The 2013 State of the Union address will likely be remembered for its impassioned call for greater gun control just two months removed from the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary. However, President Obama's second-term agenda can perhaps best be characterized by its sheer breadth, reflecting the broad range of policy challenges facing the United States today.
If policymakers are to craft effective solutions to these complex issues, the discussion must begin with research that is objective, nonpartisan, and rigorous.
Sequestration & Defense
In the face of economic uncertainties and growing pressures to reduce spending, U.S. defense leaders must first agree on their highest global priorities, then the tough budgetary decisions will be easier to make. RAND analysts offer three strategies to cut roughly $400-$500 billion from U.S. defense programs over the next decade without crippling the force. With cuts occurring both here and in Europe, NATO alliance members will also have to seek ways to provide security with fewer resources.
As withdrawal looms, RAND continues to analyze new policy options in the ongoing U.S. efforts in Afghanistan, including how to help with its security force development. RAND's Seth Jones argues that recent Afghan history suggests that if the country can hold reasonably free and fair elections, and defeated candidates can agree to step aside, Afghanistan has a chance of moving beyond its Soviet legacy.
Guns and Violence
The Newtown tragedy has raised the stakes in the policy debate on gun control. RAND experts discuss the issue of gun violence, and find that it is larger and much more complex than mass shootings. RAND's Art Kellermann reviews what is known from broad outlines of the Newtown attack and past research on gun violence to offer some preliminary thoughts to the Obama Administration's task force and the public.
President Obama proposes to overhaul the nation's immigration laws. He says real reform includes strong border security, but, as RAND's Peter Brownell notes, determining what constitutes a “secure border” can be a challenge. RAND experts have discussed a wide range of U.S. border security issues. Reports have examined how to measure security effectiveness along the border, how to best manage border security resources, and improved methods to estimate the number of people who cross borders illegally.
Early Childhood Education
High-quality early childhood interventions can generate returns to society ranging from approximately $2 to $17 for every dollar spent. Early childhood programs can yield benefits in academic achievement, delinquency and crime, and labor market success. They may also help close the “achievement gap.” RAND has studied a range of early childhood education issues, including parental involvement, teacher training, teaching strategies, and program evaluation.
Energy & Climate Change
While energy security is key in the President's vision for the country's economic future, his speech also mentioned the need to combat climate change “for the sake of our children and our future.” RAND's research acknowledges current realities with an eye to tomorrow's solutions; the U.S. can learn from storms in the Gulf and East Coast that highlight the need to adapt to the changing climate, and explore new methods to both curtail greenhouse gasses while increasing energy output.