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Research Questions

  1. How might phased interventions aid in terrorism prevention?
  2. What are some evidence-based intervention initiatives that DoD might implement to counter extremism in its ranks?

To support the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD)'s efforts to counter extremism in its ranks, the authors considered how a terrorism prevention or countering violent extremism framework might address the issue. They offer intervention initiatives that DoD might consider adopting. They also review the terrorism prevention framework as it has been applied in the U.S. civilian sector and focus on initiatives that might be relevant and adaptable to the military context.

This review highlights broader evidence for such initiatives, places the initiatives in the context of the radicalization process and in the context of other such initiatives, and offers at least a cursory review of the evidence base for interventions.

Key Findings

Phased interventions can aid in terrorism prevention

  • Early phase interventions, such as online messaging, community education and community resilience, and risk reduction, can be directed at a vulnerable population or one that is in the early phases of radicalization.
  • Middle phase interventions seek to influence those who are already radicalized and possibly becoming violent, and examples are referral promotion, law enforcement training, and intervention programming.
  • Late phase interventions seek to redirect individuals who are in the midst of planning violent activities or have already done so, and examples include prison-based mental health care and support services.

There are specific programs that could be applied to the U.S. military context

  • Generalized or inoculation warnings, media literacy education, outreach using online ads, education programming, community resilience exercises, monitoring of military personnel attitudes toward DoD extremism policies, off-ramping interventions, and military law enforcement training are examples of programs that DoD should consider implementing.

Recommendations

  • Consider adoption of identified terrorism prevention programs.
  • Continue with the intention of assessing the overall prevalence of extremism in the military.
  • Seek to understand how extremism manifests itself in the military.
  • Seek to understand the in-unit dynamics related to extremism.
  • Conduct a stream of research that can inform the creation of terrorism prevention interventions and assess their impact.

This research was sponsored by the Office of the Secretary of Defense and conducted within the International Security and Defense Policy Center of the RAND National Security Research Division (NSRD).

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