Threat Analysis

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Researchers collaborate across disciplines at RAND to evaluate terrorist, military, nuclear, cyber, and other threats to U.S. national security — identifying emerging threats, scrutinizing known risks, and evaluating potential strategic and tactical responses. Recent studies have included examinations of al Qaeda, the Afghan insurgency, and Iran’s nuclear capabilities.

  • U.S. President Barack Obama and South Korean President Park Geun-hye at a joint news conference in Seoul, April 2014, photo by Kim Hong-Ji/Reuters

    Commentary

    N.K. WMDs Carry Catastrophic Potential

    Nov 19, 2014

    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.

  • A masked man speaking in what is believed to be a North American accent in a video that Islamic State militants released in September, photo from Reuters/FBI handout

    Report

    When Jihadis Come Marching Home

    Nov 18, 2014

    Although the numbers of Westerners slipping off to join the jihadist fronts in Syria and Iraq are murky, U.S. counterterrorism officials believe that those fighters pose a clear and present danger to American security.

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  • A police line separates people attending the Freedom of Speech Rally Round II from counter demonstrators outside the Islamic Community Center in Phoenix, Arizona, May 29, 2015

    Commentary

    Anti-Muslim Demonstrations Don't Make Us Safer

    Anti-Muslim demonstrations complicate efforts to combat terrorism. They also exaggerate the threat, perpetuate overblown fears, and punish innocents who may be on America's side.

    May 12, 2016

  • U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter, left, gives Chinese Gen. Fan Changlong, vice chairman of China's Central Military Commission, a tour of his office at the Pentagon, June 11, 2015

    Commentary

    Book Review: 'The Improbable War'

    In The Improbable War: China, the United States, and the Logic of Great Power Conflict, Christopher Coker explores historical analogies and strategic narratives. The intellectual journey is pleasant and engaging but lacks a significant final destination.

    May 11, 2016

  • Icebreaker Yamal during removal of manned drifting station North Pole-36, August 2009

    Commentary

    Friends If We Must: Russia and China in the Arctic

    Russia's rebalancing toward China is particularly important in the Arctic, a region in which Russia has great ambitions, but also struggles with major vulnerabilities. Russia needs China as an investor, as a technological partner, and as a key consumer of energy to support its flagging, energy-dependent economy.

    May 6, 2016

  • U.S. soldiers maneuver using concealment at the National Training Center on Fort Irwin, California

    Commentary

    Presence vs. Warfighting: A Looming Dilemma in Defense Planning

    Presence involves global military deployments to counter potential aggressors, reassure allies, underwrite extended deterrence, build partner capacity, and more. It is now as important, in terms of its stabilizing and deterrent effect, as warfighting capabilities. Yet U.S. force posture falls short.

    Apr 26, 2016

  • Russian paratroopers wait to board a helicopter during a military exercise outside the southern city of Stavropol, Russia, October 27, 2015

    Commentary

    Outnumbered, Outranged, and Outgunned: How Russia Defeats NATO

    Today NATO is outnumbered, outranged, and outgunned by Russia in Europe and beset by a number of compounding factors that make the situation worse. But it is possible to begin restoring a more robust deterrent posture and to do so at a price tag that appears affordable.

    Apr 21, 2016

  • Islamic Center of Murfreesboro, Tennessee

    Commentary

    Anti-Muslim Rhetoric Is a National Security Threat

    National security and counterterrorism experts agree that rhetoric that paints all Muslims as terrorists or terrorist sympathizers has a high chance of breeding future terrorists. And evidence suggests that such language can hamper U.S. efforts to stop terrorists before they strike and to capture them after attacks.

    Apr 13, 2016

  • Transportation soldiers and civilian harbormasters move cargo containers onto awaiting vessels in a training exercise at Joint Base Langley-Eustis

    Commentary

    Ten Years After the Safe Port Act, Are America's Ports Secure?

    The economic importance and visibility of America's ports make them attractive terrorism targets. Port security has improved, but many of the threats that motivated the Safe Ports Act in 2006 remain, and new dangers have emerged, including cyber threats.

    Apr 6, 2016

  • U.S. sailors assigned to Navy Cyber Defense Operations Command monitor, analyze, detect, and respond to unauthorized activity within U.S. Navy information systems and networks

    Commentary

    The Online Fight Against ISIS

    To prevail against ISIS in cyberspace, the United States and its cyber soldiers will have to be capable of reacting quickly, while being guided by an overarching strategy. Secretary of Defense Carter urged U.S. Cyber Command to intensify the fight against ISIS but it would also be wise to recruit civilian volunteers.

    Apr 1, 2016

  • Tourists leave from the Enfidha international airport in Sousse, Tunisia, June 27, 2015, after being evacuated following a terrorist attack on the beach

    Report

    Is Terrorism More Likely After a Major Attack?

