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

  • Police investigate a pickup truck used in an attack on the West Side Highway in lower Manhattan in New York City, November 1, 2017

    Commentary

    New York Terror Attack: Can Vehicle Attacks Be Prevented?

    The recent vehicle attack in Manhattan was the deadliest terror attack on New York since 9/11. Preventing every attack is unrealistic, but with increased vigilance, cooperation with law enforcement, and intelligence sharing, citizens can help mitigate the threat of terrorism.

    Nov 1, 2017

  • Members of al Qaeda's Nusra Front move toward their positions near al-Zahra village, north of Aleppo city, November 25, 2014

    Commentary

    The Moderate Face of Al Qaeda

    Al Qaeda in Syria cut ties with its parent organization to portray itself as a legitimate, capable, and independent force in the Syrian civil war. The group appears dedicated to helping Syrians prevail, and now that ISIS has lost its capital in Raqqa, al Qaeda may be the only group viewed as militarily capable of challenging the Assad regime.

    Oct 24, 2017

  • A U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer is joined by Republic of Korea air force F-15s, during a 10-hour mission from Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, into Japanese airspace and over the Korean Peninsula, July 30, 2017

    Commentary

    On North Korea, Past Foreign Policy Fiascoes Show U.S. What Not to Do

    Foreign policy disasters are often the sum of two basic errors: embracing exaggerated claims about the need to act, and inventing a conceptual magic wand to wish away potential consequences. Both are apparent in U.S. policy toward North Korea's nuclear aspirations.

    Oct 5, 2017

  • Police officers check the identity cards of a people as security forces keep watch in Kashgar, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, China, March 24, 2017

    Commentary

    All That Could Go Wrong When Jihadists Return Home — to China

    About 300 of Western China's Uighurs, the Sunni Muslim indigenous ethnic minority, went to Syria to join ISIS. Now that the caliphate is collapsing, Beijing could soon find itself in the crosshairs of a religiously motivated, battle-hardened crop of returning terrorists.

    Sep 29, 2017

  • Suspected former Islamic State (IS) fighters Ayoub B. (R) and Ebrahim Hadj B. (L), hide their faces as they wait for the start of their trial in a courtroom in Calle, Germany November 30, 2015

    Commentary

    How Will Authorities Know When Foreign Fighters Have Returned?

    As the Islamic State's territory shrinks and its prestige declines, militants will try to find their way home. Many foreign fighters began as criminals, and many might turn to crime on their return. One of the most productive ways to identify and disrupt returning fighters is to focus on the criminal underworld.

    Sep 25, 2017

  • Iraqi security forces inspect the site of a bomb attack at a police checkpoint on a highway near the southern Iraqi city of Nassiriya, Iraq, September 14, 2017

    Commentary

    How ISIS Is Transforming

    The campaign to counter ISIS has made significant progress, but predictions of the group's demise are premature. It is transitioning from an insurgent organization with a fixed headquarters to a clandestine terrorist network dispersed throughout the globe.

    Sep 25, 2017

  • Report

    Conflict Trends and Conflict Drivers: An Empirical Assessment of Historical Conflict Patterns and Future Conflict Projections

    Based on conflict projections through 2040, this report concludes that despite the generally declining incidence of armed conflict, the Army must prepare for conventional wars against other states as well as irregular warfare against nonstate actors.

    Sep 12, 2017

  • Report

    A More Peaceful World? Regional Conflict Trends and U.S. Defense Planning

    This report analyzes trends in violent conflict and their implications for defense planning. It presents models estimating levels of conflict to 2040 under different scenarios and suggests early warning indicators of potential increases in conflict.

    Sep 12, 2017

  • Report

    Understanding Conflict Trends: A Review of the Social Science Literature on the Causes of Conflict

    This report explores, through an extensive literature review, whether the extreme rarity of interstate war and reduced incidence of intrastate war represent permanent shifts in world politics or are a temporary aberration.

    Sep 12, 2017

  • A soldier engages a target during a convoy live fire exercise at Novo Selo Training Area, Bulgaria, on July 7, 2017

    Report

    What Are the Trends in Armed Conflicts? What Do They Mean for U.S. Defense Policy?

