Threat Assessment

Featured

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.

  • U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, and Ukraine's Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov in a Ukraine Defence Contact group meeting in Brussels, Belgium, June 15, 2022, photo by Yves Herman/Pool/Reuters

    Report

    Potential Pathways to Russian Escalation Against NATO

    Jul 26, 2022

    A Russia-NATO war is far from an inevitable outcome of the current conflict in Ukraine. U.S. and allied policymakers should be concerned with specific pathways and potential triggers, but they need not operate under the assumption that every action will entail acute escalation risks.

  • Painted stones are placed at a memorial outside Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, July 13, 2022, photo by Kaylee Greenlee Beal/Reuters

    Commentary

    A Toolkit for Avoiding Mass Shootings

    Jul 14, 2022

    RAND has developed an online educational toolkit to provide practical strategies and guidance on deterring, mitigating, and responding to mass attacks. Research highlights three top ways to mitigate and/or respond to mass attacks right now: through proactive prevention, relentless follow-up, and diligent preparation and training.

Explore Threat Assessment

  • Security personnel patrol the Olympic Park at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic Games

    Commentary

    The Secretive Battle for Sochi

    Russia seems to be taking prudent steps to make the games the safe and secure display of athleticism and international good fellowship they once were. The outcome hinges on a pair of unknowns: the secret counterterrorism strategies Russian authorities have undertaken and the terrorists' capacity for creativity and surprise.

    Feb 5, 2014

  • Runners pass through scanners as they are checked by New York Police Department officers upon arrival for the New York City Marathon, November 3, 2013

    Testimony

    Back to the Future: The Resurgence of Salafi-Jihadists

    U.S. policymakers should be concerned about the number, size, and activity of al Qa'ida and other Salafi-jihadist groups. Some of these groups pose a direct threat to the U.S. homeland, embassies, and citizens overseas, while others are currently targeting local regimes.

    Feb 4, 2014

  • Volunteers wait to enter through a security check point in the Costal Athletes Village as preparations continue for the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics

    Commentary

    Sochi and Singletons

    Given Russian capabilities, it would be surprising if a terrorist group was able to mount a successful large-scale, coordinated attack during the Games. For spectators and athletes alike, the more likely threat will be from individuals, acting alone outside of arenas and other official venues.

    Jan 31, 2014

  • Russian Cossacks stand guard near the Rosa Khutor Alpine Resort in Krasnaya Polyana near Sochi

    Commentary

    The Terrorist Threat to the Sochi Olympics

    From the Black September attacks on Israeli athletes in 1972, to the post 9/11 games in Salt Lake City, to the 2012 games in London, security has been a concern at all modern Olympics. Recent terrorist attacks in Russia, though, present particular concern as the world's athletes descend on Sochi.

    Jan 31, 2014

  • U.S. and Afghan soldiers search a camel's cargo

    Report

    Improving the U.S. Military's Understanding of Unstable Environments Vulnerable to Violent Extremist Groups: Insights from Social Science

    What factors create and perpetuate environments susceptible to insurgency, terrorism, and other extremist violence and instability? Twelve are presented to inform military decisions on allocation of analytic and security assistance resources.

    Jan 16, 2014

  • Islamist Salafis in Jordan calling for the release of their groups held in Jordanian, Syrian, and Iraqi prisons

    Testimony

    The Extremist Threat to the U.S. Homeland

    U.S. policymakers should be concerned about the number, size, and activity of al Qa'ida and other Salafi-jihadist groups. Some of these groups pose a direct threat to the U.S. homeland, embassies, and citizens overseas, while others are currently targeting local regimes.

    Jan 15, 2014

  • Report

    Identifying Enemies Among Us: Evolving Terrorist Threats and the Continuing Challenges of Domestic Intelligence Collection and Information Sharing

    Officials, practitioners, and counterterrorism experts gathered this year to examine domestic intelligence and information sharing as they relate to terrorist threats.

    Jan 13, 2014

  • US Soldier clasps hands with ROK soldier during training exercise

    Report

    The U.S. Army in Southeast Asia: Near-Term and Long-Term Roles

    If the outlook in Southeast Asia deteriorates, the U.S. Army role should be increase security cooperation, conclude new regional basing agreements, expand disaster assistance, and create policies to encourage risk-averse Chinese behavior.

    Jan 6, 2014

  • Members of Islamist Syrian rebel group Jabhat al-Nusra man a checkpoint on the border crossing between Syria and Jordan

    Commentary

    Al Qaeda Is Down — Al Qaedism Isn't

    The counterterror campaign is a marathon run against a slowly declining revolutionary idea, al Qaedism, which will take many more years to stamp out fully. The U.S. should not lose sight of the fact that while 12 years of counterterrorism efforts have helped keep it safe, many more years of vigilance lie ahead.

