75 years of service to our nation

Our Research

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


November 8, 2017

On October 12, 2017, CNA convened Innovative Approaches to Addressing Violent Crime, its ninth Executive Session on Policing. A renewed focus on violent crime has brought to light the many innovative approaches that agencies across the nation use to address it. In response to the recent uptick in violent crime rates in some cities, and the use of these innovative approaches, CNA organized a session to review the dynamic landscape of violent crime and its links to other crime types and social problems. The Executive Session also provided examples of innovative approaches and discussed promising practices for addressing violent crime. This report provides an overview of the discussions that took place during the session, organized by keynote speakers and panels.

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October 31, 2017

In its independent assessment of U.S. government efforts against Al-Qaeda that was mandated by Congress via the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), CNA concluded that the current U.S. strategy toward Al-Qaeda was unlikely to achieve its stated goals to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat the group. CNA recommended that the U.S. government should undertake a new review of its policy goals and overarching strategy against Al-Qaeda. This occasional paper presents three potential policy options for the U.S. government to consider, should it seek to undertake such a review. These options are retrenchment, escalation, and containment.

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October 30, 2017

Section 1228 of the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) states, "The Secretary of Defense, in coordination with the Secretary of State and the Director of National Intelligence, shall provide for the conduct of an independent assessment of the effectiveness of the United States' efforts to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat Al-Qaeda, including its affiliated groups, associated groups, and adherents since September 11, 2001." The Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations/Low Intensity Conflict (ASD (SO/LIC)) asked CNA to conduct this independent assessment, the results of which are presented in this report.

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October 30, 2017

Section 1228 of the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) states, "The Secretary of Defense, in coordination with the Secretary of State and the Director of National Intelligence, shall provide for the conduct of an independent assessment of the effectiveness of the United States' efforts to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat Al-Qaeda, including its affiliated groups, associated groups, and adherents since September 11, 2001." The Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations/Low Intensity Conflict (ASD (SO/LIC)) asked CNA to conduct this independent assessment. This document presents a summary of the results of that assessment.

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October 19, 2017

CNA conducts analysis for the U.S. Navy, the Department of Defense (DOD), and other sponsors, ranging across policy, strategy, organizational processes, technical performance of military systems, and current operations. Because of the expected impact of autonomy and artificial intelligence (AI) to the character of warfare, CNA has created a Center for Autonomy and Artificial Intelligence to focus on these emerging technologies and their significant role in U.S. defense policy and all the military services. The Center combines CNA's strengths and experience in conducting objective analysis of U.S. military operations with focused expertise in autonomy and other aspects of AI. This report, the first created by the new Center, takes lessons and insights from CNA's body of work for the Navy and the joint force, including CNA's field program of embedded analysts in military commands around the world. Though much of the emerging technology examined in this report is new, the approach of applying lessons from U.S. operations and institutional processes to key challenges in leveraging autonomy and AI continues CNA'S applied research paradigm of exploring many opportunities to resolve or work around challenges that have been seen before. The aim of this report is to anticipate challenges of "Third Offset" implementation based on past lessons, and then provide concrete recommendations for promoting the effective incorporation of autonomy, AI, and related technologies in U.S. military operations. This report discusses making autonomy and AI militarily effective from an acquisition and technology perspective, and how to pursue these capabilities in ways that are consistent with long-standing U.S. values and that promote broader U.S. national interests.

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October 17, 2017

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) provides greater flexibility in state accountability systems than did previous federal legislation. In response, many states continue to refine their accountability systems to include college readiness tests, including college admissions and placement exams. This paper summarizes perspectives of K-12 educators, postsecondary educators, and researchers on these measures to inform policymakers as they revise accountability systems under ESSA.

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October 1, 2017

The U.S. Navy's investment decisions across the PESTONI pillars (personnel, equipment, supply, training, ordnance, networks, and infrastructure) are interconnected. These relationships also mean that incremental changes to resourcing a particular pillar may not have a simple, incremental effect on another. Most often, decrements or increases to budgets are spread evenly across the pillars out of a sense of fairness, without an appreciation of whether a different approach may result in less risk or outsized readiness gains. Understanding the interconnectedness of the PESTONI pillars may allow senior leadership to better assess trade-offs and make informed decisions about investment. This report reviews how complex systems have been approached and understood, and how risk/reward decisions are made in the science and engineering world. This analysis promotes a new, arguably feasible paradigm—backcasting, with a focus on resiliency in the context of wholeness—for thinking about resourcing decisions.

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September 30, 2017

By their very nature, transnational challenges are murky, often intermingled and thus difficult to analyze. This report provides an introductory examination to these challenges in an effort to build understanding around what they are and why they matter to current U.S. national security. Through our research, we derived a definition for transnational challenges and then used that definition to identify eleven such challenges that impact U.S. national security interests today. We observe trends and patterns among these challenges, including how they relate to one another and how they may evolve over time. We end with thoughts on which transnational challenges the United States should focus on, and why.

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September 29, 2017

This report describes the execution and analysis of a logistics game created for the Joint Staff J-4, Directorate for Logistics. The game, Advancing Globally Integrated Logistics Effort 2017 (AGILE 17), centered on developing a better understanding of the requirements associated with the implementation of the Joint Logistics Enterprise (JLEnt). The objective for AGILE 17 was to identify JLEnt interoperability seams and gaps in meeting globally integrated logistics demand during simultaneous, transregional crises in contested environments.

