Bruce W. Bennett

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Senior Defense Analyst; Professor, Pardee RAND Graduate School
Santa Monica Office


Ph.D. in policy analysis, Pardee RAND Graduate School; B.S. in economics, California Institute of Technology

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Bruce W. Bennett is a senior defense analyst at the RAND Corporation who works primarily on research topics such as strategy, force planning, and counterproliferation within the RAND International Security and Defense Policy Center. He is also a professor at the Pardee RAND Graduate School.

Bennett's work applies military simulation and analysis, war gaming, risk management, deterrence-based strategy, and competitive strategies. He specializes in “asymmetric threats” such as weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and how to counter those threats with new strategies, operational concepts, and technologies. He is an expert in Northeast Asian military issues, having visited the region some 90 times and written much about Korean security issues, and has also done much work on the Persian/Arab Gulf region.

His Northeast Asian research has addressed issues such as future ROK military force requirements, the Korean military balance, counters to North Korean chemical and biological weapon threats in Korea and Japan, dealing with a North Korean collapse, changes in the Northeast Asia security environment, and deterrence of nuclear threats (including strengthening the U.S. nuclear umbrella). He has worked with the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, U.S. Forces Korea and Japan, the U.S. Pacific Command and Central Command, the ROK and Japanese militaries, and the ROK National Assembly.

Bennett received his B.S. in economics from the California Institute of Technology and his Ph.D. in policy analysis from the Pardee RAND Graduate School.

Recent Projects

  • Deterrence of North Korean provocations and nuclear threat
  • Preparing for the possibility of a North Korean collapse
  • Chemical, biological, and nuclear weapon threats against Korea, Japan, and the Persian Gulf
  • U.S. strategy and capabilities needed to defend against and eliminate WMD
  • ROK military modernization and ROK Army requirements in 2020

Selected Publications

Bruce W. Bennett, "Deterring North Korea from Using WMD in Future Conflicts and Crises," Strategic Studies Quarterly, 6(4):119-151, 2012

Bruce W. Bennett and Jennifer Lind, "The Collapse of North Korea: Military Missions and Requirements," International Security, 36(2):84-119, 2011

Bruce W. Bennett, Uncertainties in the North Korean Nuclear Threat, RAND Corporation (DB-589-NDU), 2010

Bruce W. Bennett, "North Korea's WMD Capability and the Regional Military Balance: A US Perspective," Korean Journal of Security Affairs, 2009

Bruce W. Bennett, A Brief Analysis of the Republic of Korea's Defense Reform Plan, RAND Corporation (OP-165-OSD), 2006

Bruce W. Bennett, "Military Implications of North Korea's Nuclear Weapons," KNDU Review, Korea National Defense University, 2005

Charles Kelley et al., Metrics for the Quadrennial Defense Review's Operational Goals, RAND Corporation (DB-402-OSD), 2003

Stuart E. Johnson et al., New Challenges New Tools for Defense Decisionmaking, RAND Corporation (MR-1576-RC), 2003

Recent Media Appearances

Interviews: AFP; Asian Wall Street Journal; Associated Press; CBS radio; CCTV; CNN; Fox News; JBC Radio; KNX News Radio; Korean news media (Korean Herald, Korea Times, Chosun Ilbo, JoongAng Ilbo, Yonhap News Agency, Donga Ilbo, Kookmin Ilbo, Korea Daily); Korean television networks (KBS, SBS, MBC); KTTV News;; NPR; PBS; Radio Free Asia; Voice of America; other foreign media (e.g., RBC Daily in Russia, NTV News in Japan)

Commentary: Chicago Tribune; International Herald Tribune; The Korea Herald; Korea Times; San Diego Union-Tribune; United Press International; Washington Times


  • North Korean leader Kim Jong-un claps during a photo session at a meeting of military and political cadres in this undated photo released by the KCNA, February 2, 2015

    North Korean Charm Offensive: Peace for Our Time?

    Is North Korea really sincere about wanting to negotiate improved relations with South Korea and the United States? Or is it seeking to undermine the strength and sovereignty of its neighbor, just as Germany did before World War II?

    Feb 3, 2015 | The Korea Herald

  • A security guard at the entrance of United Artists Theater during the premiere of the film 'The Interview' in Los Angeles, December 11, 2014

    Is the North Korean Regime Out of Control?

    Evidence points to North Korean involvement in the Sony hack. But it's impossible to know if top regime leaders sanctioned the attack or if it was carried out by another part of the government without their knowledge and consent. An unauthorized hack would only add to Kim Jong-un's worry over his regime's instability.

