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Federal Workers, Afghanistan, Sectarianism: RAND Weekly Recap

January 18, 2019

This week, we discuss the essential jobs that government workers perform; the likely effects of a precipitous U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan; whether educators set goals for social-emotional learning; how Middle East communities can resist sectarianism; creating accountability in cyberspace; and the transformation of a public policy graduate program.

A TSA employee checks the documents of a traveler at Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C., January 6, 2019

A TSA employee checks the documents of a traveler at Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C., January 6, 2019

Photo by Joshua Roberts/Reuters

Government Shutdown: Let's Not Lose Sight of Federal Workers

The partial government shutdown, now the longest in U.S. history, is approaching its fifth week. Much has been said about the 800,000 government employees who didn't receive paychecks last Friday. But according to RAND's Andrew Hoehn, too little has been said about the critical roles they play. From protecting U.S. waterways to inspecting the food Americans eat, federal workers help make the country safe, healthy, and prosperous.

A U.S. flag is seen at a post in Deh Bala district, Nangarhar province, Afghanistan, after U.S. and Afghan forces cleared Islamic State fighters from the area, July 7, 2018

A U.S. flag flies at a post in Deh Bala district, Nangarhar province, Afghanistan, after Islamic State fighters were cleared from the area, July 7, 2018

Photo by James Mackenzie/Reuters

Consequences of a Hasty Withdrawal from Afghanistan

Last month, the Trump administration ordered the withdrawal of roughly 7,000 troops from Afghanistan. Given the president's stated preference for ending the mission altogether, what are the likely effects of a precipitous departure unrelated to a negotiated settlement? Winning in Afghanistan may not be an option, say RAND experts, but losing certainly is. And such a departure, no matter how rationalized, will mean “choosing to lose.”

A teacher trying to resolve a conflict between two elementary students

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Are Educators Setting Goals for Social-Emotional Learning?

Evidence shows that social-emotional learning contributes to student success. But are educators promoting SEL in the classroom? According to a new RAND survey, about 60 percent of educators report setting goals for SEL growth. But principals and teachers see things differently. Teachers were less likely to say that principals set SEL goals than were principals themselves.

Beirut Madinati candidates and delegates cheer

Beirut Madinati candidates and delegates cheer while monitoring ballot counts during Beirut's municipal elections in May 2016

Photo by Mohamed Azakir/Reuters

Middle East Communities Can Resist Sectarianism

Sectarianism has become a destructive feature of the modern Middle East. But endless bouts of sectarian violence and religious conflict in the region are not inevitable. A new RAND study examines what makes communities resilient to sectarianism. Strong levels of trust, social connections, and physical proximity across sectarian lines are important. These factors help prevent communities from sliding into sectarianism when conflict emerges.

Accountability for Cyberattackers

International agreements like the Geneva Conventions outline acceptable behavior during times of conflict. But there are no similar standards for cyberspace, a modern domain of war. RAND experts say this lack of accountability is dangerous. That's why they recommend creating a new global organization to investigate and assign responsibility for cyberattacks.

Pardee RAND students shared their Tech Lab Pilot projects during a 2017 open house

Pardee RAND students share tech lab pilot projects during a 2017 open house

Photo by Diane Baldwin/RAND Corporation

Reimagining the Future of Public Policy Problem Solving

Solving the world's most complex problems may require new ways of thinking. And one place to start is at elite public-policy schools. That's according to Susan Marquis, dean of the Pardee RAND Graduate School. She's leading an effort to transform the school and shift the focus from coming up with solutions to actually implementing them. “We intend to make Pardee RAND the model for a new generation of public policy in America,” Marquis says.

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