RAND Turns 75: A Look Through the Decades At World-Changing Research


May 8, 2023

RAND's 75th anniversary logo over a global network, image by RAND Corporation and spainter_vfx/Adobe Stock

Image by RAND Corporation and spainter_vfx/Adobe Stock

On May 14, 1948, Project RAND—an organization formed immediately after World War II to connect military planning with research and development decisions—separated from the Douglas Aircraft Company of Santa Monica, California, and became an independent, nonprofit organization. Adopting its name from a contraction of the term Research AND Development, the newly formed entity was dedicated to furthering and promoting scientific, educational, and charitable purposes for the public welfare and security of the United States.

Almost at once, RAND developed a unique style. It blended scrupulous nonpartisanship with rigorous, fact-based analysis to tackle society's most pressing problems. Over time, RAND assembled a unique corps of researchers, notable not only for their individual skills but also for their commitment to interdisciplinary cooperation. By the 1960s, RAND was bringing its trademark mode of empirical, nonpartisan, independent analysis to the study of many urgent domestic social and economic problems. In subsequent decades, RAND extended its focus beyond the United States with the goal of making individuals, communities, and nations safer and more secure, healthier and more prosperous.


RAND's JOHNNIAC mainframe computer

RAND's JOHNNIAC mainframe computer

Photo from the Hauser RAND Archives

1946 First Satellite Design
Preliminary Design of an Experimental World-Circling Spaceship, the first report from Project RAND (before it separated from Douglas Aircraft Company in 1948 and became an independent, nonprofit organization), was at the time the most comprehensive engineering study of the nuts-and-bolts realities of a satellite spacecraft.
The need for solutions to complex analytic studies outstripped the computing power available, so RAND built its own computer. Named after mathematician John von Neumann, the JOHNNIAC was one of the first mainframe computers with stored memory.


One page from the book A Million Random Digits with 100,000 Normal Deviates

One page from the book A Million Random Digits with 100,000 Normal Deviates

Photo by RAND Corporation

1950 Soviet Studies
RAND pioneered the field, beginning in 1950 with The Operational Code of the Politburo.
1952 Cost Analysis and Logistics
RAND produced the first program-based budget for the U.S. Air Force and developed the basic concepts of total force cost analysis.
1954 Selection and Use of Strategic Air Bases
A team of RAND researchers shook the foundation of nuclear deterrence policy by shifting the U.S. from a first-strike to a second-strike posture. The team suggested placing air bases in the U.S. and relying on long-range bombers and aerial refueling aircraft, eventually saving the Air Force billions of dollars.
1955 A Million Random Digits with 100,000 Normal Deviates
This book is still the largest source of random digits and normal deviates used by statisticians, physicists, poll takers, lottery administrators, and quality control engineers.
1957 Artificial Intelligence
The first successful AI program that used Information Processing Languages (IPLs) was developed at RAND. IPLs were the precursors of popular contemporary languages such as LISP.
1958 Reconnaissance Satellite Systems
RAND researchers designed components of the first successful U.S. satellite imagery reconnaissance system. CORONA satellites took pictures of military targets and returned the exposed film back to Earth in reinforced capsules. By eliminating the guesswork regarding military arsenals of nations around the world, the CORONA satellite program served as a deterrent against the outbreak of war.


Man using the RAND Tablet

The RAND Tablet

Photo from the Hauser RAND Archives

1961 The RAND Tablet
This was one of the first devices permitting the input of handwritten text and freehand drawings into a computer. Although limited in its capabilities and too expensive for commercial use, the Tablet paved the way for PalmPilots, tablet PCs, and iPads.
1962 Seed of the Internet
RAND developed a plan for a communication network that would withstand a nuclear attack. This notion of distributed communications, or packet switching, eventually became the foundation of the internet.
1964 NATO Force Planning
RAND research led to the formation of the NATO Defense Planning Working Group, the first NATO contingency studies, the preparation of NATO Planning Guidance, and the NATO Flexible Response defense strategy.


