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 al Qaeda, the Afghan insurgency, and Iran’s nuclear capabilities.

  • AI robot pressing a nuclear launch button.

    Article

    How Artificial Intelligence Could Increase the Risk of Nuclear War

    Apr 24, 2018

    Advances in AI have provoked a new kind of arms race among nuclear powers. This technology could challenge the basic rules of nuclear deterrence and lead to catastrophic miscalculations.

  • Lithuanian, Latvian, and Estonian soldiers stand in formation for the closing ceremony of exercise Silver Arrow in Adazi, Latvia, October 31, 2016

    Report

    Assessing the Imbalance of Military Power in Europe

    Feb 21, 2018

    Since 2008 Russia has been expanding and refining its readiness for conventional warfare. These improvements have reduced the qualitative and technological gaps between Russia and NATO. What do recent trends imply for the balance of capabilities in NATO member states in the Baltic Sea region?

Explore Threat Assessment

  • World map with exclamation points for epicenters for terrorist attack, photo by Infadel/Getty Images

    Commentary

    A New Framework for Evaluating Counter Violent Extremism Projects

    Gathering evidence in the area of counter violent extremism (CVE) is vital, given the increasing role for CVE interventions in the political and security environment. Evaluations of these interventions can play a role in growing this knowledge, by helping the CVE field itself to develop.

    Feb 15, 2019

  • News Release

    Terrorism Prevention Programs Need Strengthening If They Are to Be Effective

    National capabilities for terrorism prevention, which refers to options other than traditional law-enforcement action to respond to the risk of individual radicalization to violence, are relatively limited. Most rely on local or non-government efforts, and only a subset receive federal support.

    Feb 14, 2019

  • Aerial view of Manhattan, New York, with overlay of icons, photo by Dong Wenjie/Getty Images and DigitalVision Vectors

    Report

    Practical Terrorism Prevention

    Current terrorism prevention capabilities are relatively limited. In law enforcement, government, and some community organizations, there is a perceived need for federal efforts to help strengthen local capacity. However, any federal efforts will need to focus on building community trust to be successful.

    Feb 14, 2019

  • Report

    Practical Terrorism Prevention: Executive Summary

    Researchers examined past U.S. countering violent extremism and terrorism prevention efforts and explored options to strengthen them. This document summarizes findings from the main report.

    Feb 14, 2019

  • A woman speaking in a community meeting, photo by Hero Images/Getty Images

    Research Brief

    How to Strengthen Terrorism Prevention Efforts

    Shortfalls in national terrorism prevention efforts have come not only from limited programmatic focus and resource investment, but also from critics seeking to constrain or halt such efforts. The most effective path for the U.S. government would be to support state, local, nongovernmental, and private terrorism prevention efforts rather than building capabilities itself.

    Feb 14, 2019

  • News Release

    Islamic State Proves Greater Draw for U.S.-Born Recruits Than al Qaeda

    The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) has been more successful than its predecessor organization, al Qaeda, in drawing Americans to its cause. Whereas al-Qaeda was more reliant on preexisting connections to the region or Islam, an ISIL candidate recruit is more likely to be younger, less educated, and a U.S.-born citizen.

    Dec 18, 2018

  • Police officials stand on the sidewalk as cars drive on the road in front of the Pulse night club, following a shooting in Orlando, Florida, June 21, 2016

    Report

    Trends in the Draw of Americans to Foreign Terrorist Organizations from 9/11 to Today

    The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) has been more successful than its predecessor organization, al Qaeda, in drawing Americans to its cause. Americans drawn to ISIL are more likely to be younger, less educated, Caucasian/white or African American/black, and to have been born in the United States.

    Dec 18, 2018

  • A member of the NYPD bomb squad walks outside the Time Warner Center in Manhattan after a suspicious package was found at CNN headquarters, New York City, October 24, 2018, photo by Kevin Coombs/Reuters

    Commentary

    Suppressing Motivation, Legitimacy Can Help Avoid Political Violence

    The threat of political violence is real and growing, but there are concrete things that can be done to reduce the risks. Solutions might include repeated statements from leaders that fear of people because of their ethnicity, religion, party, or social grouping is wrong and that violence against them is illegitimate and against American values.

    Nov 28, 2018

  • A world map with digital infographics

    Report

    What Deters and Why

    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.