    Dec 23, 2014 | Newsweek

  • North Korean leader Kim Jong-un guides a takeoff and landing drill on a highway airfield in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency in Pyongyang, October 19, 2014

    Did North Korea Hack Sony?

    North Korea has tried pressuring Sony Pictures, the White House, and the UN to halt the release of a film that depicts Kim Jong-un in terms Kim would not want the world and especially his elites to see. After failing to stop the film diplomatically, North Korea may have been motivated to escalate its efforts.

    Dec 11, 2014 | Newsweek

  • U.S. President Barack Obama and South Korean President Park Geun-hye at a joint news conference in Seoul, April 2014

    N.K. WMDs Carry Catastrophic Potential

    The failure of the United States and South Korea to prevent North Korea from gaining significant quantities of weapons of mass destruction saddles those governments with serious military responsibilities, should North Korea go to war or should its government collapse.

    Nov 19, 2014 | The Korea Herald

  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un gives field guidance at the October 8 Factory in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency in Pyongyang August 31, 2014

    What Does North Korea Want?

    Currently, three U.S. citizens are being detained in North Korea. It is likely that North Korea wants someone like a former U.S. president to come to North Korea instead of U.S. Ambassador Bob King, whose visits were cancelled.

    Sep 18, 2014 | The RAND Blog

  • Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force soldiers carry parachutes for drop training during a military drill west of Tokyo, July 8, 2013

    Why Japan's Military Shift Is Necessary for South Korea

    With its collective self-defense policy, Japan assumes its responsibilities to support the defense of South Korea and regional security in general, an appropriate action given the economic and other independencies of the regional countries.

    Jul 7, 2014 | The Wall Street Journal

  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visits an outpost at Mount Osung

    North Korea's Latest Military Operations

    Whatever form of chest thumping comes next from Kim, it is clear that his goal is to put forward the appearance of strength and power, when in reality he faces instability at home and scorn from the international community.

    Apr 8, 2014 | The RAND Blog

  • East German citizens climb the Berlin wall at the Brandenburg Gate as they celebrate the opening of the border November 10, 1989

    N. Korea Could Fall Faster Than We Think

    The United States, South Korea and their allies would be well advised to factor in the possibility that North Korea could collapse in a fit of revolt and economic decay at any time, just as East Germany did, writes Bruce Bennett.

    Jun 3, 2013 | The Korea Herald

  • ROK Navy sailors wave U.S. and ROK flags to welcome Los Angeles-class submarine USS Cheyenne to Busan

    Enhancing Security Cooperation at the Korea-U.S. Summit

    The U.S.-South Korean Extended Deterrence Policy Committee was setup to deter North Korean threats. The upcoming summit should ratify the progress of this effort, reassuring both the Korean and U.S. people that these threats are being managed.

    May 7, 2013 | The Korea Herald

  • Unusual seismic activity was detected in North Korea Feb. 12. This map shows that naturally occurring seismicity is typically low.

    North Korea's Third Nuclear Test: A Sign of Weakness, Not Strength

    The ROK and the United States should take actions to deter subsequent North Korean provocations while punishing the country for its nuclear weapon test. Such actions could convince it that the ROK/U.S. are serious and able to impose high costs, writes Bruce Bennett.

    Feb 15, 2013 |

  • North Korean stamp depicting children on a rocket

    North Korean 'Satellite' May Fall from Sky, but That Won't Deter Kim Jong-Un

    Kim Jong-Un's regime has placed outsized import on its missile launches—despite the risk of alienating the international community—to offset the lack of success across a wide range of topics, writes Bruce Bennett.

    Dec 21, 2012 |

  • Kim Jong-un

    North Korea's Just Getting Started

    While many observers of North Korea have been surprised by the apparently peaceful ascension of Kim Jong-Un, there are reasons to believe that the situation in the North is not so stable, writes Bruce Bennett.

    Dec 12, 2012 | U.S. News & World Report

  • Syria's Chemical Weapons, and Beyond

    Every possible effort toward peaceful resolution and proliferation avoidance, even to the extent of offering safe passage and immunity to reprehensible characters in order to buy the safe transfer and control of such materials, is worth consideration, write James T. Quinlivan and Bruce W. Bennett.

    Jul 26, 2012 | and

  • North Korean Defense Chief's Retirement Has Hallmarks of Purge

    It is notable that North Korea's Politburo made the Ri announcement, suggesting a rise in power of the party relative to the military. The choice of Ri's successor is also curious, writes Bruce Bennett.

    Jul 17, 2012 | and

  • Anatomy of a War Game

    War games are especially important as countries prepare to counter adversaries who use asymmetric strategies or weapons, forcing military planners to deal with unfamiliar threats, writes Bruce Bennett.

