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

  • 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

  • Report

    A Preliminary Assessment of Indonesia's Maritime Security Threats and Capabilities

    This study identifies the threats and priority areas for Indonesia in the maritime security domain as a first step in an overall assessment of capability requirements and gaps.

    Apr 18, 2018

  • An officer with Schertz Police Department holds a FedEx truck from entering the scene of a blast at a FedEx facility in Schertz, Texas, U.S., March 20, 2018

    Commentary

    Austin Bombings Highlight a Potential Vulnerability in the Mail Delivery System

    USPS is better than private couriers at identifying and detecting suspicious packages. Given that they are increasingly handling "last mile" delivery, how can private mail delivery offices better detect and safely handle suspicious mail?

    Apr 17, 2018

  • Emergency services staff work next to a children's play area near the bench where former Russian intelligence officer Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were found poisoned in Salisbury, UK, March 13, 2018

    Commentary

    Russian Nerve Agent from Skripal Attack a Deadly Game-Changer

    The use of Novichok in last week's attack against Russian ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia demands global condemnation and an insistence that Russia account for how the nerve agent came to be used at all, much less on foreign soil.

    Mar 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

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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