Security Risk Assessment of NMAAHC Prior to Design and Construction

Security Risk Assessment of NMAAHC Prior to Design and Construction


Challenges on this project included the threat environment of the location for the proposed facility, the controversial exhibits expected to be displayed in the museum and the need to provide adequate security in a venue open to the public. The NMAAHC site is on the National Mall close to highly visible museums, monuments, memorials, federal facilities and the White House.


Having worked with the Smithsonian Institution on many projects in the past, these issues were addressed through regular discussions with the NMAAHC Director, collection management and exhibit staff and the SI Office of Protection Services. ARA conducted interviews with local and federal law enforcement officials and studied several law enforcement intelligence assessments to gauge the threat levels posed by potential aggressors. ARA also conducted telephone interviews with officials from several similar museums in the United States. The assessment took into account the proposed facility’s potential iconography and symbolism, visitation, location, mission, as well as the relationship to the Federal government. Additionally, the assessment considered the potential intrinsic and cultural value of the museum’s future collection and other factors (museum retail and food services) associated with potential crime. At the conclusion of the assessment, ARA produced a comprehensive written report, augmented with visualization tools provided by our Security Engineering Group.

ARA utilized the Interagency Security Committee (ISC) standard, Facility Security Level Determinations for Federal Facilities, to determine the appropriate security level. The Smithsonian Institution and ISC security design criteria were used to determine the best protective measures applicable to NMAAHC. The assessment process consisted of determining the projected key assets, operations of the museum, potential threats, vulnerabilities, rating the potential impact of loss from a successful attack from each threat, and determining the projected risks from the threats.


The design of the proposed 430,000 square foot facility was based on the result of a project specific risk assessment that identified and quantified the design basis threats and tactics and appropriate level of protection for the facility. The threats and tactics and level of protection identified in the threat risk assessment were a major factor in determining the most effective protective design of NMAAHC.

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