    An examination of the historical record of terrorism in the United States and Europe between 1970 and the end of 2013 finds an absence of clustering for terrorist events around trigger events since 1994, no increases in terrorism on significant dates, and a decline of terrorism in the West since the 1970s.

    Mar 31, 2016

  • A Tunisian soldier holds his position during an exercise along the frontier with Libya in Sabkeht Alyun, Tunisia February 6, 2016

    Blog

    Tunisia's Role in Fight Against Terrorism Discussed at RAND Conference

    The fight against terrorism in Tunisia is a shared priority and responsibility with the U.S. and Europe but will also depend greatly on solving the security issues in neighboring Libya, according to participants at a March 23 conference at RAND.

    Mar 30, 2016

  • Police at the scene of a security operation in the Brussels suburb of Molenbeek in Belgium, March 18, 2016

    Commentary

    Europe's Terror Fight Far from Over

    Salah Abdeslam is suspected of being the logistics man for the November terrorist attacks in Paris. His capture may provide authorities with a window into the ISIS network in Europe.

    Mar 22, 2016

  • Protesters carry Al-Qaeda flags during an anti-government protest in the town of Marat Numan in Idlib province, Syria, March 11, 2016

    Commentary

    Could ISIS and Al Qaeda, Two Giants of Jihad, Unite?

    It could take a change in leadership in both Al Qaeda and ISIS and perhaps some compromises on mission and strategy, but there are enough points of confluence to make a united jihadist front a realistic and frightening possibility.

    Mar 14, 2016

  • Service members and civilians conduct simulated cyberattack scenarios during Cyber Guard 2015

    Commentary

    In Greater Alignment: Public and Policymakers on Cyber

    For the first time, Gallup included cyberterrorism in its annual survey of Americans' concerns about threats to U.S. interests, and 73 percent of respondents said they felt it was a critical threat. The survey results come amid a flurry of activity on the issue on Capitol Hill and at the White House.

    Feb 29, 2016

  • Events @ RAND Audio Podcast

    Multimedia

    Syrian Refugees: Humanitarian and Security Perspectives

    The U.S. and other Western countries have vowed to admit more Syrian refugees, but terrorist attacks in San Bernardino, Paris, Cologne, and Jakarta are fueling community anxieties. In this RAND Policy Circle briefing, experts address what countries are doing to help abate the humanitarian crisis and ongoing efforts to counter the terrorist threat.

    Feb 25, 2016

  • Naval officers from the Colombian, Brazilian, and U.S. Navy work together as a control group at U.S. Naval War College during the 2013 Inter-American War Game

    Commentary

    Gaming the System: Obstacles to Reinvigorating Defense Wargaming

    Reinvigorating wargaming in the defense community offers great potential value given the complex strategic situation that the U.S. faces today. DoD should educate sponsors and consumers about the appropriate use of wargames, set realistic expectations, and build the right amount of risk acceptance into its gaming enterprise.

    Feb 18, 2016

  • U.S. Army soldiers participate in a live-fire exercise in Konotop, Poland, January 18, 2016

    Commentary

    Planning for the 'Army of the Future'

    What must the Army be ready to do as part of a joint force, now and in the future? What capacities and capabilities should the Army have in order to be ready? The NCFA comes up short in its answers to both of these questions.

    Feb 17, 2016

  • congressional-podcast-teaser-highres

    Multimedia

    Lessening the Risk of Refugee Radicalization

    In this February 2016 congressional briefing, senior political scientist Barbara H. Sude discusses historical examples of radicalization among refugee groups, factors that can increase the risk of radicalization, measures to reduce the risk, and considerations for policymakers and legislators.

    Feb 16, 2016

  • Libya Dawn fighters watch Islamic State militant positions near Sirte March 19, 2015

    Commentary

    The Three Challenges of Countering ISIS in Libya

    ISIS's expansion in Libya is a threat to the security of Libyans, to the region, and to Europe. U.S. and European cooperation to counter ISIS is essential and Libya is unlikely to ever be peaceful without outside military support.

    Feb 5, 2016

  • Members of the Group of 20 during the G20 leaders summit in Antalya, Turkey, November 15, 2015

    Commentary

    Foreign Policy Challenges on the Campaign Trail

    Foreign and security policy will play a significant role in the run-up to the U.S. presidential election. The campaign offers voters a wide spectrum of responses to the challenges of militant Islamism, ties with China and Russia, dealings with rogue states such as North Korea, and free trade.

    Feb 4, 2016

  • An operations intelligence analyst

    Report

    Assessing Threats with Soft, Uncertain, and Conflicting Evidence

    Part of thwarting terrorist attacks is observing suspicious individuals over time with diverse means. These observations provide data that are often both complex and “soft.” How can analysts combine these data to form a realistic threat assessment?

    Feb 1, 2016