Threat Assessment

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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 al Qaeda, the Afghan insurgency, and Iran’s nuclear capabilities.

  • AI robot pressing a nuclear launch button.

    Article

    How Artificial Intelligence Could Increase the Risk of Nuclear War

    Apr 23, 2018

    Advances in AI have provoked a new kind of arms race among nuclear powers. This technology could challenge the basic rules of nuclear deterrence and lead to catastrophic miscalculations.

  • Lithuanian, Latvian, and Estonian soldiers stand in formation for the closing ceremony of exercise Silver Arrow in Adazi, Latvia, October 31, 2016

    Report

    Assessing the Imbalance of Military Power in Europe

    Feb 21, 2018

    Since 2008 Russia has been expanding and refining its readiness for conventional warfare. These improvements have reduced the qualitative and technological gaps between Russia and NATO. What do recent trends imply for the balance of capabilities in NATO member states in the Baltic Sea region?

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  • Brian Michael Jenkins at the One Night with RAND event on November 8, 2018

    Blog

    Reflecting on the Past to Counter Future Terrorism

    One Night with RAND brought together leaders in business, government, academia, and philanthropy to pay tribute to Brian Michael Jenkins and mark his 50-year affiliation with RAND and his substantial body of research on terrorism. Jenkins and other experts discussed the evolution of terrorism and strategies for countering it in the future.

    Nov 14, 2018

  • Refugees and migrants try to warm themselves up, Indjija, Serbia, October 5, 2016

    Commentary

    In Refugee Vetting, How Good Is Good Enough?

    A security policy that depends too heavily on vetting, and expects it to be foolproof, is likely to fall short. A better security standard the administration could consider is not whether vetting failures ever occur, but rather whether they pose an acceptable risk to the United States.

    Nov 1, 2018

  • Malaysian and Vietnamese fishing boats are destroyed for illegal fishing by the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, police and navy, in Batam, Riau Islands, Indonesia, April 5, 2016

    Commentary

    Assessing Recent Developments in Indonesian Maritime Security

    Despite a daunting set of maritime challenges, Indonesia has placed renewed emphasis on maritime security governance. While the programs in place may take decades to bear fruit, Indonesia is on the path to securing the waterways and infrastructure so key to its overall economic development.

    Oct 12, 2018

  • Journal Article

    Evaluation in an Emerging Field: Developing a Measurement Framework for the Field of Counter-Violent-Extremism

    This report seeks lessons from the evidence-based healthcare movement, which has a track record of using evaluation to develop practice, to consider what it might take to develop evaluation capacity in the emerging field of counter-violent-extremism.

    Oct 12, 2018

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping attend a session of the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok, Russia September 12, 2018

    Commentary

    Are We Truly Prepared for a War with Russia or China?

    The U.S. Department of Defense will likely need a strategy to overcome a war with either Russia or China. As threats from Moscow and Beijing grow, what can the United States do now to prepare for major conflict?

    Oct 9, 2018

  • Cybersecurity locks illustration superimposed over a photo of Tokyo at night

    Report

    Preparing for Cybersecurity Threats to the 2020 Olympics

    The Olympic Games are an attractive target for hackers. An examination of Japan's cybersecurity threat landscape and lessons from past events can help planners reduce cybersecurity risks in advance of the 2020 Tokyo Games.

    Oct 4, 2018

  • Journal Article

    Adaptation by Intelligent Adversaries to Defensive Measures: Framing Adaptation Options and Demonstrating Assessment of Attacker Preferences Using Proxy Intelligence Data

    Addressing adaptation by adversaries and its implications for security planning requires understanding the ways attackers can respond to new defensive measures. This paper demonstrates an analysis of such preferences using open source data.

    Oct 2, 2018

  • Data over open hands

    Report

    How the Intelligence Community Could Better Fulfill Its Mission

    Conflict with a near-peer competitor—Russia or China—or war with North Korea or Iran would be a game changer, requiring more resources than the U.S. Intelligence Community currently has. But there are meaningful changes that intelligence leaders could make to better meet future demands.

    Sep 24, 2018

  • Landing ships putting cargo ashore on Omaha Beach, mid-June, 1944

    Report

    What Shapes a Nation's Will to Fight?