    Jun 12, 2012 | World Policy Blog

  • North Korea: Uncertain and Dangerous Times Ahead

    With his father's support over the last year, Kim Jong-Un has tried to rapidly reshape the North Korean leadership structure, giving him many new subordinates who are untried and lacking experience. Some will clearly make mistakes, writes Bruce Bennett.

    Dec 21, 2011 |

  • Alternative to Futile Negotiations with N.K.

    Clearly, it's time for a new strategy, one that North Korea has been loathe to discuss: hasten Korean unification under South Korea's leadership, writes Bruce Bennett.

    Nov 23, 2010 | The Korea Herald

  • The Sinking of the Cheonan: Engage or Retaliate?

    North Korea's apparent sinking of the South Korean warship Cheonan marks a new low in the North's provocative behavior. While some would prefer to respond with carrots rather than sticks, it is time to take action that imposes political costs on Kim Jong-il, writes Bruce Bennett.

    Jun 30, 2010 | Global Asia, A Journal of the East Asia Foundation

  • Managing Catastrophic North Korea Risks

    In recent years, U.S. commanders of the ROK/U.S. Combined Forces Command have been unanimous in stating that CFC could defeat a North Korean invasion. Nevertheless, they have also expressed concern about the catastrophic damage that North Korea could do to the ROK before losing, writes Bruce Bennett.

    Jan 21, 2010 | The Korea Herald

  • Getting Value from the U.S.-ROK Summit

    For months, North Korea has been trying to upstage the summit between South Korean President Lee Myung-bak and U.S. President Barack Obama that is scheduled for June 16. Almost all Americans I know have heard of these North Korean provocations. But few have heard anything about the U.S.-ROK summit, writes Bruce Bennett.

    Jun 15, 2009 | The Korea Herald

  • No Surprise in Failure To Deter N. Korea

    North Korea's latest misbehavior highlights an uncomfortable truth: the failure of the United States and the international community to deter North Korean actions. In this case, it is pretty easy to see why North Korea has not been deterred, writes Bruce Bennett.

    Jun 2, 2009 | Chicago Tribune

  • N.K. Provocation Suggests Regime in Trouble

    North Korea spent weeks preparing to launch a ballistic missile that could reach the United States. It argued that the launch was intended to put a satellite into orbit. But a space launch vehicle is a ballistic missile used for a modestly different purpose, writes Bruce W. Bennett.

    Apr 9, 2009 | The Korea Herald

  • A New National Strategy for Korea: North Korea Threats Require Deterrence, Reconciliation

    The new Korean government should fully recognize the North Korean military threats and respond by fielding military counters against dangerous North Korean military capabilities, writes Bruce Bennett.

    Mar 13, 2008 | Korea Herald

  • Changes From Command Transfer

    Published commentary by RAND staff: Changes From Command Transfer, in Korea Times.

    Dec 6, 2006 | Korea Times

  • N Korea Policy Options

    Published commentary by RAND staff: N Korea Policy Options, in United Press International.

    Nov 28, 2006 | United Press International

  • What's to Stop Kim Now?

    Published commentary by RAND staff: What's to Stop Kim Now?, in International Herald Tribune.

    Oct 17, 2006 | International Herald Tribune

  • On the Edge

    Published commentary by RAND staff: On the Edge, in the Washington Times.

    Oct 15, 2006 | Washington Times

  • A Different Axis: Don't Try Regime Change in North Korea

    Is it time for Operation Korean Freedom? The regime change in Iraq has prompted some to urge regime change in the other two members of the President George W. Bush's "axis of evil," North Korea and Iran.

    Jan 31, 2004 | International Herald Tribune

  • Now, Back to the Real Threat? The One with Nukes

    While the mop-up of the war in Iraq dominates the news today, North Korea remains an unresolved crisis that could mean nuclear war for the United States.

    Apr 13, 2003 | Orange County Register

  • N. Korea's Threat to S. Korea

    Published commentary by RAND staff.

    Mar 7, 2003 | United Press International

  • Four Horrible Choices in North Korea

    Every option the United States faces in resolving our nuclear dispute with North Korea is a horrible choice -- but some are more horrible than others, writes Bruce Bennett in an commentary.

    Jan 14, 2003 | San Diego Union-Tribune

  • North Korea -- Friend or Foe?

    While the level of mistrust between the U.S. and North Korea is too high for very close cooperation now, North Korea has apparently offered to provide terrorist-related information to Washington. The U.S. should pursue such discussions.

    Dec 2, 2001 | Los Angeles Times