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November 25, 2013

ODU's Gheorghe an Invited Guest Speaker at International Conference on Global Security Issues

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By Brendan O'Hallarn

Old Dominion's Adrian Gheorghe, Batten Endowed Chair of System of Systems Engineering, was an invited guest speaker at the first ever meeting of NATO, the European Union and NATO's parallel organization in Asia, known as Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).

"Security issues are becoming global," Gheorghe said. "The whole epicenter of global activity is moving to the Pacific, and SCO knows they will face some of the same issues that NATO and the EU have tackled."

Gheorghe was invited to the conference in September in his native Romania because of his worldwide expertise in the issue of emergent threats.

The European Institute for Risk, Security and Communication Management and the German Marshall Fund of the United States sponsored the conference. It was aimed at finding a common agenda on which to base cooperation between East and West - issues such as fighting terrorism; fighting trans-border organized crime; protecting critical infrastructures; ensuring energy security, water security and food security; and promoting security research at national and international levels.

"The conference emphasized the need for 'thinking the unthinkable' when it comes to these issues. We need to plan for threats that have not yet been realized," Gheorghe said.

The conference included a daylong open session where worldwide research and best practices for dealing with risks were shared. The next day included closed-door meetings between high-level officials of the multinational organizations, aimed at fostering cooperation on a global level on issues of urgent global concern.

Gheorghe said the delegation from China included SCO and the China Institute for International Studies, a state agency created to help grow a culture of global understanding and knowledge in that country.

"If you don't exchange ideas, you can become confined by one way of thinking," Gheorghe said. With global threats, "this type of work used to be reactive. Now it needs to be proactive, moving to vulnerability assessment, how to avoid events in the first place."

Gheorghe, chair of the Batten College's Department of Engineering Management and Systems Engineering, was appointed in 2012 by Provost Carol Simpson as ODU's representative on Gov. Bob McDonnell's Cybersecurity Task Force.

His research into the emergent risks to global energy security has achieved worldwide attention.

A Romanian by birth, Gheorghe was educated in Bucharest and London and has more than three decades of experience as a risk engineer. He joined ODU in 2006 after serving as international civil servant, International Atomic Energy Agency, Vienna, Austria, and as director of the Centre of Excellence on Risk and Safety Sciences at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Zurich.

He is among the pioneers in applying system of systems engineering to risk assessment and management. He and colleagues in Europe have developed computational models for these purposes, with a focus on risks from sabotage, terrorism, cyber vandalism and natural disasters.