Threat Assessment

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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.

Explore Threat Assessment

  • The new issue of satirical French weekly Charlie Hebdo titled 'C'est Reparti' ('Here we go again') in Nice, February 25, 2015

    Commentary

    Predicting the 'Dangerousness' of Potential Terrorists

    Predicting 'dangerousness' of potential terrorists is a hit-and-miss endeavor. Unless someone is waving a gun, it is extremely difficult. Even with direct access to the subject, parole boards, suicide prevention units, and even trained clinicians get it wrong.

    Mar 2, 2015

  • French special intervention police conduct a house-to-house search in Longpont, northeast of Paris, January 8, 2015

    Commentary

    Different Countries, Different Ways of Countering Terrorism

    France and the United States follow different approaches in dealing with terrorist suspects. This divergence reflects differences in the threat, historical experience, law, available resources, and public attitudes. France faces a more serious terrorist threat than the U.S. does.

    Mar 2, 2015

  • Houses that Faisal Shahzad and Sinh Vinh Ngo Nguyen lived in before they please guilty to terrorism charges.

    Essay

    Enemies Among Us: What We Know About Homegrown Terrorists

    Dozens of young Americans have attempted to join overseas jihadist groups in the past several years, raising special concern among counterterrorism officials that they might bring the fight home with them when they return.

    Feb 26, 2015

  • A Paris crowd displaying the portraits of five of the people killed during the attack at Charlie Hebdo on January 7, 2015

    Commentary

    Attempting to Understand the Paris Attacks

    The investigation will eventually fill in some of the gaps in our knowledge of the events leading up to the attacks in Paris, but some questions will remain unanswered. Embedded in the unknowns are some of the chronic dilemmas faced by counterterrorist authorities everywhere.

    Feb 26, 2015

  • A masked man speaking in what is believed to be a North American accent in a video that Islamic State militants released in September

    Report

    When Jihadis Come Marching Home

    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.

    Feb 16, 2015

  • A K-9 police unit keeps watch as passengers make their way through Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport

    Commentary

    Improving Domestic Security to Combat Today's Terrorist Threats

    Today, the U.S. confronts a multilayered terrorist threat and the recent spate of attacks in Europe underscores the necessity for ensuring that intelligence keeps up with it. Intelligence services must continue to prevent terrorist assaults dispatched from abroad, head off new shoe and underwear bombers, intercept individuals returning from jihadist fronts with terrorist intentions, while at the same time uncovering and thwarting homegrown plots.

    Jan 30, 2015

  • French Muslims hold an Islamic flag and a banner reading "Do not touch my prophet, anything but the Messenger of Allah" as they gather in central Paris January 18, 2015

    Commentary

    Eight Lessons from the Charlie Hebdo Attack

    Among the lessons to be learned from the attacks in Paris are that terrorism has many audiences, Al-Qaida remains a threat, would-be warriors are unconcerned with the schisms among jihadist camps, Europe has a more serious problem, such an attack could happen in the U.S., and intelligence is crucial.

    Jan 23, 2015

  • Protesters set fire to U.S. and Israeli flags to protest the Israeli offensive in Lebanon in front of Istanbul University after Friday prayers in Beyazit Mosque in Istanbul, August 4, 2006

    Blog

    Dialogue on Asymmetric Threats Concludes Two-Day Workshop on U.S. and Israeli Security Challenges

    Few nations have more experience with asymmetric conflicts than Israel and the United States. At the National Press Club in Washington, Brian Michael Jenkins of RAND and Admiral Amichay Ayalon, former director of Shin Bet, Israel's security agency, discussed the dynamics of the changing security environment.

    Jan 16, 2015

  • An airline passenger stands in a full-body scanner at a TSA checkpoint at LAX in February 2014 after U.S. authorities issued a warning to airlines to watch out for militants who may have hidden bombs in their shoes

    Commentary

    What Research Says About Profiling

    When police take action on the basis of race, creed, or ethnicity it is corrosive, unfair, ineffective, and can stoke the flames of police-community tension. But as we have found from a variety of assessments, law enforcement is best served when it bases its activities on risk—not on personal characteristics.

