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.

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  • 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

  • People protest as electors gather to cast their votes amid allegations of Russian hacking to try to influence the U.S. presidential election in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, December 19, 2016

    Commentary

    Were Russian Hacks Really a Threat to American Democracy?

    The Russian attacks should be another wake up call about the relentless probing of America's digital assets by adversaries and the potential consequences of weak cyber defenses. But U.S. democracy appears to have survived safe and sound.

    Dec 30, 2016

  • The Dome of the Rock on the compound known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as Temple Mount, and the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City, October 10, 2006

    Commentary

    Hidden Dangers of Moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem

    Moving the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem would antagonize partners in the Islamic world who are key to fighting ISIS and other extremists. And any potential cooperation that might have developed between Israel and Arab states over common concerns about Iran could suffer.

    Dec 28, 2016

  • A sailor opens a network monitoring program during an exercise at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, California, August 22, 2016

    Commentary

    America's Cyber Security Dilemma — and a Way Out

    The United States should continue to pursue international cooperation in cyberspace, improve its ability to identify and expose the sources of attacks, and improve its oversight of the development and adoption of cyber-related technologies.

    Dec 22, 2016

  • A Lithuanian army soldier holds the national flag during the NATO Force Integration Unit inauguration event in Vilnius, Lithuania, September 3, 2015

    Commentary

    'If You Want Peace, Prepare for Resistance'

    The government of Lithuania issued a guide on how its citizens can resist a potential Russian invasion and occupation. Resistance is a key element of the “Total Defense” strategy which all three Baltic states have been pursuing to varying degrees, spurred on by Russian aggression in Crimea and elsewhere.

    Nov 22, 2016

  • Former Secretary of Defense William J. Perry and CFR Senior Fellow Gayle Tzemach Lemmon at RAND's Politics Aside event in Santa Monica, November 12, 2016

    Blog

    The Return of a Cold War Threat

    The danger of blundering into a nuclear war through miscalculation or human error has returned, said former Secretary of Defense William J. Perry at RAND's Politics Aside event. No leader is seeking nuclear war, but there are new dangers that didn't exist during the Cold War that could lead to one.

    Nov 15, 2016

  • A member of the Nusra Front squats in Ariha, Syria, after a coalition of insurgent groups seized the area, May 29, 2015

    Commentary

    Al Nusra Is Stronger Than Ever

    While the West targets ISIS, Jabhat Fateh al Sham, formerly known as Jabhat al Nusra, is quietly laying the groundwork for al Qaeda's resurgence.

    Nov 2, 2016

  • Report

    Assessment of the State and Local Anti-Terrorism Training (SLATT) Program

    Assesses the Bureau of Justice Assistance's State and Local Anti-Terrorism Training Program, which provides various forms counterterrorism training to state, local, and tribal law enforcement personnel.

    Oct 28, 2016

  • Al Qaeda's Ayman al-Zawahri speaks from an unknown location in a still image taken from video uploaded to the web on June 8, 2011

    Commentary

    Al Qaeda's Ruthless Pragmatism Makes It More Dangerous Than the Islamic State

    Al Qaeda presents a graver long-term threat to the West than the Islamic State. It has proved more effective in exploiting U.S. policy in the Middle East to legitimize itself as an armed force and, increasingly, as a viable political player.

    Oct 27, 2016

  • U.S. President Barack Obama chairs the closing session of the Nuclear Security Summit, focusing on the Counter-ISIL campaign, in Washington, April 1, 2016

    Commentary

    Protect Nuclear Nonproliferation Norms

    Strong and viable global nuclear nonproliferation norms should remain a cornerstone of U.S. security now and into the future. Friends and allies must continue to have confidence in the U.S. strategic nuclear guarantees.

    Oct 9, 2016

  • U.S. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates meets with the other NATO Ministers of Defense and of Foreign Affairs

    Multimedia

    Rethinking Russia's Threat to NATO

    A series of wargames examined the probable outcome of a Russian invasion of the Baltic states. The wargames showed that a near-term Russian invasion could reach the Estonian and Latvian capitals in less than 60 hours.

    Sep 30, 2016

  • A tank is seen as fighters from Libyan forces allied with the U.N.-backed government take position during a battle with Islamic State militants in Sirte, Libya, September 22, 2016

    Commentary

    Keep Chemical Weapons Out of Terrorist Hands

    As the Islamic State group and the Nusra Front seized territory in Syria and northern Iraq, they came upon military sites with chemical munitions and industrial facilities with toxic chemicals. Reducing such opportunities should be a priority.

    Sep 27, 2016