K. Jack Riley

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Vice President, RAND National Security Research Division; Director, RAND National Defense Research Institute
Pittsburgh Office


Ph.D. in public policy analysis, Pardee RAND Graduate School; M.S. in foreign service, Georgetown University; B.A. in economics and Russian, University of Michigan

Media Resources

This researcher is available for interviews.

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Jack Riley is vice president and director of the RAND National Security Research Division (NSRD), which conducts research and analysis for the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Joint Staff, the Unified Commands, the defense agencies, the Department of the Navy, the U.S. Intelligence Community, the U.S. Department of State, allied foreign governments, and foundations. He leads a team of professionals who collectively conduct over 300 projects and produce hundreds of publicly available reports each year for top leadership in the national security community.

From 2008 to 2010, Riley was associate director of NSRD. Before that, he served as associate director of RAND Infrastructure, Safety, and Environment (ISE). Prior to joining RAND, Riley worked as a senior civil servant at the U.S. Department of Justice where he focused on crime, immigration reform, drug epidemiology, and domestic terrorism.

Riley has testified before Congress on multiple occasions and has served as a trial observer in Guantanamo. He is a member of the Pacific Council on International Policy, and a board member at the National Defense University Foundation. A supporter of educating the next generation of national security professionals, Riley has guest lectured at the University of Michigan's Ford School on the role of policy analysis in national security, and given a commencement address at the University of Pennsylvania's Department of Criminology. He is also on the board of the Fern Hollow Nature Center.

As a researcher, Riley has led and co-led numerous projects on national and homeland security topics, including an evaluation the DOD program providing excess equipment to law enforcement agencies; assessments of passenger rail and airport security; police and security sector reforms in Israel, Mexico, and Afghanistan; and gun violence reduction and police/community relations in Los Angeles, Cincinnati, Dallas, and elsewhere. In addition to scholarly reports and journal articles, Riley has written commentaries that have been published in such outlets as The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, Newsweek, U.S. News and World Report, and the New York Daily News. He's also given interviews with NPR, CBS, the New York Times, and Bloomberg Radio.

Riley has a Ph.D. in public policy analysis from Pardee RAND Graduate School, an M.S. in foreign service from Georgetown University, and a B.A. in economics and Russian from the University of Michigan.

Recent Projects

  • An Evaluation of the Department of Defense's Excess Property Program


  • Detroit police line up next to an armored vehicle following a rally against the death in Minneapolis police custody of George Floyd, in Detroit, Michigan, June 1, 2020, photo by Rebecca Cook/Reuters

    How to Reform Military Gear Transfers to Police

    Police officers equipped like soldiers have appeared on the streets of American cities amid recent protests over George Floyd's killing. How should lawmakers reform a program that makes use of excess equipment and is popular with police departments, but that also raises substantial concerns about the militarization of policing?

    Jul 13, 2020 The Wall Street Journal

  • A soldier stands guard in a tower overlooking Camp Delta at Guantanamo Bay naval base, Cuba, December 31, 2009

    Now's the Time to Act on Guantanamo

    Most of the 41 terror suspects who remain confined at Guantanamo Bay are unlikely to be released from custody any time soon. But the possibility that new detainees may soon be sent to the facility argues for early action to accelerate the legal proceedings against those already being held.

    Apr 16, 2018 The Hill

  • In Camp 4 of Camp Delta at Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, highly compliant detainees live in a communal setting

    What Should Trump Do About Gitmo?

    The new administration has options to deal with the detention facility at Guantánamo Bay. It could maintain the status quo, make improvements to speed the trials, close the facility and relocate the remaining inmates, or accept new detainees.

    Jan 11, 2017 Newsweek

  • A Navy guard patrols Camp Delta's detainee recreation yard during the early morning at Guantánamo Bay naval base on July 7, 2010

    How to Fix Guantanamo's Broken Justice

    Replacing military judges with federal judges would expedite the process of resolving the Guantánamo cases in ways that would reflect better on the credibility and legitimacy of the U.S. justice system, while serving the interests of Congress, the president, survivors, and victims' families.

    Mar 7, 2016 Newsweek

  • A wooden gavel

    In the Interest of Justice

    As the line between criminal justice and national security continues to blur, K. Jack Riley offers three principles that can help young criminology practitioners and scholars.

    Jun 26, 2015

  • A Tunisian holds up a flag during celebrations marking the fourth anniversary of Tunisia's revolution, Tunis, January 14, 2015

    Tunisia in the Crosshairs

    The open-ended nature of the Islamic State group's threat against Tunisair suggests that it intends to target Tunisia for the long haul. The United States should counter the threats with steadfast and sustained cooperation and assistance.

    Jun 22, 2015 U.S. News & World Report

  • A TSA arm patch and shield at Los Angeles International Airport, California, February 20, 2014

    Are Airport Security Screeners Looking for the Wrong Things?

    An investigation revealed that the TSA has failed in contraband testing, at a 95 percent rate. This shouldn't be perceived as an indictment of TSA workers. But it may be an indictment of the particular assignments they've been given.

