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?

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  • U.S. President Donald Trump holds a bilateral meeting with China's President Xi Jinping at Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida, U.S., April 7, 2017

    Commentary

    Five Dead-Ends — and One Risky Opportunity — When Trump and Xi Talk North Korea

    Among President Trump's options, proposing a deal that gives the North Korean elite an alternative to its murderous and unstable leader could be the safest and most realistic way to sheath North Korean nuclear weapons and safeguard the American people.

    Apr 10, 2017

  • Armed police officers stand at the Carriage Gates entrance to the Houses of Parliament, following the attack in Westminster earlier in the week, in London, Britain March 25, 2017

    Commentary

    Two Very Different Views of Terrorism and What to Do About Them

    Does the public want fewer government initiatives aimed at fighting terrorism, or more? The answer could lie in the type of attack involved as well as in individual perceptions of risk and how much inconvenience people are willing to accept in the name of public safety.

    Apr 6, 2017

  • People leave candles in memory of victims of a blast in the St. Petersburg metro, Russia, April 4, 2017

    Commentary

    Attacks on Russia Will Only Increase

    As Russia gets more involved with the Syrian civil war, it's likely that Sunni militants will intensify their campaign against Russia. But the key reason why Sunni attacks on Russia proper will increase is the fallout between Sunni jihadists in the Caucasus.

    Apr 4, 2017

  • Emergency services attend the scene outside Sennaya Ploshchad metro station in St. Petersburg, Russia

    Commentary

    How Russia Became the Jihadists' No. 1 Target

    Russia is fast replacing the United States as the number-one enemy of Al Qaeda, ISIS, and other Sunni jihadist groups motivated by violent and puritanical Salafist ideology. This shift is rooted in recent Russian actions in the Middle East.

    Apr 3, 2017

  • Fighters of the Syrian Islamist rebel group Jabhat Fateh al-Sham cheer on a pickup truck after a Russian helicopter was shot down in the north of Syria's rebel-held Idlib province, August 1, 2016

    Commentary

    Al Qaeda in Syria Can Change Its Name, but Not Its Stripes

    Al Qaeda in Syria, by any name, remains a dangerous and capable terrorist organization with the ability to conduct attacks in the West. Those seeking to grapple with the threat the group poses should focus less on its names and more on its actions.

    Mar 23, 2017

  • Shi'ite fighters during an intensive security deployment against Islamic State militants in Balad, north of Baghdad, Iraq, December 22, 2014

    Report

    Understanding ISIL and Principles for Defeating It

    U.S. policymakers weighing options to accelerate ISIL's defeat must develop specific courses of action that address both ISIL and the regional security issues that would emerge after its fall.

    Mar 21, 2017

  • Members of the NYPD's Counterterrorism Bureau stand watch at the Union Square Holiday Market in Manhattan, December 20, 2016

    Commentary

    Taking the 'Terror' Out of Terrorism Requires Outsmarting Fear

    Terrorism aims to create terror. Building an effective counterterror strategy could help society understand how terrorism works, then work together toward a psychologically more resilient and less vulnerable mindset.

    Mar 16, 2017

  • U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (right) greets Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi at the State Department in Washington, February 28, 2017

    Commentary

    What Are the Chances of the U.S. and China Going to War?

    War between the United States and China seems far-fetched. But complacency would be a mistake. Washington and Beijing should keep a direct channel open between their defense ministers to defuse any potential crises or escalation.

    Mar 14, 2017

  • A member of the counterterrorism task force stands guard in Times Square, New York City, December 31, 2016

    Testimony

    No Easy Solutions to the Persistent Terrorist Threat

    Jihadist terrorism isn't the most dangerous threat to the United States. But it is the most prominent. There are no clear solutions to this problem, and all America's counterterrorism options entail risks.

    Feb 14, 2017

  • A girl dances while women pray at a protest against the Trump administration's travel restriction at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, Texas, January 29, 2017

    Commentary

    Why a Travel Restriction Won't Stop Terrorism at Home

    It's not unreasonable to seek a review of immigration, and refugee-vetting procedures make sense. But America's jihadist terrorists are not imported from abroad. They are mostly homegrown.