    Jan 6, 2014

  • A suspected al Qaeda militant holds his head as he stands with co-defendants behind bars at the state security court of appeals in Sanaa March 2013

    Q&A

    Whither al Qaeda: A 'Tri-alogue' with Brian Michael Jenkins, Seth Jones, and Andrew Liepman

    Recent comments by key U.S. lawmakers have again raised the issue of where the United States is in its campaign against al Qaeda. This has left some to wonder if the terrorism threat is increasing and if Americans are not as safe as they were a year or two ago. Three senior RAND analysts offer their take.

    Dec 10, 2013

  • Army Pandemic Exercise

    Report

    Toward Integrated DoD Biosurveillance: Assessment and Opportunities

    More near-real-time analysis and better internal and external integration could enhance the performance and value of the Department of Defense's biosurveillance programs. This study, conducted at the request of the Office of Management and Budget, finds that improvements are needed in key enablers, including funding.

    Dec 4, 2013

  • Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton B. Carter visits Ankara and G, Turkey, Feb. 4, 2013. (DoD Photo By Glenn Fawcett) (Released)

    Research Brief

    Predicting Suicide Attacks: Characteristics of Bombings in Israel

    The threat of suicide bombings in the United States and elsewhere prompted the Department of Homeland Security to develop a method for predicting the determinants of suicide bombing attacks. This brief describes an assessment of how geospatial and sociocultural characteristics may help predict the timing and targets of terrorist attacks.

    Nov 7, 2013

  • Delayed passengers stand behind a police cordon after a shooting incident at Los Angeles airport (LAX)

    Commentary

    Airport Violence—Not a New Phenomenon

    Shootings at airports are nothing new, writes Brian Michael Jenkins. In fact, they have regularly occurred worldwide in recent years. The motives have included terrorism, crime, and mental illness.

    Nov 2, 2013

  • President Barack Obama shakes hands with Jeh Johnson during an announcement for Johnson to be his nominee for Secretary of Homeland Security

    Commentary

    Challenges and Opportunities Ahead for New Homeland Security Secretary

    To ensure the Department of Homeland Security makes progress in the current constrained budget environment, its new secretary must put in place a strategic perspective to guide priorities for how to address the country's most pressing problems in disaster management, immigration reform, cybersecurity, violent extremism, and nuclear terrorism.

    Oct 24, 2013

  • 18th Security Forces, Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, Japan, Kadena High School, Response Force, High-Risk Response Training, improvised explosive device

    Dissertation

    Comparing Homeland Security Risks Using a Deliberative Risk Ranking Methodology

    Managing homeland security risks involves balancing concerns about numerous types of accidents, disasters, and terrorist attacks. This research presents individuals' relative concerns about homeland security hazards and the attributes which influence those concerns.

    Oct 21, 2013

  • U.S. soldiers during an exercise on chemical, biological, and radiological warfare near the DMZ

    Testimony

    The Challenge of North Korean Biological Weapons

    While there is evidence of North Korean biological weapons, little is known with certainty about them and how North Korea would use them. Bruce Bennett addresses the nature of the potential North Korean biological weapon threat and how the ROK and United States should prepare to counter potential attacks.

    Oct 11, 2013

  • Testimony

    The Terrorist Threat from Al Shabaab

    At the moment, al Shabaab does not appear to be plotting attacks against the U.S. homeland but there are several reasons why America should still be concerned. Its terrorist attack at Westgate Mall in Kenya and its follow-up attacks are a stark reminder that the Somalia-based group remains lethal.

    Oct 3, 2013

  • Somali National Army soldiers stand at attention in a training camp

    Commentary

    A Threat to U.S. Interests in East Africa

    The Shabab terrorist attack at Westgate Mall in Kenya and its follow-up attacks in the country are a stark reminder that the Somalia-based group poses a threat to the United States and its interests in East Africa, writes Seth G. Jones.

    Oct 2, 2013

  • People walk through the 9-11 Empty Sky memorial across from New York's One World Trade Center at Liberty State Park in Jersey City, NJ

    Blog

    What Has America—and Its Enemies—Learned Since 9/11?

    The attacks on September 11, 2001 provoked America's global campaign against terrorism and jump-started the nation's efforts to improve intelligence, airport security, and emergency preparedness. Meanwhile, al Qaeda, while weakened by the death of its leader in 2011, still generates fear.

    Sep 10, 2013

  • French nationals Philippe Verdon and Serge Lazarevic are being held hostage in Mali by Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM)

    Report

    North Africa's Menace: AQIM's Evolution and the U.S. Policy Response

    Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb is an amorphous, resilient, and adaptive terrorist organization that has shown extraordinary staying power in the face of counterterrorism operations. The United States should not be the tip of the spear in efforts against AQIM, except in cases involving a direct and imminent threat to the U.S. homeland.

    Sep 9, 2013