    Nov 20, 2018

  • Brian Michael Jenkins at the One Night with RAND event on November 8, 2018

    Blog

    Reflecting on the Past to Counter Future Terrorism

    One Night with RAND brought together leaders in business, government, academia, and philanthropy to pay tribute to Brian Michael Jenkins and mark his 50-year affiliation with RAND and his substantial body of research on terrorism. Jenkins and other experts discussed the evolution of terrorism and strategies for countering it in the future.

    Nov 14, 2018

  • Refugees and migrants try to warm themselves up, Indjija, Serbia, October 5, 2016

    Commentary

    In Refugee Vetting, How Good Is Good Enough?

    A security policy that depends too heavily on vetting, and expects it to be foolproof, is likely to fall short. A better security standard the administration could consider is not whether vetting failures ever occur, but rather whether they pose an acceptable risk to the United States.

    Nov 1, 2018

  • Journal Article

    Evaluation in an Emerging Field: Developing a Measurement Framework for the Field of Counter-Violent-Extremism

    This report seeks lessons from the evidence-based healthcare movement, which has a track record of using evaluation to develop practice, to consider what it might take to develop evaluation capacity in the emerging field of counter-violent-extremism.

    Oct 12, 2018

  • Malaysian and Vietnamese fishing boats are destroyed for illegal fishing by the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, police and navy, in Batam, Riau Islands, Indonesia, April 5, 2016

    Commentary

    Assessing Recent Developments in Indonesian Maritime Security

    Despite a daunting set of maritime challenges, Indonesia has placed renewed emphasis on maritime security governance. While the programs in place may take decades to bear fruit, Indonesia is on the path to securing the waterways and infrastructure so key to its overall economic development.

    Oct 12, 2018

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping attend a session of the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok, Russia September 12, 2018

    Commentary

    Are We Truly Prepared for a War with Russia or China?

    The U.S. Department of Defense will likely need a strategy to overcome a war with either Russia or China. As threats from Moscow and Beijing grow, what can the United States do now to prepare for major conflict?

    Oct 9, 2018

  • Cybersecurity locks illustration superimposed over a photo of Tokyo at night

    Report

    Preparing for Cybersecurity Threats to the 2020 Olympics

    The Olympic Games are an attractive target for hackers. An examination of Japan's cybersecurity threat landscape and lessons from past events can help planners reduce cybersecurity risks in advance of the 2020 Tokyo Games.

    Oct 4, 2018

  • Journal Article

    Adaptation by Intelligent Adversaries to Defensive Measures: Framing Adaptation Options and Demonstrating Assessment of Attacker Preferences Using Proxy Intelligence Data

    Addressing adaptation by adversaries and its implications for security planning requires understanding the ways attackers can respond to new defensive measures. This paper demonstrates an analysis of such preferences using open source data.

    Oct 2, 2018

  • Data over open hands

    Report

    How the Intelligence Community Could Better Fulfill Its Mission

    Conflict with a near-peer competitor—Russia or China—or war with North Korea or Iran would be a game changer, requiring more resources than the U.S. Intelligence Community currently has. But there are meaningful changes that intelligence leaders could make to better meet future demands.

    Sep 24, 2018

  • Landing ships putting cargo ashore on Omaha Beach, mid-June, 1944

    Report

    What Shapes a Nation's Will to Fight?

    When considering threats from Russia and North Korea, it is natural to focus on military capabilities. But incorporating will to fight into the analysis of actual or potential conflicts will enhance strategic planning. A model that can be tailored and applied to various conflict scenarios can help U.S. leaders better understand and influence will to fight.

    Sep 20, 2018

  • Report

    Homeland Security National Risk Characterization: Risk Assessment Methodology

    Presents a risk assessment methodology that can be used to identify the greatest risks to homeland security and support prioritization of U.S. Department of Homeland Security mission elements as part of DHS planning processes.

    Sep 19, 2018

  • A drone is used to survey high-voltage power lines of electric company Westnetz near Wilnsdorf, Germany, July 11, 2018

    Commentary

    Approaching a 'New Normal': What the Drone Attack in Venezuela Portends

    The attempt to assassinate Venezuelan President Maduro showed that drones are easy to use and difficult to defend against. Commercial off-the-shelf technology is easy to acquire. It is imperative that counterterrorism specialists begin planning a robust response to the threat.

    Aug 13, 2018