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.

  • A world map with digital infographics

    Report

    What Deters and Why

    Nov 20, 2018

    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.

  • Map depicting Russia's gray zone aggression, images by Harvepino and Serdarbayraktar/Getty Images. Design by Rick Penn-Kraus/RAND Corporation

    Report

    Understanding Russia's Hostile Measures and How to Counter Them

    Jan 7, 2020

    Russia has used hostile measures to sow disorder, weaken democratic institutions, and undermine NATO cohesion. But it also has a long track record of strategic shortfalls and even ineptitude. Exploring opportunities to deter, prevent, and counter Russia's behavior is critical in both the gray zone and conventional war.

Explore Threat Assessment

  • Russian servicemen walk in formation as they take part in a rehearsal for the Victory Day military parade in the Crimean port of Sevastopol, April 16, 2015

    Commentary

    The Strange Debates of Strategy

    The United States and its allies confront a specific form of statecraft; not new, but real and relevant. And most observers who have looked at the problem tend to agree that the U.S. is ill-prepared for such tactics, in part because it simply has not thought of them as a coherent approach worthy of a tailored response.

    Jan 14, 2016

  • U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter stands with Col. Otto Liller as he is greeted by Iraqi Major General Falah al Mohamedawi (L) at the Iraqi Counter Terrorism Service Academy in Baghdad, July 23, 2015

    Commentary

    Solving the Geometrical Problem of Terrorism

    Think of terror organizations as being composed of four elements, organized in concentric circles with the leaders at the center bull's eye, operational elements in the second ring, supporters in the third, and sympathizers in the fourth. Neutralizing each group will require different strategies.

    Jan 13, 2016

  • A Kurdish refugee woman from Syria walks with her children at a refugee camp in Suruc, Turkey, November 17, 2014

    Report

    Lessening the Risk of Refugee Radicalization: Lessons from the Past

    Radicalization among refugee populations, such as the millions currently fleeing Syria, is not inevitable. Rather, comprehensive policies that go beyond immediate life-saving needs can mitigate the risk. But such policies were rare in past crises and even today can be difficult to put in place and sustain.

    Dec 28, 2015

  • A no-school sign is pictured at Florence Nightingale Middle School in the Cypress Park neighborhood of Los Angeles, California, December 15, 2015

    Commentary

    How Terrorist Threats Against LA and New York Schools Exposed Weaknesses

    The handling of terrorist threats on Los Angeles and New York City schools calls into question the ability of national and local government to coordinate a terrorist crisis involving two or more cities.

    Dec 23, 2015

  • Flowers and candles are displayed at a makeshift memorial after the December 2, 2015 shooting in San Bernardino, California

    Commentary

    How Terrorists Get Here

    Of 134 jihadist-inspired terrorists who have carried out or plotted attacks in the United States since 9/11, 96 were U.S. citizens and 19 others were legal permanent residents. While some level of comfort may be drawn from the fact that terrorists are not pouring into the country, there is no basis for complacency.

    Dec 18, 2015

  • Journal Article

    Using Causal Models in Heterogeneous Information Fusion to Detect Terrorists

    We describe basic research that uses a causal, uncertainty-sensitive computational model rooted in qualitative social science to fuse disparate pieces of threat information.

    Dec 14, 2015

  • President Barack Obama speaks about counterterrorism and the U.S. fight against the Islamic State, December 6, 2015

    Commentary

    If Terrorism Is Homegrown, a Visa Overhaul Won't Keep Americans Safe

    Despite being the focus of renewed scrutiny, only three people involved in terrorist incidents have entered the United States via the visa waiver program in the past quarter-century.

    Dec 7, 2015

  • Dissertation

    Improving Standoff Bombing Capacity in the Face of Anti-Access Area Denial Threats

    Addresses the issue of standoff capacity in anti-access/area denial environments using a cost-effectiveness methodology.

    Nov 20, 2015

  • Migrants walk toward the Austrian border town of Spielfeld, in Sentilj, Slovenia, November 18, 2015

    Testimony

    The Syrian Refugee Crisis and U.S. National Security

    America has a long tradition of offering protection to refugees, and the threat from refugees has historically been relatively low. However, the government should continue to reassess its refugee program and ensure that it safeguards national security.

