This week, we discuss why fentanyl and other synthetic opioids represent a different kind of drug crisis; what can be done now to address mass shootings; how RAND analysts are inspiring future national security leaders; security cooperation in the Indo-Pacific; what we know about higher education in prison; and whether NATO members would defend their Baltic allies.
U.S. deaths that involve synthetic opioids like fentanyl have increased from roughly 3,000 in 2013 to more than 30,000 in 2018. What caused this surge? Where are things headed? And what options should policymakers consider?
A new report—the first major release from a RAND initiative to examine America's opioid crisis—assesses the past, present, and future of synthetic opioids. It finds that the synthetic opioid problem is unique, because it's largely driven by supplier decisions, rather than user demand. This means that policymakers will likely need to pursue innovative strategies to reverse the trend. Limiting the response to existing approaches may condemn many people to early deaths.
Three recent mass shootings in the United States happened in the span of one week, leaving 34 dead and 53 wounded. Many citizens have called on Congress to take action that guards against future attacks. But there's no need to wait for new laws, say RAND experts. There are steps that could be taken right away—and they're unlikely to be controversial. These recommendations focus on better detecting attacks in advance, lowering casualties when they happen, and modifying political rhetoric.
Earlier this summer, RAND hosted an event with the nonprofit Girl Security to introduce teen girls to wargaming. The girls acted as generals for a day, learning about strategy, asymmetric warfare, and the dire consequences of real-life conflict. Most importantly, the event may have inspired some of tomorrow's national security leaders. Becca Wasser, one of the RAND analysts who designed the game, says that she and her colleagues are trying to shape a future where “a woman analyst leading a wargame is no longer a novelty.”
Over the last two decades, U.S. allies and partners in the Indo-Pacific have been expanding their defense activities and cooperating with each other in new ways. Why are they branching out? How are these activities affecting stability in the region? And what are the implications for U.S. national security? A new RAND report analyzes the effects of these evolving regional ties. Notably, there is the potential for an overall positive outcome from countries in the region cooperating more than ever before.
Providing access to college education for incarcerated adults can help reduce U.S. recidivism rates. That's according to a RAND paper out this week. Correctional education programs are also cost-effective. For every dollar invested in these programs, taxpayers save an average of four to five dollars in reincarceration costs. Restoring access to Pell Grants could help fund these programs; other options should be considered, too.
In 2014, Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula and began military operations in Eastern Ukraine. This prompted renewed concern about future aggression from Moscow. What would happen, for example, if Russia attacked a NATO ally in the Baltics? That's the topic of a new RAND report. The authors identify 13 factors that would affect each ally's decision to participate in a military response to a Russian attack. They also recommend ways to reduce vulnerability to Russian influence and increase cohesion among NATO members.
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