping malls and government offices.

In addition to attending classes, the students performed “target analysis” as part of a field exercise and gave presentations about the experience. Campus officials hope exercises like this lead to a broader relationship with SMI.

“I thought it was definitely interesting because I haven’t had that kind of experience in the security field and it helped me to understand how to go about analyzing security threats,” said Morrison, a senior. “They had many experts there, and it was interesting to see how widely these techniques are used by different organizations.”

Morrison and Araboghli are considering security- or intelligence-related careers. Their experiences at SMI offered them a glimpse into a world few encounters.

They attended classes alongside security and intelligence professionals from the U.S. Navy, the Federal Energy and Regulatory Commission and the Orlando SWAT team. In one exercise, they helped assess security risks at a shopping mall and Metro train station just outside Washington. They evaluated strengths and vulnerabilities, then delivered a report about possible ways to attack and cripple the targets along with strategies to make them safer.

SMI founder and managing director Luke Bencie, a former intelligence officer, was impressed with their work.

“SMI has been offering national security students from Georgetown, George Washington and other D.C.-based universities free seats in the CARVER course for almost a decade,” he said. “Sami and Paige definitely held their own and proudly represented USF. We would welcome back students of their caliber any day.”

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Did you know?

Luke Bencie is the author of three other related books:  

  • Among Enemies: Counter-Espionage for the Business Traveler 
  • Global Security Consulting: How to Build a Thriving International Practice  
  • The Clandestine Consultant: Kings, Sheiks, Warlords and Dictators 

"Paige and Sami have set the bar for all the other USF students who will come after them.”   

The two received travel grants from USFSM’s Veterans and Military Success Center and USF Women in Leadership & Philanthropy.

Jay Riley, director of business outreach and engagement at USFSM, said the trip was a unique experience and a valuable networking opportunity.

“The work of Luke Bencie and SMI is helping to make our nation safer,” Riley said. “Their work, and the importance of security overall, cannot be underestimated. We are fortunate and grateful to partner with SMI. Internship programs and training courses like this one help our students succeed both in the classroom and the job market.”

Araboghli previously completed a six-week summer internship with SMI, a first for a USFSM student. He focused on learning about CARVER and applying the strategy to real-life security assessments.

He said he thoroughly enjoyed the experience, which included a visit to a company in Cambridge, Massachusetts, to perform a threat and vulnerability assessment. Araboghli reviewed the company’s security profile, checking for weaknesses, and helped draft a report based on the team’s findings.

“It was very hands on, and that’s what I enjoyed most while was at SMI- helping with the assessments,” he said of the internship. “The job involves critical thinking and thinking outside the box to identify strategies to improve safety and security.” Araboghli also collaborated with Bencie on an article about the CARVER system for the Harvard Business Review.

The author of The CARVER Target Analysis and Vulnerability Assessment Methodology, Bencie developed the article to show executives how CARVER can help with key strategic decisions.

The article, “A 6-Part Tool for Ranking and Assessing Risks,” came out in September. Araboghli described working with Bencie on the article as one of his proudest achievements.

Based on his experiences with Araboghli and Morrison, Bencie said he’s looking forward to working with more USFSM students.

“Paige and Sami have set the bar for all the other USF students who will come after them,” he said. “They really took pride in representing their university. Similarly, I cannot say enough about the staff and faculty at USF who supported the students, as they were instrumental in assisting with logistics, travel expenses and other resources. It was an all-around Bulls team effort.”

- Rich Shopes

Image Courtesy of SMI The CARVER decision-making strategy uses the six factors below to assess and rank vulnerabilities and risks to infrastructure.
The CARVER decision-making strategy uses the six factors below to assess and rank vulnerabilities and risks to infrastructure. Courtesy of SMI