    Nov 19, 2015

  • A passerby pauses near a makeshift memorial with U.S. and French flags outside the French embassy in Washington, November 16, 2015

    Testimony

    What the Paris Attacks Mean for U.S. Strategy in Syria and Homeland Security

    Events in the Middle East and Europe have direct implications for U.S. homeland security. And the attacks in Paris have increased pressure to step up the fight in Syria and Iraq. But Americans should consider the threat in context, and adjustments to U.S. strategy in Syria should only be a matter of degrees.

    Nov 19, 2015

  • Islamic State fighters take part in a military parade along the streets of northern Raqqa province, Syria, June 30, 2014

    Commentary

    ISIS Will Become More Deadly Before It Dies

    The lesson with ISIS is straightforward. Western populations should be prepared for an upsurge in violence if ISIS continues to lose territory. There has already been a growth in attacks and plots across the West with operational or inspirational ties to ISIS.

    Nov 18, 2015

  • A tank of the Syrian National Army in the outskirts of Damascus on September 21, 2013

    Testimony

    The Dynamics of the Conflicts in Syria and Iraq and the Threat Posed by Homegrown Terrorists and Returning Western Fighters

    The fighting in Iraq and Syria is likely to continue. How will the dynamics of these conflicts shape the region and events beyond? And what threat do Westerners who've joined jihadists on these battlefields and homegrown terrorists pose to the U.S. homeland?

    Nov 18, 2015

  • Soledad O'Brien, Chuck Hagel, Michael Rich, and Michael Lynton at One Night with RAND, November 11, 2015

    Blog

    What Is America's Role in the World?

    One Night with RAND brought together leaders in business, philanthropy, government, academia, and media for a discussion about the international strategic choices that will shape the U.S. role in the world for years to come.

    Nov 12, 2015

  • News Release

    Michael Wermuth Dies at 69; RAND Terrorism Expert Helped Establish U.S. Homeland Security Strategies

    Michael A. Wermuth, a RAND researcher and terrorism expert, died November 1. He was the executive director of a federal advisory panel on terrorism when it concluded — nearly two years before 9/11 — that a terrorist attack on U.S. soil was inevitable.

    Nov 4, 2015

  • Prisoner wearing handcuffs in a courtroom

    Commentary

    What's Next on the Convicted Terrorist's Timeline?

    As inmates near the end of their sentences for terrorism-related offenses, and with some individuals already freed, it's time to explore what considerations may be necessary.

    Nov 4, 2015

  • U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry shakes hands with U.S. Marines during his visit to the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad March 24, 2013

    Commentary

    Benghazi: Questions Unasked and Opportunities Missed

    Instead of asking whether a video precipitated the attack or whether Ambassador Stevens should have been in Benghazi on that fateful night, the right question to ask is under what conditions the United States should have a diplomatic presence in high-risk areas.

    Oct 22, 2015

  • Members of the Kurdish peshmerga forces detain a man suspected of having links to the Islamic State, on the outskirts of Kirkuk March 15, 2015

    Commentary

    Any Review of Syria and Iraq Strategy Needs Realistic Reappraisal

    Since the American-led coalition bombing campaign began a year ago, ISIS has suffered some military setbacks and lost territory, but it also has been able to capture several more key cities in Iraq and Syria, and, despite the bombing, continues to attract a large number of foreign fighters.

    Sep 28, 2015

  • U.S. Army Rangers prepare for extraction during Task Force Training on Camp Roberts, California

    Commentary

    U.S. Needs Larger Army, Not a Smaller One

    To meet potential challenges in the Baltics and Korea while at the same time countering the existing terror threat posed by the Islamic State group and dealing with other problems that will doubtless emerge, the United States would need more troops, not less.

    Sep 9, 2015

  • Argentine policemen escort Henry de Jesus Lopez Londono, alleged leader of a Colombian drug trafficking group, outside a courthouse in Buenos Aires October 31, 2012

    Commentary

    The Strategic Value of Terrorism

    While terrorists and criminals joining forces is certainly a scary thought, it's nothing new and not something that works as simply in practice as it does on a white board. Still, it's a threat worth watching.

    Aug 31, 2015

  • Tunisian soldiers and police patrol near Algeria's border in Kasserine, Tunisia July 4, 2015 after an Islamist militant attack on a beach hotel that killed 38 foreigners

    Commentary

    Algeria: The Bastion of North Africa

    Algeria could be a key regional partner for the United States and France in security and counterterrorism efforts against Al Qaeda and the Islamic State. It has a clear interest in quelling the threat posed by regional jihadists and it has local knowledge that could be helpful to U.S. counterterrorism efforts.

    Aug 11, 2015