International Security and Defense Policy Program

Small planet earth on a chess board

The International Security and Defense Policy Center (ISDP) conducts research and analysis that illuminates strategic security dynamics for the United States and its allies and partners. ISDP draws on cross-disciplinary teams applying mixed qualitative and quantitative methods to examine the political, military, economic, cultural, and technological dimensions of global security challenges. ISDP enables its sponsors to anticipate the security environment, develop grand and defense strategies, evaluate the effectiveness of military forces and other elements of national power, and enhance security cooperation with allies and partners.

Latest Publications

  • Deterrence Under Uncertainty: Artificial Intelligence and Nuclear Warfare 2023

    Edward Geist

    Using insights from computer science, Deterrence Under Uncertainty: Artificial Intelligence and Nuclear Warfare evaluates how AI could make nuclear war winnable, and whether that possibility is likely. Detailed chapters explain how the landscape of nuclear deterrence is changing and debunk the myths of machine intelligence and nuclear weapons.

  • U.S.-Japan Alliance Conference: The U.S.-Japan Alliance in an Era of Strategic Competition 2023

    Jeffrey W. Hornung

    Key U.S. allies are looking at the war in Ukraine to draw lessons for their security planning, a trend that has opened new chances for U.S.-Japan security ties to expand and deepen. These proceedings present insights that experts on Europe, Japan, Taiwan, and U.S. security policies presented at RAND Corporation–hosted virtual conferences that explored relevant issues on the U.S.-Japan alliance regarding strategic competition.

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Research Focus Areas

Understanding the International Security Environment

ISDP teams continuously analyze the evolving global security environment, using a broad range of techniques and tools to remain on the cutting edge of scholarly and policy research. Diverse ISDP teams arise from RAND’s deep bench of regional, functional, and technical experts, who work closely with global networks of leading government and nongovernment clients and contacts.

Developing Defense Strategies and Operational Concepts

ISDP focuses on the most-pressing challenges facing the United States and the world, including potential threats and opportunities relating to China, Russia, Iran, North Korea, terrorism, civil war, space, and technological change. ISDP has helped clients develop strategies and operational concepts through workshops, gaming, and other cutting-edge methods. Topics include countering advanced Chinese missiles, deterring Russian and North Korean aggression, and targeting terrorist networks through coordinated applications of hard and soft power.

Building Defense Forces and Postures

ISDP has developed specialized tools to evaluate multiple force sizes, mixes, and postures to help policymakers understand the key tradeoffs. ISDP has also examined how U.S. competitors are modernizing their military forces to constrain U.S. and allied military power projection.

Advancing Security Cooperation

Security cooperation is an important component of U.S. defense strategy. ISDP supports U.S. efforts to strengthen both the governments and the militaries of allies and partners. By applying proven analytical methods, ISDP helps identify opportunities for U.S. programs to improve the ability of allies and partners to operate alongside, or in place of, U.S. military forces. ISDP has a range of tools to assess the benefits and costs of security cooperation activities, to advise allies and partners on program development, and to strengthen their defense institutions and military capabilities.