Our Research

CNA pioneered the field of operations research and analysis more than 70 years ago and, today, applies its efforts to a broad range of national security, defense, and public interest issues including education, homeland security, and air traffic management. Browse our publication database using the yearly archives link on the left. Can’t find what you’re looking for? Try the site search box in the upper right corner of this page. If you still need help locating a document, please contact us at inquiries@cna.org.

CNA operates on the principle of conducting honest, accurate, usable research to inform the important work of public policy decision makers—a principle that is never compromised. At CNA we:

  • Maintain absolute objectivity. In our investigations, analyses, and findings, we test hypotheses, carefully guard against personal biases and preconceptions, challenge our own findings, and are uninfluenced by what a client would like to hear.
  • Apply imaginative, innovative techniques. We approach every problem with an open mind and go only where the facts lead us.
  • Gain a thorough understanding of issues. We analyze all relevant aspects of an issue and look for results that not only answer questions but inform decision making.
  • Are process driven and results oriented. We carefully maintain rigorous, ethical standards of research and analysis and work aggressively to complete projects on time and within budget.
  • Are open, direct, and clear. We keep clients informed about our procedures and progress – in language that is unambiguous and understandable.

Recent CNA Research


May 6, 2016

In this report, we consider two potential changes to the admission criteria of the National Guard Youth ChalleNGe Program (ChalleNGe)—limiting the ages for admission and introducing a standardized test for admission—both with the aim of maximizing cadets' growth at ChalleNGe. Restricting the eligible ages could optimize the potential for noncognitive growth; a minimum admission score could maximize cognitive improvement. We synthesize the literature in these areas and ultimately determine that neither change is recommendable. There are age-related variables that affect noncognitive development, making it less likely to occur at younger ages and thus more likely to be significantly improved at ChalleNGe. However, we do not recommend excluding older, at-risk youth from the program based solely on the desire to achieve maximum noncognitive growth. In addition, a standardized test score is insufficiently accurate as a representation of true ability to be used as an admission criterion.

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May 4, 2016

This project, sponsored by the MacArthur Foundation, provides greater understanding of the equities and drivers fueling water insecurity in the Brahmaputra River basin. After conducting research in Dhaka, New Delhi, and Beijing, CNA offers recommendations for key stakeholders to consider at the subnational, bilateral, and multilateral levels to increase cooperation in the basin. These findings lay the foundation for policymakers in China, India, and Bangladesh to discuss steps that help manage and resolve Brahmaputra resource competition, thereby strengthening regional security.

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April 8, 2016

The Department of Defense (DOD) is developing an education strategy to ensure that servicemembers and their families are aware of changes to the military retirement system and are prepared to make the timely decisions necessary to ensure their financial readiness. To assist DOD in this endeavor, CNA recently convened a group of stakeholders from government, academia, and private financial institutions to discuss best practices for reaching and educating servicemembers on these types of choices. This document summarizes the overarching issues discussed and presented at the gathering.

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April 6, 2016

Although Congress changed the military retirement system effective January 1, 2018, military personnel who entered service after July 31, 1986, and before January 1, 2018, who are eligible and intend to serve for 20 years must choose between two retirement plans at their 15th year of service. The two choices are: (1) High-3 retirement plan (2) REDUX retirement plan plus a $30,000 bonus paid at the 15th year of service. We have used a different approach that many have found useful in evaluating these retirement choices. Here, we update that work for those making the retirement choice in 2016.

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March 4, 2016

The Commander, U.S. Marine Corps Forces Central Command (COMUSMARCENT) asked CNA, working in partnership with the UK's Permanent Joint Force Headquarters (PJHQ), to capture insights from U.S.-UK staff integration in Afghanistan. A combined U.S.-UK study team was created, consisting of three CNA analysts from the United States, two UK military officers from PJHQ, and a scientist from the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory. The study team used a hybrid analytic approach involving interviews of U.S. and UK military officers and other subject matter experts, combined with analysis of previous studies and references pertaining to U.S. and UK military operations and integration of forces. The U.S.-UK study team twice traveled to Afghanistan to conduct field research, completing about 60 interviews with personnel at RC(SW), TF Helmand, and the UK's Joint Force Support-Afghanistan (JFSp(A)). In addition, the study team met with previous senior leaders and personnel to better understand the evolution of operations and U.S.-UK interactions over time. While the study report was written by CNA analysts, the UK team contributed important thoughts and discussion in the spirit of a joint study. Also, the report authors benefitted from CNA's considerable body of work regarding Afghanistan operations; U.S. joint lessons-learned reports on Iraq and Afghanistan; and the UK's Herrick Campaign Study, a comprehensive examination of UK operations in Helmand province that identifies lessons for the UK to pursue. This occasional paper presents an unclassified overview of the complete (and classified) CNA report from this study, titled (U) U.S.-UK Integration in Helmand.

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For more CNA research, click here.