Military Strategy


RAND research on military strategy has ranged from issues related to the tactics that lead to success in armed engagements, to work that describes how the size and deployment of one nation's military affects its political relationships with others.

  • CH-47 Chinook helicopters land outside of the village of Abd al Hasan, Iraq, to pick up U.S. and Iraqi Army Soldiers, photo by Staff Sgt. Dallas Edwards/U.S. Air Force


    Lessons from Past 13 Years of War Can Improve Future Strategy

    Oct 14, 2014

    Lessons from the past 13 years of war provide insight into the future operating environment and identify critical requirements for land and special operations forces to collaborate successfully with various partners in future conflicts.

Explore Military Strategy

  • Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron (C) walks with Group Captain David Manning (R) past an RAF Eurofighter Typhoon fighter jet at Royal Air Force station RAF Northolt in London, November 23, 2015


    The SDSR: A Step Forward, but Questions Remain

    The United Kingdom's Strategic Defence and Security Review contains a number of commitments that will be welcomed by defense and security experts. But some unanswered questions will play a critical role in determining the overall success of Britain's security strategy.

    Nov 27, 2015

  • Passengers walk through an airport security check

    Journal Article

    Assessing the Effectiveness of Layered Security for Protecting the Aviation System Against Adaptive Adversaries

    This study examines the effectiveness of layered security for protecting the aviation system against adaptive adversaries.

    Nov 24, 2015

  • Islamic State fighters take part in a military parade along the streets of northern Raqqa province, Syria, June 30, 2014


    ISIS Will Become More Deadly Before It Dies

    The lesson with ISIS is straightforward. Western populations should be prepared for an upsurge in violence if ISIS continues to lose territory. There has already been a growth in attacks and plots across the West with operational or inspirational ties to ISIS.

    Nov 18, 2015

  • A French soldier from Operation Barkhane rides in an armoured vehicle in Timbuktu, November 5, 2014


    The French Way of War

    There is a French way of warfare that reflects the French military's lack of resources and its modest sense of what it can achieve. They specialize in carefully apportioned and usually small but lethal operations, often behind the scenes.

    Nov 17, 2015

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    Saving the Government Money: Examples from RAND's FFRDCs

    RAND's three federally funded research and development centers apply research capital they have developed over the years to help decisionmakers solve problems and often save money as well. This publication lists and briefly summarizes some RAND projects undertaken over the past ten years that have helped save the government money or that have identified ways to do so.

    Nov 13, 2015

  • U.S. Marines receive a safety brief before they conduct live-fire drills during Trident Juncture 2015 in Almeria, Spain, October 27, 2015


    Building Interoperability for European Defense

    To make the most out of declining defense budgets, the U.S. needs to engage European forces to build interoperability that would enable joint operations to deter and defeat potential adversaries, even with little advance notice. But building interoperable units has often proved difficult even among the friendliest of nations.

    Nov 9, 2015

  • Syrian President al-Assad made a surprise visit to Moscow on October 20, 2015, to thank Russian President Putin for launching air strikes against Islamist militants in Syria


    Five Options for the U.S. in Syria

    How should the United States respond to Russia's intervention in Syria's civil war? Here are five options intended to encourage rational thinking based upon realistic presumptions, not media or campaign-driven hype.

    Oct 21, 2015

  • U.S. Army Capt. Kevin Mercer watches an Afghan National Army trainer adjust the sight on an M-16 rifle in Kandahar, Afghanistan, January 23, 2008


    What Works Best When Conducting Security Cooperation?

    U.S. security cooperation aims to help others be better able to deal with problems in their countries and regions. To get the most out of these efforts, it's important to understand when and why security cooperation works, and when and why it doesn't.

    Oct 21, 2015

  • The Ohio-Class ballistic missile submarine USS Nevada returns to homeport at Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor following a strategic deterrent patrol


    If We Keep Cutting Defense Spending, We Must Do Less

    The United States is underinvesting in defense and other instruments of national influence just when they are most needed. Improving defenses needn't require Cold War levels of expenditure but Americans should look realistically at the demands being placed on their forces and generate the revenues to meet those demands.

