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On October 30, 2015, the U.S. Army Special Operations Command (USASOC) facilitated a senior leader forum, hosted by the U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) and the U.S. Department of State (DoS), to explore the subject of comprehensive deterrence. Participants included representatives from across DoS and the U.S. Department of Defense.

According to a 2015 draft joint USASOC and USSOCOM definition, comprehensive deterrence is the "prevention of adversary action through the existence of credible and proactive physical, cognitive and moral capabilities (loosely defined as willpower) that raise an adversary's perceived cost to an unacceptable level of risk relative to the perceived benefit." Part I of this report delivers the proceedings from the senior leader forum, reflecting a robust discussion of comprehensive deterrence and its application. To ensure a wide variety of perspectives and encourage free-flowing discussion, all remarks from the forum were not for attribution. As such, the conference summary seeks to draw out the main themes and observations from the discussion without attributing particular points to a specific participant.

To support the forum's exploration of comprehensive deterrence and related issues, the RAND Corporation commissioned five papers to examine various aspects of this proposal, referencing four distinct waves of deterrence literature. These papers were distributed at the senior leader forum and are included in Part II of this conference proceeding.

Table of Contents

  • Part I

    Conference Proceedings

  • Part II

    Comprehensive Deterrence Papers

    • Chapter One

      Moving to a Practical Deterrence Strategy: How to Make Deterrence Work in 2015 and Beyond

      Ben Connable

    • Chapter Two

      The Limits of Deterrence

      Sir Lawrence Freedman

    • Chapter Three

      Reimagining Deterrence: New Security Threats and Challenges to the Deterrence Paradigm

      T. V. Paul

    • Chapter Four

      Expanding the Concept of Deterrence

      Patrick M. Morgan

    • Chapter Five

      A Primitive's View of Deterrence

      Eliot A. Cohen

Research conducted by

This research was sponsored by the U.S. Army Special Operations Command, G-9, and conducted by the Strategy, Doctrine, and Resources Program within the RAND Arroyo Center.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation conference proceeding series. RAND conference proceedings present a collection of papers delivered at a conference or a summary of the conference.

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