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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  • A Tunisian soldier holds his position during an exercise along the frontier with Libya in Sabkeht Alyun, Tunisia February 6, 2016

    Blog

    Tunisia's Role in Fight Against Terrorism Discussed at RAND Conference

    The fight against terrorism in Tunisia is a shared priority and responsibility with the U.S. and Europe but will also depend greatly on solving the security issues in neighboring Libya, according to participants at a March 23 conference at RAND.

    Mar 30, 2016

  • Police at the scene of a security operation in the Brussels suburb of Molenbeek in Belgium, March 18, 2016

    Commentary

    Europe's Terror Fight Far from Over

    Salah Abdeslam is suspected of being the logistics man for the November terrorist attacks in Paris. His capture may provide authorities with a window into the ISIS network in Europe.

    Mar 22, 2016

  • Protesters carry Al-Qaeda flags during an anti-government protest in the town of Marat Numan in Idlib province, Syria, March 11, 2016

    Commentary

    Could ISIS and Al Qaeda, Two Giants of Jihad, Unite?

    It could take a change in leadership in both Al Qaeda and ISIS and perhaps some compromises on mission and strategy, but there are enough points of confluence to make a united jihadist front a realistic and frightening possibility.

    Mar 14, 2016

  • Service members and civilians conduct simulated cyberattack scenarios during Cyber Guard 2015

    Commentary

    In Greater Alignment: Public and Policymakers on Cyber

    For the first time, Gallup included cyberterrorism in its annual survey of Americans' concerns about threats to U.S. interests, and 73 percent of respondents said they felt it was a critical threat. The survey results come amid a flurry of activity on the issue on Capitol Hill and at the White House.

    Feb 29, 2016

  • Events @ RAND Audio Podcast

    Multimedia

    Syrian Refugees: Humanitarian and Security Perspectives

    The U.S. and other Western countries have vowed to admit more Syrian refugees, but terrorist attacks in San Bernardino, Paris, Cologne, and Jakarta are fueling community anxieties. In this RAND Policy Circle briefing, experts address what countries are doing to help abate the humanitarian crisis and ongoing efforts to counter the terrorist threat.

    Feb 24, 2016

  • Naval officers from the Colombian, Brazilian, and U.S. Navy work together as a control group at U.S. Naval War College during the 2013 Inter-American War Game

    Commentary

    Gaming the System: Obstacles to Reinvigorating Defense Wargaming

    Reinvigorating wargaming in the defense community offers great potential value given the complex strategic situation that the U.S. faces today. DoD should educate sponsors and consumers about the appropriate use of wargames, set realistic expectations, and build the right amount of risk acceptance into its gaming enterprise.

    Feb 18, 2016

  • U.S. Army soldiers participate in a live-fire exercise in Konotop, Poland, January 18, 2016

    Commentary

    Planning for the 'Army of the Future'

    What must the Army be ready to do as part of a joint force, now and in the future? What capacities and capabilities should the Army have in order to be ready? The NCFA comes up short in its answers to both of these questions.

    Feb 17, 2016

  • Congressional Briefing Podcast

    Multimedia

    Lessening the Risk of Refugee Radicalization

    In this February 2016 congressional briefing, senior political scientist Barbara H. Sude discusses historical examples of radicalization among refugee groups, factors that can increase the risk of radicalization, measures to reduce the risk, and considerations for policymakers and legislators.

    Feb 16, 2016

  • Libya Dawn fighters watch Islamic State militant positions near Sirte March 19, 2015

    Commentary

    The Three Challenges of Countering ISIS in Libya

    ISIS's expansion in Libya is a threat to the security of Libyans, to the region, and to Europe. U.S. and European cooperation to counter ISIS is essential and Libya is unlikely to ever be peaceful without outside military support.

    Feb 5, 2016

  • Members of the Group of 20 during the G20 leaders summit in Antalya, Turkey, November 15, 2015

    Commentary

    Foreign Policy Challenges on the Campaign Trail

    Foreign and security policy will play a significant role in the run-up to the U.S. presidential election. The campaign offers voters a wide spectrum of responses to the challenges of militant Islamism, ties with China and Russia, dealings with rogue states such as North Korea, and free trade.

    Feb 4, 2016

  • An operations intelligence analyst

    Report

    Assessing Threats with Soft, Uncertain, and Conflicting Evidence

    Part of thwarting terrorist attacks is observing suspicious individuals over time with diverse means. These observations provide data that are often both complex and “soft.” How can analysts combine these data to form a realistic threat assessment?

    Feb 1, 2016

  • Map of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania

    Report

    Wargaming the Defense of the Baltics

    A series of wargames examined the threat Russia may present to the three Baltic republics. As currently postured, NATO could not defend the territory. What might be done to prevent Russia from attempting to reclaim it?

    Jan 29, 2016

  • U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry delivers a statement that sanctions will be lifted on Iran after the IAEA verified that Iran has met all conditions under the nuclear deal, January 16, 2016

    Commentary

    Iran, Terrorism, and Nonproliferation After the Nuclear Deal

    As Iran re-enters global markets, the Obama administration needs a strategy that accounts for the nuclear deal's potentially adverse implications for U.S. counterterrorism policy as well as its advantages for nonproliferation policy.

    Jan 28, 2016

  • Marina Litvinenko, widow of murdered ex-KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko, poses with a copy of The Litvinenko Inquiry Report with her son Anatoly during a news conference in London, Britain, January 21, 2016

    Commentary

    Troubling Truth Beneath Litvinenko Headlines

    Slipping radioactive material into a spy's tea in the middle of London may not sound like a CBRN attack, but it is, as the Owen report has confirmed. Hopefully, the report's release will help focus global attention on the growing threat posed by these devastating weapons.

    Jan 21, 2016

  • A demonstration on infectious disease identification and treatment from the Benin Armed Force in Contonou, Benin, January 2013

    Commentary

    Countering Bioterror

    While advances in biotechnology have brought a wide range of benefits, biological weapons are now within the reach of many rogue nations and possibly some terrorist groups. Reports show that the U.S. is ill prepared to address this threat.

    Jan 18, 2016

  • 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