Threat Analysis


Researchers collaborate across disciplines at RAND to evaluate terrorist, military, nuclear, cyber, and other threats to U.S. national security—identifying emerging threats, scrutinizing known risks, and evaluating potential strategic and tactical responses. Recent studies have included examinations of ISIS, Iran's nuclear capabilities, and insider threats.

  • Commentary

    Why Is China Strengthening Its Military? It's Not All About War

    China's military modernization goals serve a variety of political and military purposes, none of which imply any intent to actually start a war. A grasp of the myriad drivers could help observers more accurately assess the danger posed by the PLA's modernization.

    Mar 24, 2023

  • Q&A

    Keeping America Safe in an Age of Danger: Q&A with Andrew Hoehn and Thom Shanker

    In their new book, Andrew Hoehn and Thom Shanker argue that America has entered an age of danger that may come to rival anything in its history. They explain why the national security system needs an overhaul as we face a growing array of threats, from cyber attacks to climate change.

    Jun 26, 2023

Explore Threat Assessment

  • Preventing Domestic Violent Extremism


    Preventing Domestic Violent Extremism: Insights from RAND Research

    RAND researchers Pauline Moore, Todd Helmus, and Alexandra Evans discuss the complex challenges of countering domestic violent extremism in the United States. Their research offers insights into trends, key actors in the extremist community, and factors that lead to joining or leaving extremist groups.

    Nov 30, 2023

  • Abstract painting with two faces, photo by Sasha devet/Adobe Stock


    The Israel-Hamas War Has Upended the Terrorist Threat Matrix

    Today's terrorist threat matrix seems more like an abstract expressionist painting. To those accustomed to traditional landscapes, it is difficult to discern what it depicts. The fighting in Gaza may well provoke terrorist repercussions beyond the region, the magnitude and shape of which will depend on the course of the conflict.

    Nov 22, 2023

  • Report


    Industry and Government Collaboration on Security Guardrails for AI Systems: Summary of the AI Safety and Security Workshops

    These conference proceedings capture the industry and government perspectives emerging from a series of workshops in 2023 to inform policymakers and the broader public discussion about artificial intelligence safety and security.

    Oct 31, 2023

  • Russia's Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu meets with Iran's Defense Minister Brigadier General Mohammad-Reza Ashtiani in Tehran, Iran, September 20, 2023, photo by West Asia News Agency via Reuters


    The Drivers of and Outlook for Russian-Iranian Cooperation

    Russia and Iran's recent cooperation regarding Ukraine has raised concerns that the once wary partners might be moving toward a more comprehensive, strategic alliance. Such a prospect could have significant consequences for the United States' ability to safeguard its interests in the Middle East.

    Oct 4, 2023

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with Russian servicemen involved in the Russia-Ukraine conflict, in Moscow, Russia, September 29, 2023, photo by Pavel Bednyakov/Sputnik/Kremlin via Reuters


    Rightsizing the Russia Threat

    A proper understanding of the threat Russia poses must begin with an accurate appraisal of Russian power. Putin might harbor fantasies of world conquest. But his military cannot even fully conquer any of the four Ukrainian provinces he claims to have annexed last year. Ultimately, those are the constraints that should bound the debate about the extent of the threat.

    Oct 3, 2023

  • (l-r) Ryan Graves, David Grusch, and David Fravor attend a U.S. House of Representatives hearing on “Unidentified Anomalous Phenomena: Implications on National Security, Public Safety, and Government Transparency” in Washington, D.C., July 26, 2023, photo by Elizabeth Frantz/Reuters


    UFO Research Is Only Harmed by Antigovernment Rhetoric

    There is an undercurrent of conspiracy theory and, relatedly, antigovernment sentiment brewing around the issue of unidentified anomalous phenomena (UAP). If it grows, it could prove toxic to any factual and scientific discussion of UAPs.

    Sep 22, 2023

  • Binary code and digital locks, some lit up and some not, photo by JuSun/Getty Images


    Cyber Attacks Reveal Uncomfortable Truths About U.S. Defenses

    Without government investments and policies to drive transparency and a clear understanding of what cybersecurity tools do, how well they work, and how securely they are built, the United States risks continuing to offer its adversaries the means to undermine its systems and, ultimately, its security.

    Sep 21, 2023

  • Binary code and head profile, photo by Kristina Bolgert/Adobe Stock


    Taking the Measure of AI and National Security

    Transformative technologies should not be abandoned due to their risks. Instead, we should focus on understanding the threats, implementing necessary countermeasures, and utilizing the tools in a safer and more secure manner.

    Sep 20, 2023

  • North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un and Russia's President Vladimir Putin attend a meeting at the Vostochny Сosmodrome in the far eastern Amur region, Russia, September 13, 2023, photo by Sputnik/Artem Geodakyan/Pool via Reuters


    North Korea, Russia and China: The Developing Trilateral Imperialist Partnership

    There are no easy ways for the United States and its allies to counter the developing Russia-China–North Korea partnership. But there are options to consider and steps to take. There are also fissures in their relationships to exploit.

