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 ISIS, Iran's nuclear capabilities, and insider threats.

  • The launch of an unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile during a test at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, February 5, 2020, photo by SrA Clayton Wear/U.S. Air Force

    Report

    Weighing the Cost and Necessity of Nuclear Modernization

    Jan 3, 2022

    The United States has fielded a Triad of air-, sea-, and land-based nuclear delivery systems since the 1950s. Major components are nearing the end of their service lives, raising the question of whether to extend or replace them. Meanwhile, Russia and China continue to modernize, diversify, and expand their nuclear arsenals.

  • A woman with a smartphone is seen in front of social media logos, May 25, 2021, photo by Dado Ruvic/Reuters

    Report

    Understanding the Online Extremist Ecosystem

    Dec 2, 2021

    By the early 2010s, it was clear that the internet provided white supremacists and other extremists a tool to operationalize their hateful ideas and cause real-world harms. How can the average user understand their risk of exposure to extremist content and make informed decisions about the platforms they use?

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  • Journal Article

    Journal Article

    State Targeted Violence Prevention: Programming & Key Performance Indicators

    This resource is a guide for U.S. state governments as they seek to implement comprehensive targeted violence prevention (TVP) programming and evaluate its implementation, outcomes, and impact.

    May 18, 2022

  • Man thinking at his laptop, photo by Shannon Fagan/Getty Images

    Essay

    How to Avoid Extremism on Social Media

    Extremist groups have been trolling the internet for decades, and they have learned to temper their words and disguise their intentions. A new scorecard can help users—or parents, or advertisers, or the social media companies themselves—understand when they might be interacting with extremist content.

    May 3, 2022

  • Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center, the victim of a cyberattack that crippled its electronic database for days, in Los Angeles, California, February 16, 2016, photo by Mario Anzuoni/Reuters

    Commentary

    Preparing for a Cyberattack Starts at the Local Level

    The ongoing Russian war in Ukraine has highlighted the need for federal, state, and local level emergency managers to prepare to respond to a cyberattack with widespread impacts that significantly disrupt critical infrastructure.

    Apr 18, 2022

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a concert marking the eighth anniversary of Russia's annexation of Crimea at Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, Russia, March 18, 2022, photo by RIA Novosti Host Photo Agency/Alexander Vilf via Reuters

    Commentary

    Russian Cyberattacks May Be Coming. What Might Be an Optimal Strategy for Responding?

    Russia appears poised to make a first move against the United States and its allies in cyberspace. A savvy U.S. response that is deliberately measured and accompanied by the right message could end this fight after the first round.

    Apr 14, 2022

  • Illustration of online extremists by Jessica Arana/RAND Corporation from Sean Rayford/Alamy; dem10/Getty Images; sestovic/Getty Images; Dilok Klaisataporn/Getty Images; Comstock/Getty Images

    Report

    How Extremism Operates Online

    Extremist groups use internet-based tools for financing, networking and coordination, recruitment and radicalization, inter- and intra-group knowledge transfer, and mobilization to action. How do internet users engage with these efforts? And can the internet be leveraged to counter extremism?

    Apr 12, 2022

  • A man looks at a street monitor showing a news report about North Korea's missile launch, in Tokyo, Japan, November 29, 2017

    Journal Article

    Nuclear-Use Cases for Contemplating Crisis and Conflict on the Korean Peninsula

    The paper identifies possible cases/scenarios that would lead to first use of nuclear weapons on the Korean Peninsula.

    Apr 5, 2022

  • Terrorist photos on top of an illustration of data clusters, photos by DPA Picture Alliance and Sean Rayford/Alamy; background by Astibuag/Adobe Stock

    Blog

    Terrorism Research: How RAND Defined and Built a New Field of Knowledge

    In the early 1970s, amid a worldwide rash of bombings, hijackings, and hostage-takings, RAND researchers began creating the first international database of terrorist incidents. Maintained until 2009, it chronicles more than 40,000 terrorist attacks since 1968.

    Mar 9, 2022

  • Report

    Report

    Options for Strengthening All-Source Intelligence: Substantive Change Is Within Reach

    Foreign attacks against the United States occur frequently. The authors propose game-changing ideas to enable intelligence analysts to address long-standing challenges related to the use of open sources, analytic tradecraft, and politicization.

    Feb 28, 2022

  • Journal Article

    Journal Article

    The Atomization of Political Violence

    The conclusion that terrorism is likely to persist at low levels does not preclude large-scale attacks. The present tumultuous state of the world and growing domestic extremism could produce dramatic changes in the future trajectory of political violence.

