International Security and Defense Policy Center

ISDP explores the implications of political, strategic, economic, and technological challenges for global security and the specific national and regional security interests of its sponsors. It assists national security decisionmakers in developing strategies and policies to manage and adapt to such challenges and to protect interests at home and abroad, to develop new operational concepts to creatively address new challenges, and to develop forces and plans to execute their strategies. It also examines how to best advance security cooperation to improve international security and stability.

Understanding the trajectory of the international security environment and evolving threats

War memorial in Pyongyang, North Korea

To support defense strategic planning, ISDP conducts research oriented to continually update and improve understanding of the potential trajectories of the overall security environment. For example, in response to China's growing economic, military, and political power, the evolution of both its interests and behavior and those of other actors in the Asia-Pacific region have become an increasingly important part of ISDP's research slate. Potential North Korean developments are another important research focus. At the same time, the continuing threats posed by terrorist networks and sectarian schisms in the Middle East, along with the uncertain evolution of the Arab Spring, demand that attention remain on that region. No less important is analysis that aids understanding of violent extremist organizations across the globe and the threats they pose. In addition, there remains a continuing need to study the potential for proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, including the challenges posed by Iran, North Korea, other states, and non-state actors. State failure and related spillover effects are another area of study.

Developing security policies, strategies, and operational concepts

Naval history is made as an MV-22 Osprey lands on the flight deck of USNS Robert E. Peary

ISDP research assists U.S. and allied governments with all aspects of defense strategy and policy development including overall strategy, strategies for specific threats, adequacy of resource support for strategies, and new operational concepts. ISDP's capabilities cover the spectrum from direct analytic support of ongoing campaigns through strategic analysis and wargaming to grand strategy analysis. Among the more important strategies and concepts for which ISDP lends assistance are those to counter growing anti-access/area-denial threats from increasing missile capabilities, and those to counter terrorist networks through both hard and soft power and shaping strategies. There is also a need to assist with planning to implement the 2012 U.S. Defense Strategic Guidance, including the rebalance to Asia and the use of low-footprint approaches where ideal or needed for economy of force, all in the context of fiscal constraints—along with assessing the need for change given more recent events involving Russia.

Developing forces and posture

U.S. Army soldiers with Delta Company, 1st Scout Platoon, 155th Brigade Combat Team, clear a building in an area in Al Iskandariyah that is known to house insurgents, on March 5, 2005. U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kurt Gibbons III

ISDP undertakes two sets of tasks to support U.S. and allied defense planners as they develop forces and posture. These are:

  1. Evaluating the effectiveness and efficiency of current forces and posture, and
  2. Assessing force and posture mixes to identify approaches that will optimize execution

As the U.S. military in particular reduces force size and executes its rebalance to Asia, determining how to adjust posture elsewhere to enable effective execution of strategy will remain an important area of research. Many U.S. allies are facing similar fiscal pressure on defense budgets, necessitating similar analyses with regard to how best to adjust force sizes and mix to current needs while minimizing risk. Additionally, research and analysis on how well different capabilities and activities meet requirements to shape the security environment and enable low-footprint responses to a range of threats will be of increasing value in a changing and fiscally constrained environment.

Advancing security cooperation

USS Simpson,sailors,navy

Security cooperation is an increasingly important part of defense strategy. Fiscal constraints on U.S. forward deployment make the contributions of allies and partners all the more valuable. And U.S. partners see the value in pursuing “Smart” defense with each other, in partnership with the U.S., and with new partners. Building the capabilities of new and prospective partners can increase burden sharing and improve reach beyond the areas covered by traditional U.S. allies and partners. Increasing interoperability and collaboration with advanced allies and partners enables enhanced capabilities of coalitions for crisis response and other requirements. ISDP assesses the benefits and costs of security cooperation programs, aids in program development, and contributes to capacity-building by offering training in strategic analysis and other areas of ISDP expertise.

Inquiries about the RAND International Security and Defense Policy Center or its activities can be directed to:

Seth Jones
Director, RAND International Security and Defense Policy Center
RAND Corporation
1200 South Hayes Street
Arlington, VA 22202-5050
(703) 413-1100 x5782