National Security and Terrorism

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RAND conducts a broad array of national security research for the U.S. Department of Defense and allied ministries of defense. Our federally funded research and development centers (FFRDCs) explore threat assessment, military acquisition, technology, recruitment and personnel management, counterinsurgency, intelligence, and readiness. RAND is a world leader in terrorism research. Studies address such topics as terrorism financing and strategies to undermine violent extremism.

  • Mosul in March 2016, under Islamic State control, when nighttime lighting had fallen by 55 percent compared to its pre-ISIS levels in January 2014, image by NOAA Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS)

    Essay

    What Life Under ISIS Looked Like from Space

    Jan 9, 2018

    Satellite images show how ISIS attempted to govern in Iraq and Syria, the economic damage the group left behind, and what it will take to rebuild.

  • Composite of Chinese flag and abstract globalization concept, images by Piotr Krzeslak and liuzishan/Getty Images

    Report

    How China Seeks to Wage Modern Warfare

    Feb 1, 2018

    The People's Liberation Army's approach to training, organizing, and equipping for modern warfare over the past two decades has been influenced by systems thinking. It now characterizes modern warfare as a confrontation between opposing operational systems rather than merely opposing armies.

Explore National Security and Terrorism

  • U.S. Army soldiers load military vehicles onto trains at Camp Carroll in Chilgok, South Korea, during the annual Key Resolve/Foal Eagle military exercises, March 6, 2012

    Commentary

    Joint Military Exercise Can Be a Bargaining Chip with North Korea

    Since 1976, the United States and South Korea have scheduled large-scale joint military exercises each year. Postponing the exercises this year has led to some signs that North Korea might be open to diplomacy. Delaying the exercises further could lead to direct talks between Washington and Pyongyang.

    Feb 23, 2018

  • A model of Taiwanese domestically manufactured Hsiung Feng III Anti-Ship Missile is seen inside the missile launching vehicle during International Maritime and Defense Industry Exposition in Kaohsiung, Taiwan September 16, 2016

    Commentary

    China Is Tightening the Screws on Taiwan. Will Trump Act and Risk Losing Beijing?

    The United States should consider ways to strengthen its engagement with Taiwan on defense and security issues that go beyond arms sales. Washington will need to do more to help Taiwan deal with other forms of Chinese pressure as well.

    Feb 22, 2018

  • Chinese boats fish at the disputed Scarborough Shoal, April 5, 2017

    Commentary

    The Potential of the Quadrilateral

    The countries of the Quadrilateral Security Framework are the region's four most capable maritime powers, and are naturally concerned with China's assault on international rules and norms. If ever put in place, the Quad could contribute to the maintenance of security and order in the Indo-Pacific maritime commons.

    Feb 22, 2018

  • U.S. Vice President Mike Pence and South Korea's President Moon Jae-in attend short track speed skating events in Pyeongchang, February 10, 2018

    Commentary

    At Olympics, U.S. and Korean Leaders Revive Familiar Roles

    The current spate of North-South Korean diplomacy could be short-lived, giving way to resumed tensions and mounting fears of war. It seems possible, however, that South Korean President Moon Jae-in will succeed in brokering direct talks between Pyongyang and Washington.

    Feb 22, 2018

  • Journal Article

    Can Vietnam's Military Stand Up to China in the South China Sea?

    This article examines Vietnam's warfighting capabilities for defending its disputed claims with China in the South China Sea.

    Feb 22, 2018

  • Report

    Limited Intervention: Evaluating the Effectiveness of Limited Stabilization, Limited Strike, and Containment Operations

    The report analyzes the strategic effects of low-cost and small-footprint military options across a range of irregular warfare operations and in a range of operational environments.

    Feb 22, 2018

  • Residents who returned from evacuation centers walk past a bullet-ridden house believed to have been rented by pro-Islamic State militant group leaders before their attack on the region, in Basak Malutlut district in Marawi City, Philippines, October 29, 2017

    Commentary

    Where Will ISIS Seek to Establish Its Next Safe Haven?

    Many of ISIS's surviving fighters will seek out new battlefields to continue waging jihad. By coordinating with its allies around the globe, the U.S. could work to help alleviate the conditions that lead states to fail, making them less appealing as sanctuaries where terrorists can rest, rearm, and recuperate.

    Feb 19, 2018

  • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a weekly cabinet meeting, Jerusalem, February 11, 2018

    Commentary

    Israel Prepares to Take on Iran and Hezbollah in Syria

    Clashes between Israeli, Iranian, and Syrian forces have injected new volatility into the Middle East. This increases the likelihood of miscalculation and escalatory military action across the region.

    Feb 19, 2018

  • Shi'ite Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) members hold an Islamic State flag, which they pulled down, during the war between Iraqi army and PMF against Islamic State militants in Tal Afar, Iraq, August 27, 2017

    Commentary

    Expanding the ISIS Brand

    Since its founding, the Islamic State has consistently expanded and contracted in order to achieve its objectives. To discern how ISIS might continue to expand, it makes sense to trace Al Qaeda's trajectory, which followed a similar pattern in the 2000s.