    Feb 25, 2022

  • Journal Article

    Journal Article

    Scenarios of Transnational Islamist Terrorism. Trends and Developments: A Fact-Based Threat Assessment

    Some scholars have speculated that the current religious wave of terrorism, epitomized by the global jihadist movement, might finally be starting to ebb. But the movement could very well roar back to life.

    Feb 25, 2022

  • A Chinese H-6 bomber flies over East China Sea, photo by Japan Air Self-Defence Force released by the Joint Staff Office of the Defense Ministry of Japan, July 23, 2019/handout via Reuters

    Commentary

    Why China Is Intensifying Its Military Flights Against Taiwan

    On January 23, China repeated its familiar pattern of sending warplanes into Taiwan's airspace. This activity, which has continued in February, rarely has a clear single driver. Instead, there are several factors that should always be considered.

    Feb 21, 2022

  • Russian President Putin appears on a screen at the White House briefing room, signing documents recognizing separatist areas of Ukraine as independent, in Washington, D.C., February 21, 2022, photo by Joshua Roberts/Reuters

    Commentary

    The False Choice Between China and Russia

    Some China hawks have argued that any U.S. response to Russia would detract from America's ability to deter China. But it's a mistake to think of China and Russia as independent problems.

    Feb 21, 2022

  • The Argentine Antarctic Robotic Observatory, from where the polar night will be used to study exoplanets and other celestial bodies, February 16, 2022, photo by ULAN/Pool/Latin America News Agency via Reuters

    Commentary

    Not So Quiet on the Southern Front

    Australia faces stiff geopolitical competition in Antarctica, and it's not just China and Russia with eyes on the prize. If the Antarctic becomes a hub of geopolitical tension, Australia may need to revise its strategy.

    Feb 17, 2022

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin attends his annual end-of-year news conference in Moscow, Russia, December 23, 2021

    Multimedia

    Has the Kremlin Taken Too Much Risk?

    RAND adjunct senior fellow William Courtney suggests that Russia may have taken too much risk by threatening to invade Ukraine and explains what's at stake for the nation.

    Jan 26, 2022

  • Tech. Sgt. Rosa Valdes and Staff Sgt. Rebecca Toland, non-destructive inspection technicians from the 140th Maintenance Squadron, perform an inspection of the 446 bulkhead on a block-30 F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft. The 446 bulkhead is aft fuselage structure of the F-16 aircraft that supports the tail structure and recent tests have indicated an increased amount of stress cracks in this area, photo by Senior Master Sgt. John Rohrer/U.S. Air National Guard

    Report

    Wing-Level Mission Assurance for a Cyber-Contested Environment

    The authors offer ways to help wings assure their missions despite cyber attacks, focusing on how wings can maintain situational awareness, defend their systems, and respond to and recover from attacks to survive and operate when under cyber attack.

    Dec 9, 2021

  • Blog

    News Manipulation, the Risk of Civil War, Russia and Ukraine: RAND Weekly Recap

    This weekly recap focuses on tracking news manipulation during the pandemic, the threat of another civil war, preventing health insurance loss, and more.

    Nov 19, 2021

  • A cyclist rides along fencing surrounding the U.S. Capitol that was erected in the wake of the January 6 insurrection in Washington, D.C., July 8, 2021, photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

    Commentary

    Politicians Face Violence and Threats from Voters—and Each Other. Are We Nearing a Civil War?

    Does America's increasingly uncivil behavior mean we are heading toward civil war? The historical record seems to indicate that the country has a high tolerance for violence without breaking apart. But the threat of civil wars cannot be dismissed.

    Nov 15, 2021

  • A member of the local Explosives and Ordnance Division wearing a specialized suit tries to install a water diffuser to an improvised explosive device during a bomb drill in a high school courtyard in Manila, Philippines, July 14, 2017, photo by Romeo Ranoco/Reuters

    Commentary

    Defining 'Terrorism' Is the First Step to Defeating It

    Western policy- and decisionmakers continue to grapple with how to define acts of terrorism and when it is appropriate to bring terrorism charges. Establishing a consensus on the definition of terrorism and bringing to center stage the importance of adequately charging acts of terrorism could be more important than ever.

    Nov 8, 2021

  • Report

    Report

    Analysis of Russian Irregular Threats

    The authors of this report describe strategic global trends related to Russian global influence and behavior and provide an overview and assessment of hostile activities that Russia has undertaken in the face of these trends.

    Nov 8, 2021