    When considering threats from Russia and North Korea, it is natural to focus on military capabilities. But incorporating will to fight into the analysis of actual or potential conflicts will enhance strategic planning. A model that can be tailored and applied to various conflict scenarios can help U.S. leaders better understand and influence will to fight.

    Sep 20, 2018

  • Report

    Homeland Security National Risk Characterization: Risk Assessment Methodology

    Presents a risk assessment methodology that can be used to identify the greatest risks to homeland security and support prioritization of U.S. Department of Homeland Security mission elements as part of DHS planning processes.

    Sep 19, 2018

  • A drone is used to survey high-voltage power lines of electric company Westnetz near Wilnsdorf, Germany, July 11, 2018

    Commentary

    Approaching a 'New Normal': What the Drone Attack in Venezuela Portends

    The attempt to assassinate Venezuelan President Maduro showed that drones are easy to use and difficult to defend against. Commercial off-the-shelf technology is easy to acquire. It is imperative that counterterrorism specialists begin planning a robust response to the threat.

    Aug 13, 2018

  • The U.S. Navy destroyer USS John S. McCain conducts a patrol in the South China Sea, January 22, 2017

    Commentary

    The Security Risks of a Trade War with China

    As U.S.-China trade tensions continue to rise, many observers are focused on the potential for a full-fledged trade war that could destabilize the world economy. But there are security concerns as well. A China less constrained by and invested in economic ties with the United States could pose a greater challenge to U.S. foreign policy.

    Aug 6, 2018

  • A desk with 3D printing technology on top

    Commentary

    Downloadable Guns and Other 3-D Printing Security Threats

    Americans may soon be able to legally access blueprints for 3D-printed guns. The growing opposition to these weapons shows that potential security threats do not have to be inevitable. The security challenges inherent in 3D printing could be addressed, while the development of industry norms can still be shaped.

    Jul 31, 2018

  • A drone flies over the ocean at dawn

    Commentary

    New Technologies Could Help Small Groups Wreak Large-Scale Havoc

    Lone wolves or small groups could use emerging technologies, such as drones or AI, for nefarious purposes. The threat is even greater when these technologies are used along with disinformation spread over social media.

    Jun 18, 2018

  • A memorial for victims of a mass shooting sits outside the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, June 22, 2015

    Commentary

    How Do You Define Terrorism?

    The term “terrorism” remains contested. What constitutes a terrorist attack? Moreover, should groups who incite hatred be held responsible for such attacks—and be labeled as terrorists—even if they don't directly participate in the violence?

    Jun 4, 2018

  • Dissertation

    Value of Information for Policy Analysis

    This dissertation considers the viability of applying Value of Information methods in complex systems for policy analysis, concluding that these methods can be applied, but that different methods are appropriate in different cases.

    May 15, 2018

  • U.S. President Trump just before signing a proclamation declaring his intention to withdraw from the Iran nuclear agreement, May 8, 2018

    Commentary

    The Strategic Fallout of U.S. Withdrawal from the Iran Deal

    President Trump withdrew from the Iran nuclear agreement. What will happen next? Friction between the United States and its European allies will likely increase, while Iran moves closer to China and Russia. Also, the resentment of a new generation of Iranians toward America is likely to grow.

    May 10, 2018

  • A robot arm moves its index finger toward a nuclear button

    Commentary

    Will Artificial Intelligence Undermine Nuclear Stability?

    In the coming years, AI-enabled progress in tracking and targeting adversaries' nuclear weapons could undermine the foundations of nuclear stability. The chance that AI will someday be able to guide strategy decisions about escalation or even launching nuclear weapons is real.

    May 1, 2018

  • A mourner writes a message on a makeshift memorial a day after a van struck multiple people along a major intersection in north Toronto, Ontario, Canada, April 24, 2018

    Commentary

    The Continuing Plague of Vehicle Attacks: What Can Be Done?

    Attacks using vehicles like the one in Toronto this week are difficult to defend against, but that doesn't mean that law enforcement and local security forces can't make progress. There are four crucial elements to consider when thinking about mitigating the effects of ramming attacks.

    Apr 26, 2018