Willis Ware

Photo from the Hauser RAND Archives

1970 Graduate School Established
Founded as one of eight graduate programs created to train future leaders in public policy, the RAND Graduate Institute (now the Pardee RAND Graduate School) is the largest public policy Ph.D. program in the United States.
1971 The All-Volunteer Force
As the U.S. was transitioning from the draft to an all-volunteer force, RAND established a manpower research center comprising economists, cost analysts, operations researchers, and computer scientists, whose efforts developed the analytical underpinnings that have since been used to test and adjust the Department of Defense's volunteer force–related policies.
1972 Pioneering Studies on International Terrorism
After the massacres at the Munich Olympics and Lydda Airport, RAND led the creation of a network of scholars and government officials responsible for dealing with terrorism. RAND developed the RAND Terrorism Chronology, a database that became an increasingly valuable tool for discerning trends in terrorist tactics and targeting.
1974 Computer Security and Privacy
Willis Ware chaired a government committee that studied problems arising from the application of computer technology to record-keeping about people. This work eventually became the foundation of the Federal Privacy Act of 1974.
1975 Racial Differences in Income
RAND examined the main drivers of the post–Civil War economic status of Black Americans. Periods of advancement were linked to periods where the schooling gaps between Black and White Americans closed and the relative quality of Black schools improved. These remain among the most cited references on the economics of race in America.
1976 The RAND Health Insurance Experiment
This remains the largest health policy study in U.S. history and the only experimental study of how cost-sharing arrangements affect people's use of health services, the quality of care they receive, and their health status.
1978 The World's Largest Permeable Dam
A five-year joint effort between RAND and the Dutch government led to the creation of a storm-surge barrier with large movable gates, which balanced the environmental, economic, and safety concerns of the Netherlands.
1979 Criminal Justice Research
RAND researchers confirmed that a small proportion of offenders commit a large percentage of crime, making recidivists a national priority, fostering new legislation, and focusing resources.


A teenager holding a cigarette, photo by Solid photos/Adobe Stock

Photo by Solid photos/Adobe Stock

1984 Strategic Defense and Deterrence
RAND provided the first comprehensive assessment of how a technically successful defense against ballistic missiles would affect deterrence and strategic ability, the security interests of our allies, and arms control.
1985 Costs of Asbestos Litigation
RAND published findings from the first study to examine the costs and compensation paid for asbestos personal injury claims: Claimants received only 37 cents of every dollar spent on litigation, with the rest going to defense and plaintiff attorneys' fees and other expenses.
1987 Chlorofluorocarbons
RAND performed the economic analysis that, when coupled with a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration chemical model of the atmosphere, provided the policy-analytic basis for the global ban on the production of chlorofluorocarbons, halons, and other substances that deplete stratospheric ozone.
1988 Preventing Teenage Smoking and Drug Use
Project ALERT—the most widely used science-based drug prevention program in the country, reaching more than 1.5 million middle school children a year—was developed at RAND.
1989 Monitoring the Results of Medical Care
The Medical Outcomes Study (MOS) was the first large-scale attempt to measure medical outcomes in terms of how patients feel, function, and perform in their natural environment. RAND developed a number of brief screening instruments, including the RAND 36-Item Health Survey.


NATO flag over a blue sea, photo by Solid photos/Adobe Stock

Photo by Solid photos/Adobe Stock

1990 Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty
RAND explored the consequences associated with new international arms control proposals and the potential effects of asymmetrical reductions in forces, providing the analytic basis for a treaty that helped stabilize Europe in the early days of the post–Cold War era.
1992 RAND Europe Established
Ten RAND researchers moved into offices at the Delft University of Technology. Then known as the European–American Centre for Policy Analysis (EAC), its aim was to create a permanent and distinctively European presence, and one of its first acts was to hire local researchers. Today, the organization has a staff of ~150, with offices in Cambridge, UK, and Brussels, BE.
1994 Controlling Cocaine
The RAND study on controlling cocaine provided a powerful argument for increasing U.S. drug treatment programs. It is often cited in the debate on the effectiveness of the drug war.
1996 Intervention Strategies for At-Risk Youth
Researchers identified three types of intervention more cost-effective in reducing crime than California's three-strikes law.
1998 NATO Expansion
RAND experts on Europe and the Soviet Union recommended expanding NATO to include Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Hungary. RAND's ideas and analyses helped inform the U.S. State Department's decision to pursue NATO expansion.
1999 HIV Cost and Services Utilization Study
HCSUS was the first comprehensive U.S. survey of health care use among a nationally representative sample of persons in care for HIV. The study provided information on the costs of HIV care; barriers to access; and effects of HIV on quality of life, productivity, and family life.


A stethoscope on a stack of medical files, photo by mario beauregard/Adobe Stock

Photo by mario beauregard/Adobe Stock

2000 Innovations in Logistics
RAND helped modernize U.S. military logistics by conducting analyses in support of the Air Force's Lean Logistics, the Army's Velocity Management, and the Marine Corps' Precision Logistics initiatives, among others. By adapting commercial management innovations to the military, these studies saved DoD millions of dollars while improving warfighting effectiveness.
2001 Education Vouchers and Charter Schools
RAND conducted a comprehensive analysis of the effects of vouchers and charter schools on academic achievement, school choice, access, integration, and civic socialization.
2003 The RAND History of Nation-Building Series
As Operation Iraqi Freedom transitioned into the U.S. occupation of Iraq, RAND began a new line of inquiry on lessons learned from previous nation-building experiences.
2004 Workers' Compensation
RAND's body of work on workers' compensation provided a new understanding of the relationship between benefits and wage loss and led to significant changes in the California workers' compensation system.
2005 Computerizing Medical Records
RAND conducted the first comprehensive study to quantify the costs and potential health and cost benefits of health information technology.
2008 Invisible Wounds of War
RAND conducted the first large-scale, nongovernmental assessment of the psychological and cognitive needs of military service members who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. The project galvanized attention to the huge numbers of veterans suffering from PTSD, major depression, and traumatic brain injury; to barriers to receiving treatment; and to the billions of dollars in related societal costs.
2009 Kids, Violence, and Trauma
Interventions designed by RAND to be administered by school mental health clinicians or by regular school staff with no mental health training have proven effective in reducing symptoms of PTSD and depression in students exposed to violence.


