International Security and Defense Policy Program

Small planet earth on a chess board

The International Security and Defense Policy Program (ISDP) conducts in-depth research that helps U.S. and allied leaders make tough decisions about national and international security. ISDP's work spans the political, military, and economic aspects of global challenges, drawing on the best available qualitative data, quantitative data, and methodological tools. ISDP helps its clients understand and manage security challenges, evaluate the effectiveness of military forces and postures, and build the capacity of allies and partners.

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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.