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Student Theses

All Masters students in the Operations Analysis and Operational Logistics curricula at the Naval Postgraduate School complete a thesis. This provides an opportunity for the student to go much deeper into a problem of particular importance. A driving concern of most NPS students is to conduct research that "makes a difference". Because of the close working relationship that CID researchers have with federal, state, and local agencies, many students choose thesis topics on infrastructure defense and emergency planning and response.

In the Operations Research Department at NPS, students participate in an "experience tour," a three-week period at roughly the midpoint of the curriculum during which students go off-campus to an organization where they can gain practical analytical experience (see Rosenthal, 2007). In most cases, this tour is the start of the student's eventual thesis topic.

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Thesis Highlights

The Hawaiian Maritime Transportation System: Analyzing Resilience and Advising Investment

CDR Tino de la Cruz, USN (completed: March 2010) [executive summary]

imageThe maritime transportation system (MTS) for the State of Hawaii is responsible for delivering food, clothing, automobiles, building supplies, machinery, medical supplies, and agricultural materials from the mainland United States to the local population. In a study prepared for the Hawaii Harbor Users Group, "The Impact of Hawaii's Harbors on the Local Economy" (May 2007), Dr. Leroy O. Laney of Hawaii's Pacific University reports that more that 98% of imported consumer goods, which make up 80% of all consumed goods, come in through maritime systems. Hawaii's MTS is a "hub-and-spoke" system—almost all of the State's consumed goods come into Honolulu Harbor and are then distributed to Oahu or on to neighbor Hawaiian Islands. Additionally, Hawaii has extremely limited storage capacity, which requires cargo to follow "just-in-time" delivery. The result is that the MTS is vulnerable to both non-deliberate hazards (e.g., accident, failure, natural disaster) and deliberate threats (e.g., sabotage, vandalism, terrorism), and the consequences of a long-term disruption could be severe.

State and Federal government officials are aware of the critical role of the MTS and are interested in achieving a clear picture of the resilience of the MTS to provide commodities to the state of Hawaii.


The geographic scope of this thesis project is the state of Hawaii, Oahu and the following Neighbor Islands: Hawaii, Kauai, Lanai, Maui, and Molokai. The project encompasses the delivery of consumer goods to the state of Hawaii, starting with arrival of container ships to the port of Honolulu and including the distribution of cargo to Oahu and the Neighbor Islands via cranes, barges, trucks, and delivery routes, and over a three-month planning horizon. We also consider the potential use of Pearl Harbor in a scenario where Honolulu Harbor is not available.

The objective of this work is to answer two basic groups of questions:

  • How will the Hawaiian MTS perform in the face of major disruptions? What is the worst-case disruption, and how bad could it be in terms of delivery shortages?
  • How would investment of limited defensive resources (for hardening, redundancy, or capacity expansion) make the MTS resilient to such disruptions? What are the best investments?


Ensuring Resilience of the Petroleum Supply Chain for the Hawaiian Islands

LT Jason Ileto, USN (completed: March 2010) [executive summary]


imageIn 2009, Hawaii imported nearly 41 million barrels of crude oil that was primarily refined into jet fuel for aviation services, fuel oil for electricity generation, and gasoline and diesel for automobiles. While options such as natural gas, coal, wind, hydro and solar energy have been implemented, the primary method of electricity generation comes from burning fuel oil. In 2009, 8.6 million barrels of fuel oil were consumed for this purpose, of which 78,000 barrels of refined fuel oil were imported while the rest was refined locally. Furthermore, the primary method of travel to Hawaii is via aviation. Thus there is a heavy reliance on aviation fuel. Of the 4.6 million barrels of jet fuel consumed in 2009, 3.6 million was refined locally from imported crude oil and the rest was imported having already undergone the refining process. Regarding surface transportation on the islands, over 445 million gallons of gasoline and 176 million gallons of diesel for highway use were consumed in 2009.

The current infrastructure of transporting petroleum is historically reliable but aging. It consists of Marine and Land terminals to receive the petroleum products, refineries to process crude oil into usable products, storage facilities to hold crude oil and refined products, and a distribution system.

If the petroleum infrastructure system is disrupted, then there could be a significant impact on the state's economy, quality of life and security. The consequences could be exacerbated if the time it takes to restore the system is significant. The principle operators of the system are responsible to reconstitute their part of the system (e.g. repairing pipelines, importing refined products if refineries go down).


This thesis will analyze how this petroleum infrastructure system will respond in the face of major disruptions, whether caused by deliberate threat (e.g., sabotage, vandalism, terrorism) or nondeliberate hazard (e.g., accident, failure, natural disaster). In addition, this thesis will investigate how to invest limited defensive resources (e.g., for hardening, redundancy, or capacity expansion) to make these systems resilient to such disruptions.

Success can be measured by a clearer picture of vulnerability of systems that provide fuel to the Hawaiian Islands. In addition, investment solutions can be compared to current investment plans to see if there can be a more effective return on investment.

Escape from the Delta: Preparation and Evacuation for Catastrophic Flooding in CAL EMA Region IV

LT Timothy C. Yuhas, USN (completed: March 2010) [executive summary]

imageWe model the regional highway system of Central California and consider the challenge of evacuating a highly populated region from the threat of catastrophic flood. Specifically, we build a minimum cost network flow problem to represent the movement of more than one million people within Yolo, Sacramento, San Joaquin, and Stanislaus Counties. Our model solves for "best case" evacuation routes and clearing times assuming perfect knowledge of flood inundation and road conditions. Our model is large but efficient, solving 35 separate scenarios in less than 45 minutes. We develop two basic evacuation scenarios, each having many variations, resulting in 490 total scenarios. For these, we analyze model assumptions and the effect of interruptions to evacuation behavior for a range of "what-if" situations. Specifically, we address the following questions:

  • Given the location of at-risk populations and Evacuation Points (EPs), what is the minimum evacuation time?
  • Where does the affected population go? What routes do they follow?
  • What is the benefit, if any, of setting up contra flow?
  • How does the evacuation change over time as the flooding gets worse?
  • Where are the most vulnerable parts of the network, and how does their loss impact evacuation times?
  • What could be done to mitigate those vulnerabilities?

This research was conducted in partnership with CALEMA Region IV Director Jim Brown.

Prepositioning for Flooding in the Sacramento Region

LT Charles R. Farlow, USN (completed: March 2010) [executive summary]

California is a state prone to many natural disasters such as earthquakes, fires, and floods. The CAL EMA (California Emergency Management Agency) is in charge of planning for such events, and in coordination with other state and local agencies, CAL EMA prepositions resources to provide basic food, water, medical supplies, and shelter in potentially affected areas.

As part of that planning, every year CAL EMA conducts a full-scale exercise called "Golden Guardian". During the exercise, CAL EMA devises a plan for a disaster evacuation and relief scenario, and tests its execution. The scenario for Golden Guardian 2011 involves a large flood in the Sacramento/San Joaquin Delta Region.

CAL EMA's plans are based on past experiences, but CAL EMA does not have the analytical tools to optimize the prepositioning of strategic resources before the disaster. This is important because the efficiency of subsequent logistics (such as the distribution of supplies to affected areas during the disaster) highly depends on those strategic decisions.

The objective of this thesis is to provide strategic analysis in support of the Golden Guardian 2011 scenario.

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Past Theses

Theses without links are unavailable on the web.

Energy (Electricity, Oil, Gas)

Emergency Planning and Evacuation

Maritime, Port, and Border Security

Transport and Logistics

Communications and Internet

Food and Agriculture

Weapons of Mass Destruction

Military Applications