Environment Systems and Decisions

, Volume 35, Issue 2, pp 219–228 | Cite as

Risk management is not enough: a conceptual model for resilience and adaptation-based vulnerability assessments

  • Nicole R. Sikula
  • James W. Mancillas
  • Igor LinkovEmail author
  • John A. McDonagh


The US government has focused considerable attention on enhancing our society’s ability to protect critical systems and services from disruptive events. Over the past decade, federal agencies have bolstered their efforts to identify and minimize threats using traditional risk-based approaches such as continuity of operations and disaster risk reduction processes. However, these valuable risk identification and management tools are limited because they rely upon foreseeable factor analyses of steady-state systems with predictable hazard frequencies and severities. In assessing the capability of complex adaptive systems to cope with disruptions, an overemphasis upon engineering resilience through risk management and planning for what is predictable may cloud or detract from our efforts to better understand a system’s emergent capabilities to withstand disruptions that are unforeseeable. This article contends that augmenting traditional risk approaches through the incorporation of methodologies grounded in socio-ecological system (SES) resilience principles offers a potential avenue for improving our agencies’ abilities to assess and manage both known and unknown risks. We offer a notional rationale for broadening our examination of system vulnerabilities and present a conceptual model that combines engineering and SES resilience paradigms to facilitate the identification, assessment, and management of system vulnerabilities. The Military Installation Resilience Assessment model described herein applies risk and resilience principles to evaluate whole systems, focusing on interconnections and their functionality in facilitating response and adaptation.


Resilience Engineering Ecology Risk Socio-ecological system Disaster response and recovery Disruption Continuity of operations 



The views expressed in this article are solely those of the authors and do not reflect the official policies or positions of the US Army Environmental Command, the US Army Corps of Engineers, the Department of the Army, the Department of Defense, or any other department or agency of the US government. Permission was granted by the US Army Corps of Engineers to publish this material. The authors gratefully acknowledge the assistance provided by Mr. James Costin of the US Army Environmental Command and the US Army Corps of Engineers, Engineer Research and Development Center in the preparation and editing of this article.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York (outside the USA) 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nicole R. Sikula
    • 1
  • James W. Mancillas
    • 1
  • Igor Linkov
    • 2
    Email author
  • John A. McDonagh
    • 1
  1. 1.US Army Environmental Command, JBSA Fort Sam HoustonSan AntonioUSA
  2. 2.US Army Corps of Engineers, Engineer Research and Development CenterConcordUSA

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