    Sep 13, 2023

  • Members of the Proud Boys gather near the Tennessee State Capitol ahead of a special session on public safety in Nashville, Tennessee, August 21, 2023, photo by Cheney Orr/Reuters


    How to Put RAND Findings on Veteran Support for Extremism in Context

    A RAND survey found that U.S. veterans appeared to support extremist groups at a rate lower than the general population. In contrast, a new University of Maryland study found that veteran status was the most prominent characteristic among extremists involved in terrorism attacks with four or more victims.

    Sep 11, 2023

  • illustration of virus spreading out in a network, photo by Images


    Embracing the Messiness of Public-Private Collaboration in the Fight Against Botnets

    Botnets are networks of computers infected with malware that an attacker controls and uses to fulfill malicious cyber activities. Decisionmakers could incorporate a complex adaptive systems perspective to assess if their organization and immediate network, as well as the overall ecosystem, are adaptable and resilient enough to respond to botnet activities.

    Aug 16, 2023

  • Closeup digital rendering of a human eye, photo by Vertigo3d/Getty Images


    A Model for Regulating AI

    While AI will bring many benefits, it is also potentially dangerous. We would do well to establish a model of oversight that focuses on the three parts of the AI supply chain: hardware, the training of each model, and rigorous review before each model is released.

    Aug 16, 2023

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting with service members at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, June 27, 2023, photo by Mikhail Tereshchenko/Sputnik/Pool via Reuters


    It Should Not Have Been a Surprise: The Threat from Putin's Russia

    The recent NATO summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, left the world asking a hard question: “Are we in a new Cold War with Russia?” Our answer is to a different, and harder, and more important question: Is Russia already at war with the West?

    Aug 1, 2023

  • RAND Weekly Recap


    Unidentified Aerial Phenomena, Neurodiversity, Russia's 'Forever War': RAND Weekly Recap

    This weekly recap focuses on public reports of unidentified aerial phenomena, neurodiversity and national security, Ukraine's path to victory, and more.

    Jul 28, 2023

  • A drone or other object in the sky during a colorful sunset, photo by Наталья Босяк/Adobe Stock


    Where Are Unidentified Aerial Phenomena Sightings in the United States?

    The February 2023 Chinese surveillance balloon incident raised questions about the degree to which the U.S. government knows who is flying what over its skies. Public reporting of unidentified aerial phenomena may help officials identify potential threats.

    Jul 25, 2023

  • U.S. Navy sailors recover a suspected Chinese spy balloon off the coast of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, February 5, 2023, U.S. Navy photo via EyePress News/Reuters


    UFOs Are Not the Only Potential Threat in American Skies

    How can the United States best monitor its millions of square miles of domestic airspace for unidentified anomalous phenomena—what were once called UFOs—or anything else? Public reporting could help officials identify potential threats—but it'd help if the sightings being reported were actually unknown aerial phenomena and not U.S. military aircraft.

    Jul 25, 2023

  • Facebook, TikTok, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram apps are seen on a smartphone, July 13, 2021, photo by Dado Ruvic/Reuters


    The Promise—and Pitfalls—of Researching Extremism Online

    How big of a problem is extremism in the United States and around the world? Is it getting worse? Are social media platforms responsible, or did the internet simply reveal existing trends? We have few answers because this research is easy to do poorly and hard to do well.

    Jul 17, 2023

  • artificial intelligence concept with CGI face and programming code, photo by dem10/Getty Images


    Tackling the Existential Threats from Artificial Intelligence

    Addressing potential risks posed by artificial intelligence (AI) could begin with simple steps like finding appropriate risk-management approaches, conducting research to determine how AI can better meet designers' intent, and devising responses to issues related to racism, sexism, and other biases within AI systems.

    Jul 11, 2023

  • A bench sits in water as high tide floods the sidewalk and trees in the Tidal Basin in Washington, D.C., June 19, 2023, photo by Allison Bailey/Reuters


    Climate Security Is National Security

    Mitigating the effects of climate change will require a whole-of-government approach and a redefinition of national security to embrace a more panoramic set of risks. Government officials are saying lots of the right things. But is it being done, and done quickly enough?

    Jun 30, 2023

  • A hacker in a dark room with several laptops and a map of Australia, composite image from South_agency and inkoly/Getty Images


    How Violent Extremists Behave Online

    Exploitation of the internet by violent extremists is as old as the technology itself. But ideologically motivated violent extremism (IMVE) actors generally, and especially in online spaces, have been adapting to and adopting the evolving technological landscape in more sophisticated ways.

    Jun 28, 2023