Periodic updates to Congress on RAND's work in terrorism and homeland security | Web version

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July 2015

Terrorism and
Homeland Security

In the News

A U.S. Customs official arrests an undocumented immigrant

EdStock/iStock

Prior Removal and Recidivism

A debate over "sanctuary cities" has erupted after a murder in San Francisco by a five-time deported unauthorized immigrant. But in an era of strapped resources, where should local officials direct their funds? A RAND study suggests local public safety interests and federal immigration enforcement priorities may well align around unauthorized immigrants with a record of prior removal.

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Highlights

Top cybersecurity concerns from private sector security leaders ... Considering remotely piloted aircraft as a tool against domestic threats

Featured Research

The Defender's Dilemma: Charting a Course Toward Cybersecurity

An information security illustration superimposed over a business professional holding a tablet

Sergey Nivens/Fotolia

Worldwide spending on cybersecurity is close to $70 billion a year and growing at 10 percent to 15 percent annually. Unfortunately, according to a new RAND report, many private sector security leaders believe that malicious hackers will continue to gain the upper hand, requiring a continual cycle of development and implementation of stronger and more innovative defensive measures.

The report reveals perspectives and perceptions from chief information security officers, examines the development of network defense measures, and explores the role of software vulnerabilities. Researchers developed a framework to demonstrate the various cybersecurity levers that organizations can control, as well as factors that organizations cannot control. The study revealed some surprising findings:

  • A cyberattack's effect on reputation (rather than more direct costs) is the biggest cause of concern for CISOs. The actual intellectual property or data that might be affected matters less than the fact that any intellectual property or data is at risk.
  • In general, loss estimation processes are not particularly comprehensive.
  • The ability to understand and articulate an organization's risk arising from network penetrations in a standard and consistent matter does not exist and will not exist for a long time.

It also confirmed a few common findings:

  • Security postures are highly specific to company type, size, etc.; and there often aren't good solutions for smaller businesses.
  • Quarantining certain parts of an organization offline can be a useful option.
  • Responding to the desire of employees to bring their own devices and connect them to the network creates growing dilemmas.
  • Chief information security officers (CISOs) feel that attackers have the upper hand, and will continue to have it.

So how can policymakers help? A government guide outlining how systems fail—similar to guides for aviation and medical fields—could help build a body of knowledge to help educate companies with the goal of developing higher levels of cybersecurity. And a community that is prepared to share what went wrong and what could be done better next time could produce higher levels of cybersecurity for everyone.

Read the report »

Other RAND research on information security »

The Air National Guard and Remotely Piloted Aircraft

A remotely piloted aircraft

Senior Master Sgt. Paul Holcomb/U.S. Air Force

With the nation facing a variety of domestic threats such as terrorism and natural disasters, policymakers need to encourage agencies to exploit new capabilities and optimize those that already exist, even as budgets decline. Air National Guard remotely piloted aircraft (RPAs) may offer one such opportunity.

In Air National Guard Remotely Piloted Aircraft and Domestic Missions: Opportunities and Challenges, RAND researchers analyze which domestic RPA missions are best suited to Air National Guard capabilities and explore the policy and operational constraints that Air National Guard RPAs face in conducting such missions. The authors analyzed data on the kinds of missions that RPAs conduct domestically, the current and future capabilities of the Air National Guard's RPA force (such as sensors), and the policy and operational constraints the Air National Guard faces in using its RPAs to fly domestic missions.

They came up with a few recommendations:

  • The current Air National Guard RPA force can add the most value by focusing on incident-reconnaissance missions, which involve flying over affected areas to transmit images of threats or damage to first responders. To the extent that policy restrictions allow, Air National Guard RPAs could also focus on fixed-target surveillance, which involves imaging discrete targets such as buildings. This would free up DHS RPAs to focus on the missions for which they are best equipped: patrolling for undocumented migrants, analyzing trends in migrant traffic, and maritime counterdrug missions.
  • As the Air National Guard upgrades its RPA force to include the more capable MQ-9 Reapers, it should give priority to RPA units that are closest to the southwest border. The MQ-9s will have sensors useful for border change-detection, so positioning them closest to the areas where they would be best utilized would speed response while minimizing the need for transits to the border and thus requests for access to additional airspace.
  • When conducting RPA-related exercises and training, the Air National Guard should include events focusing on strategic-level policy constraints and coordination with personnel from other agencies.
  • The Air National Guard and other stakeholders should consider procedures that simplify the administrative processes for deploying and employing RPAs for domestic operations.
  • To help stakeholders identify ways to streamline civil support processes, the Air National Guard should host workshops or conferences to educate law enforcement agencies and first responders about RPA capabilities and the processes required to obtain support for law enforcement or emergency management operations.
  • The Air National Guard should develop a strategy to identify and address congressional concerns while providing transparency for the public as DoD works to explain its policies and uses for RPAs domestically.

Read the report »

Other RAND research on drones »

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RAND Congressional Resources Staff

Jayme Fuglesten
Director, Office of Congressional Relations

Laura Patton
Terrorism and Homeland Security Legislative Analyst

RAND Office of Congressional Relations
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