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?

Explore Threat Assessment

  • Journal Article

    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

    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

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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

    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

  • U.S. Army Specialist visits his former high school as part of the Army Special Recruiter Assistance Program

    Commentary

    Go Slow on Arming Recruiters

    Several important voices have argued for arming military recruiters in the wake of the recent shootings in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Giving them a chance to fight back against an active shooter may be a sound proposition, but practicalities of military recruiting suggest a patient and thoughtful policy review.

    Jul 31, 2015

  • Firemen work around the World Trade Center after both towers were attacked by terrorists on September 11, 2001

    Commentary

    The 1970s and the Birth of Contemporary Terrorism

    While terrorism worldwide has increased over the past four decades — and the threat of terrorism continues to dominate Americans' fears — the 14 years since 9/11 have been tranquil on the home front compared to the violent 1970s.

    Jul 30, 2015

  • Anti-government protesters at the site of clashes with riot police in Kiev on January 25, 2014

    Commentary

    Reports of Global Disorder Have Been Greatly Exaggerated

    Deterring Russia, channeling growing Chinese power, and working with others to dismantle the Islamic State are daunting challenges—but not greater than rebuilding post-World War II Europe, containing the Soviet Union, ending the Cold War, and promoting democratic governance throughout much of the modern world.

    Jul 22, 2015

  • A Syrian refugee shows his passport after he and others were rescued by a Greek coast guard patrol boat, May 29, 2015

    Testimony

    Admitting Syrian Refugees: The Intelligence Void and the Emerging Homeland Security Threat

    The deeply intertwined wars in Syria and Iraq continue to impact U.S. national security. Based on threats posed by a number of terrorist groups in the region, it's important to examine potential risks from increased refugee flows and ensure that the U.S. refugee program safeguards national security.

    Jun 24, 2015

  • A Tunisian holds up a flag during celebrations marking the fourth anniversary of Tunisia's revolution, Tunis, January 14, 2015

    Commentary

    Tunisia in the Crosshairs

    The open-ended nature of the Islamic State group's threat against Tunisair suggests that it intends to target Tunisia for the long haul. The United States should counter the threats with steadfast and sustained cooperation and assistance.

    Jun 22, 2015