Painted American flag chipping and peeling off an old piece of wood

Photo by vepar5/Adobe Stock

2010 Removing Barriers to U.S. Military Service
At the request of the Secretary of Defense, RAND updated a groundbreaking 1993 study on gay and lesbian service members, which found that a policy that ends discrimination based on sexual orientation could be implemented in a practical and realistic manner. The new analysis informed many of the recommendations of the DoD working group charged with considering the effects of the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell.
2011 Preventing Suicide in the U.S. Military
Researchers reviewed a wide range of suicide-prevention programs, revealing differences in how the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, and Air Force each approach the issue. Their analysis led to calls to reform prevention programs across the military and to adopt a standard approach that reflects a set of best practices identified by RAND.
2012 Reducing Flood Risk in Coastal Communities
RAND was instrumental in the development of Louisiana's 50-year coastal risk mitigation and restoration plan, adopted unanimously in 2012 by the Louisiana state legislature.
2014 The Needs of Military Caregivers
In the largest such study to date, RAND researchers fielded a survey of military caregivers—informal caregivers (family and friends) who provide indispensable services and save the United States millions of dollars in health and long-term care costs.
2015 Reducing Recidivism
RAND demonstrated that prison education programs increase the odds of an inmate getting a job by 13 percent, reduce the odds of an inmate returning to prison by 30–50 percent, and more than pay for themselves through avoided reincarceration costs.
2017 Implications of the UK Vote to Leave the European Union
RAND explored the economic implications of eight different trade scenarios involving the UK, EU, and U.S. after Brexit and used game theory insights to highlight the variety of factors that might affect the outcome of Brexit negotiations.
2018 Truth Decay
RAND launched a research effort to explore the diminishing role of facts and analysis in American public life, and has since explored related trends, such as the changing mix of opinion and objective reporting in journalism, the decline in public trust in major institutions, and a decline in media literacy.


A busy emergency department in a hospital, photo by David Grossman/Alamy

Photo by David Grossman/Alamy

2020 COVID-19
As hospitals filled with patients during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, RAND raced to develop a tool that would help them meet the surge. It was the first of dozens of research efforts that helped policymakers navigate everything from school closures to household hardships. The tool allowed hospitals and other health care providers to estimate how many patients they could take. They could then model increasingly drastic actions, such as assigning more patients to every nurse, to see how far they could stretch their capacity if needed. The American Hospital Association included the tool in a list of early-pandemic resources for its members.
2021 Gun Policy in America
Researchers explored the magnitude and sources of disagreement among gun policy experts across the ideological spectrum to identify where there might be consensus or opportunities for compromise. They found there were generally two ideological camps—a restrictive group (who favor more-restrictive regulatory approaches to gun ownership and use) and a permissive group (who favor more-permissive regulatory approaches to gun ownership and use). But both camps largely agreed that the top priority for policymakers should be preventing firearm homicides, followed by preventing suicides and protecting privacy rights—even as they disagreed on which policies would best accomplish those goals.
2022 Extremist Activity in the U.S. Military
Researchers developed a framework to help military commanders take more targeted and effective action against extremism in the ranks. The military prohibits service members from actively advocating for extremist activities. RAND's framework scaffolds that prohibition with actions commanders can take to detect, prevent, and address possible violations without infringing on service members' right to free speech.
2023 Mental Health First Aid Training
More than 155,000 New Yorkers were trained in Mental Health First Aid between 2016 and 2020. Researchers looked at the effects of this program and potential insights for future mental health training. According to the survey results, 90 percent of trainees had contact with a person experiencing a mental health problem in the last six months, and nearly all of them applied key skills they learned during their training.

The difference between RAND in 2023 and the organization created in 1948 is substantial and dramatic. We started with one client—the U.S. Air Force—and over the past seven decades have enjoyed productive relationships with thousands of clients. The mix of studies, singular accomplishments, and streams of research and analysis included in this timeline exemplifies the range and originality of our intellectual pursuits—as well as the mission-driven and innovative nature of RAND researchers. The selections are by no means the only ways and not necessarily the most important ways that RAND has made a difference. But they reflect the passions of an ever-diversified staff that is and has always been committed to the public good.