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?

Explore Threat Assessment

  • Bomb blasts and artillery fire thundered across Baghdad as U.S. forces tightened their grip on the capital's fringes and brought up more troops, April 6, 2003, photo by Faleh Kheiber/Reuters

    Commentary

    Changing the Way America Goes to War

    America's vast power, and the weakness of most of its enemies, has allowed it to get away with a striking absence of deliberative judgment when deciding on war, as the Iraq case makes clear. But that free pass is coming to an end. It's time for the United States to rethink the way it decides on wars of choice.

    Jun 25, 2019

  • A portion of a city model glows red indicating a cyber threat to infrastructure at the DarkMatter booth during the Black Hat information security conference in Las Vegas, Nevada, July 26, 2017

    Commentary

    Fighting and Winning the Undeclared Cyber War

    Russia has executed deliberate intrusions into U.S. critical infrastructure since at least 2011. These systems have included government entities, commercial facilities, water resource plants, and aviation institutions. What actions or policies can the U.S. execute to improve security?

    Jun 24, 2019

  • The Olympic torch of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan June 1, 2019, photo by Issei Kato/Reuters

    Commentary

    Japan Prepares for Olympic-Level Cybersecurity

    The world's attention will be fixed on Japan as it hosts the Rugby World Cup in September and the Tokyo Olympics in 2020. Japan's cyber defenses will need to be strong enough to keep attackers out and resilient enough to restore systems should things go wrong.

    Jun 3, 2019

  • Members of the Syrian Democratic Forces with a captured ISIS flag in Raqqa, Syria, August 14, 2017, photo by Zohra Bensemra/Reuters

    Commentary

    Baghdadi Resurfaces: What It Means for ISIS's Global Terror Campaign

    With last week's release of a video of Abu Bakr Baghdadi, ISIS showed that it's still got some life left—literally. The most important message to take away from the Baghdadi video may be that the Islamic State does not need territory to survive and even thrive.

    May 6, 2019

  • Brian Jackson discusses terrorism prevention strategies for the federal government, the nature of the homeland terrorist threat, past and current terrorism prevention policies, and gives recommendations for policymakers in this Congressional Briefing.

    Multimedia

    How Do We Prevent the Next Homegrown Terrorist?

    What is the right terrorism prevention strategy for the federal government? Brian Jackson discusses the nature of the homeland terrorist threat, past and current terrorism prevention policies, and gives recommendations for policymakers.

    May 3, 2019

  • A bearded man appearing to be Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi speaks in a video released April 29, 2019, photo by Islamic State Group/Al Furqan Media Network/Reuters TV

    Commentary

    What the Baghdadi Video Means

    For the first time in five years, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the reclusive leader of ISIS, appeared on video. Why did he suddenly feel the need to show his face and speak to his followers? The answer concerns how recent events intersect with ISIS's long-term needs.

    Apr 30, 2019

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping meet on the sidelines of the G20 leaders summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina, December 1, 2018, photo by Sputnik/Mikhail Klimentyev/Kremlin via Reuters

    Commentary

    A Warming Trend in China-Russia Relations

    The China-Russia relationship is indeed growing across military, economic, and political dimensions. But it is still more anchored in shared grievances than in common visions. Both countries contest U.S. interests, but in different ways. Washington should treat them as separate strategic challenges.

    Apr 18, 2019

  • Kathryn Bouskill, a social scientist at RAND, photo by Diane Baldwin/RAND Corporation

    Essay

    What the Speed of Life Means for Security and Society

    Dozens of technologies with the power to transform human life, from 3D printing to cognitive implants, could become as ordinary as a cellphone by 2040. Society will have to adapt, on the fly, in ways it never has. The speed of life itself could pose a security challenge.

    Mar 6, 2019

  • Man in handcuffs sits at a table with scales of justice, photo by djedzura/Getty Images

    Commentary

    Leaving ISIS Detainees in the Desert Doesn't Serve U.S. Interests

    Leaving ISIS detainees in the desert may sound like an apt punishment, but it's dangerous. Repatriation and prosecution could help ensure ISIS volunteers don't scatter to other jihadist fronts.

