Extremist Beliefs Among Veterans, Space Traffic, Teacher Well-Being: RAND Weekly Recap

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Jun 9, 2023

RAND Weekly Recap

This week, we discuss evidence suggesting that veterans don’t support extremism any more than the public does; why it’s time to manage traffic in outer space; twin personnel crises on the horizon for Russia; workplace conditions that support teacher well-being; America’s strategic advantage over China in Oceania; and how climate change might affect force readiness.

A neighbor and caretaker of a USS Arizona survivor salutes the wall of names at the USS Arizona Memorial at an interment ceremony on December 7, 2019, photo by PO1 Holly He/U.S. Marine Corps

Photo by PO1 Holly He/U.S. Marine Corps

Veterans Don't Support Extremism Any More Than the Public Does

After early reports that a significant share of the January 6th attackers were or had been affiliated with the U.S. military, there were concerns that the veteran community might be at increased risk of radicalization to violent extremism.

To learn more about this issue, RAND conducted the first nationally representative survey of veterans' views about extremism and extremist groups.

We found that there is no evidence to support the idea that the U.S. veteran community supports violent extremism at higher rates than the American public. In fact, veteran support for various extremist groups ranged from 1 percent (white supremacists) to 5.5 percent (Antifa) and was generally lower than rates among the general population.

Among veterans who did express support for extremist groups, the majority did not endorse political violence. This is good news, but our findings suggest that work is still needed to ensure that veterans are not susceptible to recruitment by extremists.

A ring of debris (space junk) orbits the Earth. Image by JohanSwanepoel/Adobe Stock

Image by JohanSwanepoel/Adobe Stock

Now Is the Time for Space Traffic Management

With about 6,900 active satellites and more than 130 million objects smaller than a golf ball, outer space is more congested than ever before. This increases the risk of collisions and conflict. That's why RAND researchers say it's time to establish an international organization that's responsible for space traffic management. Such a body would not only reduce the chance of an extraterrestrial disaster, but also help preserve the sustainable use of Earth's orbits.

Russian conscripts take part in a ceremony marking their departure for garrisons, at the Trinity Cathedral in Saint Petersburg, Russia, May 23, 2023, photo by Anton Vaganov/Reuters

Russian conscripts take part in a ceremony marking their departure for garrisons, at the Trinity Cathedral in St. Petersburg, May 23, 2023

Photo by Anton Vaganov/Reuters

Twin Personnel Crises Ahead for Russian Armed Forces

Russian soldiers—almost all of whom are serving under compulsory service—have faced indefinite deployment, inadequate rest, and prolonged exposure to combat stress. According to RAND's Dara Massicot, Russia's mistreatment of military personnel has created two looming crises: troop retention and veteran mental health problems. Russia's invasion of Ukraine is thus producing “a wave of severe trauma that will soon crash over its own country,” she says.

An elementary school teacher helping a student on a tablet, photo by LumiNola/Getty Images

Photo by LumiNola/Getty Images

Working Conditions to Support Teacher Well-Being

Teacher well-being declined over the course of the pandemic. What working conditions might help restore it? RAND survey results from spring 2022 provide some insights at the national level and in five states specifically: California, Florida, New York, Texas, and Washington. Three of the five working conditions that had the strongest connection with positive well-being were focused on interpersonal relationships. A schoolwide focus on social and emotional learning was also linked to positive well-being.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken signs the Defense Cooperation Agreement with Papua New Guinea Defense Minister Win Daki at the APEC House in Papua New Guinea, May 22, 2023, photo by Chuck Kennedy/U.S. State Department

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Papua New Guinea Defense Minister Win Daki, APEC House, Papua New Guinea, May 22, 2023

Photo by Chuck Kennedy/U.S. State Department

The U.S. Is Winning in Oceania

On April 20, 2022, China signed its first security agreement in the South Pacific. At the time, this was widely seen as a dark day for the United States in Oceania. These concerns have proven to be overblown, says RAND's Derek Grossman. More recently, Washington has made major geostrategic gains in the region, while Beijing has grossly mismanaged its diplomacy. The United States need not be alarmed by Chinese security activities in Oceania, Grossman says, but it “should nevertheless keep a close eye on Beijing's moves.”

Soldiers look out over the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California, August 17, 2021, photo by Spc. Steven Alger/U.S. Army

Soldiers look out over the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California, August 17, 2021

Photo by Spc. Steven Alger/U.S. Army

How Might Climate Change Affect Force Readiness?

Generating, maintaining, and even increasing military force readiness in light of a changing climate is key to meeting U.S. strategic goals. A new RAND report provides a framework for understanding this issue. The authors examine how readiness might be affected by climate hazards, such as drought, flooding, wildfire, and tropical storms, as well as the vulnerability of the people, training, and equipment exposed to these hazards.

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