    Feb 19, 2018

  • The Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine USS Rhode Island (SSBN 740) returns to Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay after three months at sea

    Commentary

    Discrimination Details Matter: Clarifying an Argument About Low-Yield Nuclear Warheads

    Nuclear forces and nuclear strategy are complex and the facts surrounding them are often shrouded in classification. But if the United States were to deploy a low-yield submarine-launched ballistic missile warhead in the future, an adversary would face the same problems as it does today in knowing what the missile contains

    Feb 16, 2018

  • Flowers and pictures of victims of the Islamic State's assault on Istanbul's Reina nightclub are placed near its entrance in Istanbul, Turkey, January 17, 2017

    Commentary

    Erdogan's Fatal Blind Spot

    Erdogan's tolerance of ISIS fighters in Turkey amounts to tacit approval. The danger posed by ISIS using Turkey as a staging ground could become more formidable than the threat currently posed by Kurdish terrorism. Tolerating ISIS to fight the Kurds is therefore a dangerous and myopic policy.

    Feb 16, 2018

  • A briefer holds a briefing book prior to the Presidential Daily Briefing in the Outer Oval Office, March 10, 2009

    Commentary

    Presidential Intelligence Briefings: The Process Is Working. But Is Trump Listening?

    President Trump receives intelligence briefings on a fairly regular basis and he appears engaged in discussions with senior staff and the intelligence community about content. Ideally, this process is informing his national security decisionmaking.

    Feb 15, 2018

  • An AH-64 Apache attack helicopter takes off near soldiers participating in a training exercise at Grafenwoehr, Germany, November 18, 2017

    Report

    How Does U.S. Military Presence Affect Conflict?

    Stationing U.S. forces can be an effective tool in deterring state aggression, but this doesn't appear to reduce the risk of intrastate conflict. There is also an important trade-off: U.S. troop presence may provoke more militarized activities short of war.

    Feb 15, 2018

  • Soldiers of China's People's Liberation Army get ready for the military parade to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the foundation of the army at Zhurihe military training base in Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China, July 30, 2017

    Testimony

    U.S. Responses to PLA Modernization

    In responding to the PLA's modernization, U.S. decisionmakers should consider two key facts. First, China recognizes a major war with America would likely destroy its national development objectives. Second, most of the PLA's modernization corresponds to capabilities the United States has already attained.

    Feb 15, 2018

  • Soldiers carry a PLA flag and Chinese national flags before the military parade to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the foundation of China's PLA at Zhurihe military base in Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China, July 30, 2017

    Testimony

    Addressing PLA Rocket Force Modernization

    China's growing missile capabilities could pose serious challenges for the United States and its allies. To protect its regional security interests, the United States should continue to monitor the PLA's modernization and adapt its own deterrence capabilities.

    Feb 15, 2018

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting with scientists, representing the Siberian branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, in Novosibirsk, Russia February 8, 2018

    Commentary

    Free Lunches for Adversaries

    When leaders take actions that are unpopular with wide audiences, propagandists have it easy. While Western leaders should not make propaganda potential the primary factor when weighing policy decisions, neither should they wholly disregard the opportunities that unpopular policies will offer adversaries.

    Feb 13, 2018

  • German troops cross the Neris River during the 2017 Iron Wolf exercise in Stasenai, Lithuania, June 20, 2017

    Commentary

    A 'Glass Half-Full': Next Steps for Enhancing Deterrence on NATO's Eastern Flank

    The United States and key allies have taken steps toward redressing the imbalance in military power between NATO and Russia in Northeastern Europe. But NATO's defense planners must be clear-eyed about what remains to be done.

    Feb 12, 2018

  • A Chinese military band conductor prepares to perform before the opening ceremony of the National People's Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing March 5, 2007

    Commentary

    China Has Big Plans to Win the Next War It Fights

    The People's Liberation Army (PLA) views modern conflict as a confrontation between opposing systems. This systems-thinking has wide ranging implications for how the PLA conceptualizes warfare in the twenty-first century.

    Feb 12, 2018

  • Autonomous vehicles on a highway

    Commentary

    Ensuring Cybersecurity Is Vital for a Driverless Future

    High-profile accidents involving autonomous vehicles (AVs) have led to recent discussions about the physical safety of people. However, it could be argued that consumers and manufacturers should be equally, if not more, concerned about the potential cybersecurity vulnerabilities in AVs.

    Feb 12, 2018

  • Workers repair a bridge in Mosul, Iraq, January 28, 2018

    Commentary

    If We Don't Get the Peace Right, Iraq Will Slide Back into the Morass

    This week leaders from around the world, including Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and representatives from over 100 U.S. companies, will assemble to plan solutions to Iraq's recovery challenges and investments in its economic future. Steps taken now could well determine Iraq's future.

    Feb 12, 2018