Causal Threat Modeling Applied to the Horn of Africa

  • Steven Cromer
  • Connor McDonald
  • Thomas Monahan
  • Seth Shields
  • Patrick DuBois
Keywords: DTRA/JD, Improvised Threats, East Africa, K-Means Clustering, Systems Dynamic Model, PAI


Initially developed to defeat the increasing threat of improvised explosive devices (IED) during the height of the Iraq War in 2003, DTRA/JD quickly evolved into the Department of Defense’s (DoD) main effort in countering and reducing the effect of improvised threats. Following a suggestion from DTRA/JD about project leads, our team reached out to AFRICOM and began working on a problem narrowly tailored toward their mission. AFRICOM’s strategic focus in East Africa and the complex situation involving refugees and internally displaced persons in the region require a systematic method to identify the most prevalent threats and their relationship with one another. This paper describes a method to leverage publicly available information (PAI) and K-Means Clustering to identify threats and model their interdependence using a Systems Dynamic model. The output will show the greatest threat to a region enabling a decision maker within AFRICOM to enact policy to reduce the overall threat level.


AFDB Socio Economic Database, 1960-2019 - COMSTAT Data Hub. (n.d.). Retrieved from
Bair, J. (2018). IMPROVISED THREATS: Warfighter Support Maintained, but Clearer Responsibilities and Improved Information Sharing Needed (GAO-18-509). Government Accountability Office.
Campbell, J. (n.d.). U.S. Interests in Africa. Retrieved from
COMESA Brief Overview - COMSTAT Data Hub. (n.d.). Retrieved from
The Fund For Peace (2019). Fragile States Index 2019. Retrieved from
Garbade, M. J. (2018, September 12). Understanding K-means Clustering in Machine Learning. Retrieved from
Parnell, G.S., Driscoll, P.J., and Henderson D.L. (2011). Decision Making in Systems Engineering and Management (2nd ed.). John Wiley & Sons.
Ries, E. (2019). The lean startup: how constant innovation creates radically successful businesses. London: Penguin Business.
Signé, L., & Allen, N. D. F. (2018, March 27). Trump's Africa policy takes form with focus on security (and China). Retrieved from
Signé, L. & Gurib-Fakim, A. (2019, January 25). Africa is an opportunity for the world: Overlooked progress in governance and human development. Retrieved from
Sterman, J. (2000). Business Dynamics: Systems Thinking and Modeling for a Complex World. McGraw-Hill Education.
U.S. Economic Interests in Africa. (1973). Intelligence Handbook. Retrieved from