    Feb 10, 2017

  • An international traveler arrives after U.S. President Donald Trump's executive order travel ban at Logan Airport in Boston, Massachusetts, January 30, 2017

    Multimedia

    Will Banning Travelers and Refugees Make Us Safer?

    In this Call with the Experts, RAND's Brian Michael Jenkins, one of the nation's leading experts on terrorism and homeland security, discusses what we know about the perpetrators of terrorism in the United States.

    Feb 9, 2017

  • Somali government soldiers secure the scene of an explosion in front of Dayah hotel in Somalia's capital Mogadishu, January 25, 2017

    Commentary

    U.S. Counterterrorism Strategy Must Be About More Than ISIS

    ISIS is a worthy candidate for eradication, but failing to also target its franchises, al-Qaida splinters, and other non-aligned groups in the Middle East, Africa, and South Asia could allow other threats to metastasize.

    Feb 9, 2017

  • Iraqi army gather during a fight with Islamic State militants in Rashidiya, North of Mosul, Iraq, January 30, 2017.

    Commentary

    The Need for a Targeted Counter-ISIL Strategy

    Defeating ISIL is only possible if political conditions change in the Middle East, North and West Africa, and South Asia, and in ways that are exceedingly unlikely. The coalition should focus on reducing ISIL's ability to conduct attacks and on removing the underlying conditions that feed Sunni grievances.

    Feb 5, 2017

  • U.S. soldiers execute a fire mission to support Iraqi security forces during the Mosul counteroffensive in northern Iraq, December 24, 2016

    Report

    Countering ISIL as a Transregional Threat

    The U.S. counter-ISIL strategy must recognize the long-term nature of the global violent jihadi threat. U.S. diplomatic and military actions should focus on reducing the appeal of ISIL and disrupting the transregional network that supports it.

    Jan 31, 2017

  • A family walks next to an Iraqi tank during a fight with ISIS militants in Rashidiya, north of Mosul, Iraq, January 30, 2017

    Commentary

    Is ISIS Breaking Apart?

    The coalition tasked with countering ISIS has made progress, and ISIS is sure to break apart further over the next few years. Any splinter groups that result could differ from their parent organization, so counterterrorism strategies will need to adjust.

    Jan 31, 2017

  • Travelers are evacuated out of the terminal and onto the tarmac after a shooting at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport in Florida, January 6, 2017

    Commentary

    When Is a Terrorist Really a Terrorist?

    Countering mass violence demands a distinction between attackers who are truly inspired by jihadism and those with lesser links. The latter includes people whose mental states and violent tendencies preexist their exposure to the ideology.

    Jan 27, 2017

  • Binary code bursts from phones held by a crowd of people with an overlay of glowing electronic numbers

    Commentary

    What Is the Adversary Likely to Do with the Clearance Records for 20 Million Americans?

    The state actor that hacked the Office of Personnel Management could use the stolen information to further its domestic control against dissidents, enhance its foreign intelligence, and improve its position in the global military and economic order.

    Jan 20, 2017

  • A still from footage of Dylann Roof, who was convicted of killing nine people at a historically black church in South Carolina

    Commentary

    The Wrong Terrorism Narrative

    Solving the problem of homegrown terrorism in the U.S. requires understanding the true nature of the complex problem of violent extremism. With such knowledge, authorities and communities will be better able to develop strategies to prevent the next tragic terrorist killing.

    Jan 15, 2017

  • Testimony

    Fifteen Years After 9/11: A Preliminary Balance Sheet: Addendum

    Document submitted on January 11, 2017 as an addendum to testimony presented before the House Armed Services Committee on September 21, 2016.

    Jan 12, 2017

  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un gives a New Year address in Pyongyang on January 1, 2017

    Commentary

    Trump Should Confront Kim Over ICBM Tests

    Whether successful or not, an ICBM test by North Korea would be very much against U.S. interests and President-elect Trump should act to counter it as early as possible. A turn to the basics of deterrence would be the path most likely to succeed.

    Jan 6, 2017