    Jun 4, 2015 Newsweek

  • U.S. President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama welcome Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his wife Akie Abe  for a State Dinner in their honor at the White House in Washington

    Shinzo Abe Visit Caps New Dawn in U.S.-Japan Relations

    A shift toward “collective self-defense” will allow Japan to take joint military action with its allies even when it is not directly attacked and thereby participate in security measures beyond its borders. Prime Minister Abe's trip to Washington this week is intended to cement Japan's deepening bilateral security alliance with the U.S.

    Apr 30, 2015 U.S. News & World Report

  • U.S. Senior Master Sgt. Leonard discusses cargo pallet inspection procedures with East Africa air force members during African Partnership Flight-Djibouti February 10, 2015

    Djibouti: Outpost of Stability in an Unstable Region

    The collaborative role being played by the United States and Djibouti represents the kind of partnerships that are now required in the battle against terrorism, because little-known places like Djibouti are one arena where the battle could be won or lost.

    Apr 10, 2015 The Hill

  • Demonstrators gesture and chant as they continue to react to the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri August 17, 2014

    Data Key to Tackling Racial Profiling in Ferguson

    Authorities in Ferguson would be wise to consider following Cincinnati's example in dealing with mistrust between police and citizens after the police shooting of a young black man. The city embarked on a thorough examination of racial profiling by its police force and took steps to deal with the perception that bias was influencing the way police officers performed their duties.

    Aug 21, 2014 Cincinnati Enquire

  • Member of the protest group, Code Pink, protests against U.S. President Obama and the NSA before his arrival at the DOJ in Washington, January 17, 2014

    The Facts About the Metadata 'Menace'

    Metadata from a phone call include information such as the direction (who called whom), length, date and time. The program does not record the location or the name associated with a call. No one is listening to the call and no content is recorded.

    Jan 26, 2014 Los Angeles Times

  • Homeland Security Investigations agents capture Mexican national wanted for kidnapping

    Border Security Is Key to Immigration Reform

    Two important aspects of border security bear continued attention: strategy must be developed as one part of a holistic system of immigration management and any progress on improving this system is reliant on having concrete and sensible objectives and measures of success.

    Jul 15, 2013 Houston Chronicle

  • A Glock 22 pistol is displayed at the Rocky Mountain Guns and Ammo store in Parker, Colorado, July 24, 2012

    Firearms and Gun Control: Many Questions, Some Answers

    President Obama's task force on gun violence has raised the stakes in the policy debate on gun control and policy in the wake of the recent shootings in Colorado and Connecticut. Some of RAND's top researchers share what is, and what isn't, known about firearms and gun control.

    Jan 17, 2013 The RAND Blog

  • Fake Boarding Pass Fears Inflated

    Instead of ratcheting back the PreCheck program because of manufactured fears about security lapses, TSA should be encouraged to expand this program to more airlines, more airports and more infrequent travelers, write Jack Riley and Lily Ablon.

    Dec 12, 2012 USA Today

  • Passengers shuffling through an airport

    Three Ways to Improve Airport Screening

    The TSA's pilot “Pre-check” program that pre-screens travelers who volunteer for it is an overdue advance in security, but it does not address some larger issues surrounding America's airports, writes K. Jack Riley.

    Mar 7, 2012 USA Today

  • Fliers take off their shoes before going through a TSA security checkpoint in the Newark Liberty International Airport in Newark, New Jersey, July 28, 2011, photo by Lucas Jackson/Reuters

    The Unmentionable Costs of Airline Security

    For most of the past decade, the U.S. has pursued policies with very little regard to the costs they impose on travelers or the net reduction in risk that they generate, writes K. Jack Riley.

    Sep 13, 2011 Bloomberg Government

  • Police Need to Do a Better Job of Explaining Stop-and-Frisk

    Good relations between the police and the public are a cornerstone of civil society. Everyday interactions between cops and citizens are at the heart of what defines those relations, write Jack Riley and Greg Ridgeway.

    Dec 6, 2007 New York Daily News

  • Racial Profiling Won't Stop Terror

    Logical as it may seem to a fearful traveling public, a profiling policy focusing on people who appear to be “flying while Muslim” would be extraordinarily difficult to implement and counterproductive. There are more than 1 billion Muslims in the world and only a tiny fraction are members of a terrorist group.

    Oct 11, 2006 The Washington Post's Think Tank Town

  • Speed Low-Risk Travelers Through Increased Security

    Published commentary by RAND staff: Speed Low-Risk Travelers Through Increased Security, in Los Angeles Business Journal.

    Sep 4, 2006 Los Angeles Business Journal

  • Forum: Are We Prepared? Not Quite

    Published commentary by RAND staff: Forum: Are We Prepared? Not Quite, in Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

    Aug 27, 2006 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

  • Mississippi Comeback

    Published commentary by RAND staff: Mississippi Comeback, in the Los Angeles Times.

    Aug 20, 2006 Los Angeles Times

  • Measuring Racial Profiling by Police

    We all want to know whether racial profiling is taking place in communities, but we won't get those answers from incomplete data. Unless we take the time to ask the right questions and get the right answers, the truth about how much racial profiling is really going on will remain unknown.

    Jul 6, 2004 Law Enforcement News

  • No Retreat, No Surrender; A Challenging Agenda for the New Drug 'Czar'

    Published commentary by RAND staff

    May 20, 2001 San Diego Union Tribune