    Mar 5, 2019

  • People arrive at Al Hidayah, a youth camp at Warwick University in Coventry, central England, August 9, 2009, photo by Kieran Doherty/Reuters

    Commentary

    To Ensure Deradicalisation Programmes Are Effective, Better Evaluation Practices Must First Be Implemented

    Given the increasing number of ISIS foreign fighters seeking re-entry into the UK, a better understanding of deradicalisation programs is essential. More robust and transparent evaluation processes for intervention programmes should be implemented before confidence in their effectiveness can be established.

    Mar 4, 2019

  • World map with exclamation points for epicenters for terrorist attack, photo by Infadel/Getty Images

    Commentary

    A New Framework for Evaluating Counter Violent Extremism Projects

    Gathering evidence in the area of counter violent extremism (CVE) is vital, given the increasing role for CVE interventions in the political and security environment. Evaluations of these interventions can play a role in growing this knowledge, by helping the CVE field itself to develop.

    Feb 15, 2019

  • News Release

    Terrorism Prevention Programs Need Strengthening If They Are to Be Effective

    National capabilities for terrorism prevention, which refers to options other than traditional law-enforcement action to respond to the risk of individual radicalization to violence, are relatively limited. Most rely on local or non-government efforts, and only a subset receive federal support.

    Feb 14, 2019

  • A woman speaking in a community meeting, photo by Hero Images/Getty Images

    Research Brief

    How to Strengthen Terrorism Prevention Efforts

    Shortfalls in national terrorism prevention efforts have come not only from limited programmatic focus and resource investment, but also from critics seeking to constrain or halt such efforts. The most effective path for the U.S. government would be to support state, local, nongovernmental, and private terrorism prevention efforts rather than building capabilities itself.

    Feb 14, 2019

  • Report

    Practical Terrorism Prevention: Executive Summary

    Researchers examined past U.S. countering violent extremism and terrorism prevention efforts and explored options to strengthen them. This document summarizes findings from the main report.

    Feb 14, 2019

  • Aerial view of Manhattan, New York, with overlay of icons, photo by Dong Wenjie/Getty Images and DigitalVision Vectors

    Report

    Practical Terrorism Prevention

    Current terrorism prevention capabilities are relatively limited. In law enforcement, government, and some community organizations, there is a perceived need for federal efforts to help strengthen local capacity. However, any federal efforts will need to focus on building community trust to be successful.

    Feb 14, 2019

  • News Release

    Islamic State Proves Greater Draw for U.S.-Born Recruits Than al Qaeda

    The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) has been more successful than its predecessor organization, al Qaeda, in drawing Americans to its cause. Whereas al-Qaeda was more reliant on preexisting connections to the region or Islam, an ISIL candidate recruit is more likely to be younger, less educated, and a U.S.-born citizen.

    Dec 18, 2018

  • Police officials stand on the sidewalk as cars drive on the road in front of the Pulse night club, following a shooting in Orlando, Florida, June 21, 2016

    Report

    Trends in the Draw of Americans to Foreign Terrorist Organizations from 9/11 to Today

    The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) has been more successful than its predecessor organization, al Qaeda, in drawing Americans to its cause. Americans drawn to ISIL are more likely to be younger, less educated, Caucasian/white or African American/black, and to have been born in the United States.

    Dec 18, 2018

  • A man prays at a makeshift memorial outside the Tree of Life synagogue following the October 27, 2018 shooting in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

    Commentary

    Suppressing Motivation, Legitimacy Can Help Avoid Political Violence

    The threat of political violence is real and growing, but there are concrete things that can be done to reduce the risks. Solutions might include repeated statements from leaders that fear of people because of their ethnicity, religion, party, or social grouping is wrong and that violence against them is illegitimate and against American values.

    Nov 28, 2018

  • A world map with digital infographics

    Report

    What Deters and Why

    What must the United States do to deter potential aggressors from attacking allies or other countries in large-scale conventional conflicts? Managing an adversary's motives is the key first step.

    Nov 20, 2018

  • 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