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Research Question

  1. How can the U.S. government measure the adequacy of investments in counterterrorism in light of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, the decline in threats from major extremist Islamist organizations, and the shift of national security priorities from jihadist terrorism to China and Russia?

In this report, the authors offer a concept of how to determine the capabilities the United States needs to remain safe from international terrorism. By assessing the threats and prioritizing the functions and means to counter them, it is possible to derive net terrorist threat assessments: in essence, the dangers given a determined set of U.S. counterterrorism capabilities. The authors provide a framework that offers an indicative assessment of competing demands for high-priority counterterrorism capabilities.

Key Findings

To perform a net assessment, the intent, capabilities, and access to targets of chosen terrorist threats must be analyzed

  • This analysis focuses on two broad classes of threats: (1) very capable, usually large, anti-American jihadist extremist groups (mainly in and around the Greater Middle East) and (2) widely, if not globally, distributed networks of radicalized small cells or individuals.
  • A complete net assessment should include an examination of other threats by intent, capabilities, and access and of the potential for distributed threats to become more dangerous.

This research was prepared for 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).

This report is part of the RAND research report series. RAND reports present research findings and objective analysis that address the challenges facing the public and private sectors. All RAND reports undergo rigorous peer review to ensure high standards for research quality and objectivity.

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