New RAND Center to Analyze Options for U.S. Grand Strategy

For Release

February 12, 2020

The RAND Corporation is launching the Center for Analysis of U.S. Grand Strategy to advance the debate on American foreign policy by tackling key unresolved theoretical, empirical and policy questions. The center, led by RAND political scientist Miranda Priebe, will be initially funded by a $2.9 million grant from the Charles Koch Institute.

The center will address analytical gaps so policymakers may consider fully developed options for future U.S. grand strategy—the country's roadmap for how it uses all instruments of national power to achieve security and promote its vital interests.

“The United States is in the midst of a debate about its future grand strategy,” said K. Jack Riley, vice president of the National Security Research Division at RAND, a nonprofit, nonpartisan research institution. “But a number of analytical gaps make it difficult for the country to fully engage with the choices it faces and the relative merits of various options. The Charles Koch Institute grant, along with additional funding that we intend to raise, will help us gather the empirical evidence to address these gaps and inform grand strategy policy prescriptions.”

“We are thrilled to work with one of the oldest and best think tanks in the world to advance top-notch research on U.S. grand strategy at such a critical juncture in American history,” said William Ruger, vice president for research and policy at the Charles Koch Institute. “This research will broaden the marketplace of ideas around grand strategy and promote a healthier and richer discourse on U.S. foreign policy. The center's work to test key assumptions in the grand strategy debate and help operationalize what alternative approaches might look like is much-needed as American leaders look beyond our current grand strategy.”

America's current grand strategy—referred to by different groups as liberal internationalism, liberal hegemony, or primacy—is relatively well understood. Yet its central assumptions have not been fully articulated or tested. Alternative grand strategies such as restraint and off-shore balancing have been proposed, but more research is needed to assess their claims.

The Center for Analysis of U.S. Grand Strategy will support research by an interdisciplinary team of RAND political scientists, historians, economists and regional and military experts, as well as seminars to generate big ideas for future research relevant to the grand strategy debate.

The center will test the assumptions and arguments of current and proposed grand strategies and consider how they might cope with technological change, shifts in the balance of power, and other global trends. Researchers may consider empirical questions such as: Does U.S. forward troop presence around the world tend to deter adversaries and reduce conflict as advocates of current U.S. grand strategy claim? In addition, the center will consider applied policy questions focused on U.S. alliances, U.S. military interventions in the Middle East, and U.S. relations with Russia and China. For example, how would U.S. policy toward China, Taiwan or Japan change under a grand strategy of restraint?

“These are critical issues at the top of RAND's research agenda, but ones we could not readily undertake without the assistance of donors such as the Charles Koch Institute,” said Christine Wormuth, director of the RAND International Security and Defense Policy Center.

The Charles Koch Institute is a non-profit educational organization dedicated to improving the lives of all Americans by supporting education and dialogue to advance ideas and challenge convention in areas such as foreign policy, free speech and criminal justice. RAND has received previous grants from the institute's parent Charles Koch Foundation for research projects about criminal justice. As with all RAND work, research out of the Center for Analysis of U.S. Grand Strategy will adhere to RAND standards for independence, objectivity and nonpartisanship.

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