Measure that discourages, complicates, or delays an adversary’s action or occurrence by instilling fear, doubt, or anxiety.

Sample Usage: Robust countermeasures can serve as a deterrent to some adversaries, causing them to change, delay, or abandon their plans.


  1. A deterrent reduces threat by decreasing the likelihood that an attack (or illegal entry, etc.) will be attempted.
  2. One form of deterrent is a prospective punitive action intended to discourage the adversary from acting (e.g., massive nuclear retaliation, Mutual Assured Destruction during the Cold War, or prison for conventional crimes). Another form of deterrent is a measure or set of measures that affects the adversary’s confidence of success (e.g., fences, border patrols, checkpoints).
  3. A deterrent may cause an adversary to abandon plans to attempt an attack (or illegal entry, etc).
  4. A deterrent may cause the adversary to react by “threat shifting” in any of several domains: shift in time (delay); shift in target; shift in resources (additional resources); and/or a shift in plan or method of attack.
  5. Resilience, in terms of both critical economic systems and infrastructure and in societal resilience (e.g., the famed British ―stiff upper lip‖ of WWII, advance preparation for effective consequence reduction response operations, etc.), also has a potential deterrent value achieved when terrorist groups perceive that the strategic impact they seek through a particular attack or type of attack will not be achieved.

Source: DHS Risk Lexicon, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, 2010 Edition. September 2010 Regulatory Guidance

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