    Dec 18, 2014

  • A hostage runs toward a police officer outside Lindt cafe, where other hostages are being held, in Martin Place, Sydney, December 15, 2014

    Blog

    Could the Sydney Café Siege Happen Elsewhere?

    As the world mourns those lost in the Sydney café siege, investigations have begun examining the efficacy of Australia's anti-terrorism measures and details about the background and motives of the gunman. At the same time, terrorism experts are reflecting on where else such an attack could emerge.

    Dec 17, 2014

  • Militant Islamist fighters parade along the streets of Syria's northern Raqqa province

    Commentary

    When Jihadis Come Marching Home

    The existing pool of determined jihadists in America is very small and lacks training and experience, which fighting in Syria and Iraq would provide. Returning jihadi veterans would be more formidable adversaries. Still, the threat appears manageable using current U.S. laws and existing resources.

    Nov 19, 2014

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

    Commentary

    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

  • A pair of U.S. Air Force F-15E Strike Eagles fly over northern Iraq after conducting airstrikes against ISIL targets Sept. 23, 2014

    Commentary

    War with ISIS: What Does Victory Look Like?

    We should start the campaign with an achievable definition of victory and a reasonable expectation about what that will take. We want to degrade ISIS so its ability to attack us and our interests is minimized, and to aid allies like Iraqis and Middle Eastern governments who are willing to commit even limited forces.

    Sep 25, 2014

  • News Release

    Pentagon Should Elevate the Importance of Eliminating Weapons of Mass Destruction in Operational Planning

    Although the United States military has determined countering proliferation of weapons of mass destruction to be a strategic priority, policymakers have invested too little in the forces and capabilities needed to eliminate vulnerable arsenals.

    Sep 24, 2014

  • A worker engages in decontamination procedures

    Research Brief

    Closing the Strategy-Policy Gap in Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction

    Two presidents have declared counterproliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) a top national priority, but it has not been budgeted or resourced as such. This brief summarizes ground force capacities and capabilities needed to eliminate WMD.

    Sep 24, 2014

  • The Flying Dragons flew in support of a joint air assault in which Soldiers conducted a search for illegal weapons on various compounds throughout Nawa Valley, Kandahar Province, Afghanistan, May 25, 2014

    Report

    Pentagon Should Elevate the Importance of Eliminating WMDs in Operational Planning

    Joint force commanders should carefully consider requirements for eliminating weapons of mass destruction in their contingency and operational planning. And DoD policy decisions involving Army force structure should consider the conventional ground force requirements of such operations.

    Sep 24, 2014

  • Kurdish Peshmerga forces guard their position near Tal Afar, west of Mosul against Islamic State militants

    Blog

    RAND Experts Discuss U.S. Strategy on ISIS

    President Obama outlined a strategy last week to deal with the threat posed by the terrorist group known as ISIS. RAND experts discuss the speech and the follow-up efforts so far.

    Sep 15, 2014

  • A view from the deck of the Chinese PLA Naval ship Haikou; for the first time, China participates in RIMPAC, the world's largest biennial naval exercise between the U.S. and Pacific Rim nations

    Blog

    A U.S. Strategy for Dealing with China

    Developing a next generation strategy for dealing with China will require the United States to sculpt a balanced and flexible approach that protects U.S. interest in East Asia while at the same time fosters cooperation with China on issues of common concern.

    Sep 3, 2014

  • News Release

    Key U.S. Military, Diplomatic Strategies Are Necessary to Balance China's Growing Regional Strength

    Developing a strategy for the United States to address China's growing military strength should not sacrifice future cooperation between the two nations.

    Sep 2, 2014

  • Research Brief

    Developing a U.S. Strategy for Dealing with China — Now and into the Future

    U.S. military strategy in Asia should include a framework that allows the United States and China to pursue common and individual goals, deters China's use of force to intimidate its neighbors, and postures U.S. forces to support partner militaries.

    Sep 2, 2014