    Oct 19, 2015

  • News Release

    U.S. Needs to Either Boost Defense Funding or Limit Military Commitments

    If policymakers wish to maintain the United States' international commitments, then to bolster deterrence the U.S. should increase its ground forces in Europe, accelerate modernization — especially of air and naval forces — and invest more in training, maintenance, and advanced munitions.

    Oct 19, 2015

  • A U.S. soldier provides overwatch security atop a mountain at Paktika province, Afghanistan, May 25, 2011


    U.S. Needs to Either Boost Defense Funding or Limit Military Commitments

    Limitations on defense spending in the context of emerging threats are creating a U.S. “security deficit.” How might policymakers adjust to bring resources into better alignment with strategic demands?

    Oct 19, 2015

  • Two U.S. soldiers run communications equipment from a bunker in Wardak province, Afghanistan, January 9, 2011

    Research Brief

    Addressing the Imbalance Between Strategy and Resources in a Turbulent World

    Deterrence is infinitely preferable to war. But the United States now risks relying more on its reputation from past wars for deterrence than on actual military capabilities that can be brought to bear when and where needed.

    Oct 19, 2015

  • NATO soldiers near a damaged NATO military vehicle at the site of a suicide car bomb blast in Kabul, Afghanistan, October 11, 2015


    More Boots Isn't Enough to Save Afghanistan

    Until there is a viable political strategy for Afghanistan, any modicum of U.S. troops is, at best, playing not to lose. Doing better than that will require promoting three dimensions of political change in Afghanistan and between Kabul and Islamabad.

    Oct 16, 2015

  • U.S. soldiers arrive at the site of an attack in Kabul, Afghanistan, May 17, 2015


    Keeping U.S. Troops in Afghanistan: RAND Experts React

    Several RAND experts agree that sticking to the plan to remove all troops from Afghanistan by the end of next year would have ignored the reality on the ground and made an unstable situation more so.

    Oct 15, 2015

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside Moscow, September 30, 2015


    What Is Putin Really Up to in Syria?

    Russia wants to be sure that it's not ignored if and when the West succeeds in implementing a broader, more effective solution to the Syria-Iraq-ISIL problem. This is a task far beyond Russia's capabilities, but one that America, the West, and regional powers may be able to accomplish.

    Oct 2, 2015

  • U.S. President Barack Obama and China's President Xi Jinping listen to national anthems during a ceremony in Beijing, November 12, 2014


    Nuclear Weapons Should Be on the U.S.-China Summit Agenda

    At the impending U.S.-China summit, it would make sense for Obama to put on the table official discussions of strategic nuclear issues between U.S. and Chinese government or military representatives.

    Sep 23, 2015

  • U.S. soldiers show an Estonian soldier how the mortar system operates during a call for fire live exercise in Estonia, Aug. 7, 2015


    Building the Army We Will Need

    Failure to correctly estimate the number of soldiers needed or to provide adequate resources to the U.S. Army can lead to a failure of U.S. strategy and subsequent regret. Policymakers should plan and resource a larger ground force to meet the commitments that the United States has made.

    Sep 23, 2015

  • Iraqi soldiers fire at paper targets during the opening of the Anbar Operation Center's shooting range in Ramadi, Iraq, September 10, 2011


    Vietnam Teaches Us That Iraq Needs More Than U.S. Combat Advisers

    There are issues that must be examined, understood, and planned for if the United States does not wish to have U.S. advisers left to the cruelties of the Islamic State.

    Sep 14, 2015

  • Soldiers of China's People's Liberation Army march during a training session for a military parade, Beijing, September 1, 2015


    China's Military Modernization: Eric Heginbotham and Michael Chase in Conversation

    Two RAND experts discuss their recent assessments of Chinese military modernization and its implications for U.S. interests in Asia.

    Sep 14, 2015

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    An Interactive Look at the U.S.-China Military Scorecard

    To advance the public debate, RAND Project AIR FORCE used open, unclassified sources to compile 'The U.S.-China Military Scorecard: Forces, Geography, and the Evolving Balance of Power.' Use this interactive graphic to explore the operational areas covered in the report.

    Sep 14, 2015