Acquisition and Technology Policy Program

U.S. Marines lift an artillery piece with a helicopter

Photo by Matthew Kirk/U.S. Marine Corps

The Acquisition and Technology Policy Program (ATP) helps ensure that U.S. and allied forces have the materiel they need to accomplish their missions in every warfighting domain: space, air, ground, sea, and cyber.

Latest Publications

See All ATP Publications

Commentary from ATP Researchers

  • F-16s Are No Magic Bullet for Ukraine, but They Are a Game Changer with the Right Munitions

    Will F-16s win the war for Ukraine? No. Only ground victories and unacceptable Russian losses will force Putin to negotiate. However, a long-term commitment to supporting a well-equipped, sizable F-16 force will improve the likelihood of Ukrainian success even if an F-16 never shoots a Russian fighter.

  • Taking the Measure of AI and National Security

    Transformative technologies should not be abandoned due to their risks. Instead, we should focus on understanding the threats, implementing necessary countermeasures, and utilizing the tools in a safer and more secure manner.

  • When a Quantum Computer Is Able to Break Our Encryption, It Won't Be a Secret

    Policymakers and cybersecurity analysts should avoid messaging that emphasizes the risk that cryptanalytically relevant quantum computers developed in secret could be imminent or already operational. There is already more than enough reason to upgrade our communications systems to resist attacks from quantum computers as soon as possible.

  • Winning the Tech Cold War

    Emerging technologies increasingly make it possible for machines to innovate much faster and more efficiently than humans ever could. The Pentagon can draw some important lessons for technology competition with China by looking at the U.S.-Soviet race to develop nuclear weapons during the Cold War.

  • Rethinking Who's Winning the U.S.-China Tech Competition

    The competition between the U.S. and China is a multi-dimensional contest involving technological, economic, military, and political elements. To accurately assess a nation's standing, the focus should shift from measures (raw numerical data) to metrics, which offer meaningful interpretations of these numbers.

  • Why DoD Needs Greater Focus on Nonlethal Weapons, Intermediate Force Capabilities

    Nonlethal weapons do not entail the firing of projectiles, the detonation of explosives, or even the use of edged weapons with blades. Their effects are more subtle, though no less powerful for that. But the effects of these systems, and their impact on overall military capabilities, are often underestimated or misunderstood.

  • ChatGPT Is Creating New Risks for National Security

    Large language models like ChatGPT and Claude offer a wide range of beneficial applications. But there are significant risks associated with their use that demand a coordinated effort among partner nations to forge a solid, integrated defense against the threat of malign information operations.

Get updates on RAND's work on National Security and Terrorism

Research Focus Areas

Joint Force Development

ATP helps defense policymakers prioritize investments in forces, capabilities, and technologies and drive those investments toward operational objectives. For example, ATP has helped identify how to improve airbase resilience to attacks; how to pair autonomous, unmanned aerial vehicles with manned platforms to suppress or destroy enemy air defenses; how to sustain power projection forces in contested environments; and how to integrate artificial intelligence into military operations and weapon systems.

Acquisition and the Industrial Base

To help policymakers improve cost, schedule, and performance outcomes, ATP has assessed the prevalence and consequences of bid protests; developed strategies for sustaining the aircraft, munitions, and shipbuilding industrial bases; assessed options for governing, managing, sharing, and using acquisition data; explored methods for reducing the time to field new capabilities without affecting cost or performance; and made acquisition and industrial policy more evidence-based.

Technology Assessment and Transition

ATP scientists and engineers help force developers understand the broad trade-offs among technologies prior to prototyping, assess the value proposition of technology concepts prior to making large investments, conduct independent assessments of top industry performers, and identify the risks and opportunities for technology transitions.

Decision Support

Most real-world decisions cross the boundaries of these focus areas, since a decision to invest in a weapon system or technology hinges on its value to future military operations, the risks of unproven technologies, and the costs of developing, producing, and sustaining a system throughout its lifecycle. ATP research crosses the boundaries, bringing together technologists, force developers, and acquisition professionals. ATP supports real-world decisions via analyses of alternatives (AoAs), strategic portfolio reviews, and strategy formulations, particularly when a cross- disciplinary perspective is necessary.