    Until the wars in Syria and Ukraine, armed conflict in the world had been decreasing for decades. Future projections show continued decline, but the U.S. military has an important role in deterring conflict, underpinning peacekeeping coalitions, and possibly in responding to proxy wars by other powers.

    Sep 12, 2017

  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un inspects a long and medium-range ballistic rocket launch drill in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency in Pyongyang on August 30, 2017

    Commentary

    Beyond Strategic Patience with North Korea: What Comes Next?

    North Korea says that nuclear weapons are essential to regime survival. The United States should figure out how to persuade the North Korean regime that it is less likely to survive by posing a nuclear threat than by cooperating with the international community.

    Sep 8, 2017

  • Workers place concrete barriers to prevent possible attacks on the walk Muelle Uno in Malaga, Spain, on August 18, 2017, a day after a van crashed into pedestrians at Las Ramblas

    Commentary

    When the Car Is a Terror Weapon, Can We Prepare for Attacks?

    Soft targets are notoriously difficult to protect from terrorism. Terrorists' latest shift to using vehicles to conduct attacks only compounds the problem.

    Aug 18, 2017

  • An Iraqi military HMMWV drives past an Islamic State sign in eastern Mosul after they captured it from IS

    Commentary

    The Islamic State May Be Failing, but Its Strategic Communications Legacy Is Here to Stay

    The Islamic State's caliphate is collapsing but its legacy will live on virtually because of its information operations. The scale of the menace presented by the group today pales in comparison to other global challenges, yet it manages to dominate and terrorize the public mind.

    Aug 17, 2017

  • Testimony

    The Terrorist Diaspora: After the Fall of the Caliphate: Addendum

    Document submitted August 11, 2017, as an addendum to testimony before the House Committee on Homeland Security, Task Force on Denying Terrorists Entry into the United States on July 13, 2017.

    Aug 14, 2017

  • A passerby walks past a street monitor showing news of North Korea's fresh threat in Tokyo, Japan, August 9, 2017

    Commentary

    Contain, Deter, Transform: A Winning Strategy on North Korea

    North Korea's missile tests and reported progress in nuclear warhead design have produced a volatile new urgency in U.S. policy. Contain, deter, and transform isn't a radical solution, but it's one that has worked before. This approach could preserve U.S. interests while avoiding war.

    Aug 9, 2017

  • Soldiers hike up Pinnacle 4, a mountain near Camp Humphreys, for a history lesson on the Korean War and team building for U.S.-ROK forces, June 2017

    Commentary

    Lowdown on Pyeongtaek Garrison

    Camp Humphreys will become the major U.S. base in Korea. In terms of North Korean threats, the camp is roughly 100 kilometers from the Demilitarized Zone. Some North Korean ballistic missiles could cause damage at Camp Humphreys if it's targeted.

    Aug 8, 2017

  • A fighter of the Syrian Islamist rebel group Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, the former al Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front, rides in an armored vehicle in Aleppo, Syria, August 5, 2016

    Commentary

    Will Al Qaeda Make a Comeback?

    Al Qaeda's revival will likely hinge on its ability to take advantage of opportunities such as the withdrawal of counterterrorism forces from key battlefields, more revolt in the Middle East, U.S. or European policies that feed the perception of Muslim oppression, or the rise of a charismatic jihadist leader.

    Aug 7, 2017

  • Testimony

    Middle East Turmoil and the Continuing Terrorist Threat — Still No Easy Solutions: Addendum

    Document submitted on July7, 2017, as an addendum to testimony before the House Committee on Armed Services on February 14, 2017.

    Jul 27, 2017

  • Multimedia

    North Korea's Continuous Provocations

    In this July 17th, 2017 congressional briefing, Bruce W. Bennett, Senior International/Defense Researcher, discusses North Korea's nuclear missile programs, its changing relationship with China, and implications for U.S. policy.

    Jul 17, 2017

  • Multimedia

    The Terrorist Diaspora

    An overview of the testimony presented by Colin Clarke before the House Homeland Security Committee Task Force on Denying Terrorists Entry into the United States on July 13, 2017.

    Jul 13, 2017