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September 29, 2017

This study describes and analyzes the origins, creation, announcement, and dissemination of the U.S. Navy–Marine Corps–Coast Guard 'Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower: Forward, Engaged, Ready' (CS21R), published in March 2015.

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September 28, 2017

On July 27, 2017, CNA hosted a roundtable on "Countering Networks of Crime and Extremism," at its headquarters in Arlington, Virginia. The workshop brought together CNA analysts and U.S. government practitioners to explore the national security challenges posed by transnational criminal organizations (TCOs) and violent extremist organizations (VEOs). The U.S. government has identified and approached TCOs and VEOs as significant threats for many years, but as these networks have grown and expanded over time, there is an increasing need to better understand them not only as unique entities but also as increasingly complex, interwoven networks that interact with each other. As such, participants discussed the relationships, similarities, and differences among TCOs and VEOs in and between different regions of the world; and the challenges and successes the U.S has had in tackling these issues. In addition, participants identified areas where there is good understanding and those where further study is required. The event was held under the Chatham House Rule. This document provides a broad overview of key takeaways.

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September 28, 2017

On July 13, 2017, CNA convened a roundtable featuring a panel of experts to examine security cooperation in Africa, with a focus on efforts in Mali and the Lake Chad Basin. The roundtable served as a forum for operators, practitioners, and experts from different countries, including the United States, France, and Mali, to learn from one another and compare two approaches to security cooperation. This event note will introduce the conflict regions that were the focus of the event, outline the two models of security cooperation discussed (the French-led Operations Serval / Barkhane, and the African-led Multinational Joint Task Force [MNJTF]), and close with reflections and lessons learned from the event participants.

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September 26, 2017

Educators have made improving students' college and career readiness a priority for at least a decade. However, most of that effort has focused on college readiness, whereas career readiness is less understood. More clarity on career readiness and how to measure it would help educators prepare students for adult life and inform industry professionals who hire young adults. This report is a step in providing that information by exploring how a high-wage, high-growth industry—advanced manufacturing—determines the readiness and additional training needs of job applicants and new hires.

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September 1, 2017

In the last five years, two international arbitrations have resolved decades-old maritime boundary disputes in the Bay of Bengal. The first, between Bangladesh and Myanmar, was resolved in March 2012 by the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS). The second, between Bangladesh and India, was resolved in 2014 by a tribunal of the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in The Hague. An earlier CNA study analyzed the Bangladesh v. Myanmar case and its implications for future maritime disputes. This study follows that up with an overview of the Bangladesh v. India case history, a legal assessment of the ruling, and an analysis of the implications of the ruling for India-Bangladesh bilateral relations, maritime disputes in the South China Sea and elsewhere, and for U.S. oceans policy.

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August 9, 2017

The Arctic Ocean is a vast maritime region which is bordered by six states that are now coming to appreciate their enormous hydrocarbon, mineral, and other natural resource potentials. Other states outside of the Arctic have also taken note of the Arctic's vast and unexploited deposits, especially China. Because the Arctic is essentially a closed-sea, all human activity, even environmental accidents on land, can have serious environmental impacts on the other littoral countries because of currents and other climactic conditions. This fact is compounded by the aggressive pace of climate change in the Arctic. The changes in the Arctic environment due to climate change are accelerating the rate at which these resources are becoming accessible for exploitation and by ship as the ice recedes.

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July 25, 2017

In November 2015, China publicly acknowledged for the first time that it is building its first overseas military facility in Djibouti, which is also home to the largest U.S. military installation in Africa. How did China come to establish its first overseas military support facility in Djibouti? What do we know about this facility and how it might be used, and what insights can we glean from the process to better understand where China's military might go next? This paper provides a preliminary look at the origins of China's military support facility in Djibouti. It explores the evolution of the economic and security relations between the two countries that led to the establishment of the facility, how it may be used, and what it may tell us about future Chinese military facilities abroad. It also assesses the implications of the growing economic and military ties between the two countries for the United States and the U.S. Navy.

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June 14, 2017

In 2012, then-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey called for the U.S. military to "learn the lessons from the past decade of operations." The Joint Staff conducted a study and produced what is commonly known as the "Decade of War Report," which summarized key lessons from U.S. military operations since 2001. The report's findings are relevant to the current Department of Defense (DOD) initiative of crafting and implementing a new approach to countering ISIS in response to the Trump administration's executive order from January 2017 (included in the Appendix). This paper takes six of the report's lessons—on understanding the environment, rethinking the conventional warfare paradigm, leveraging strategic communications to achieve operational goals, managing transitions, and building effective coalitions— and applies them to the counter-ISIS campaign. Learning from and incorporating these lessons will help the United States and its partners promote sustainable security, counter ISIS more effectively, and reduce the risk of mistakes and missed opportunities observed in earlier U.S. operations in Iraq that contributed to the rise of ISIS in the first place.

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June 5, 2017

Advanced energy is the suite of technologies and systems that can lead to a more globally accessible, clean, and safe energy supply. These technologies include sources–such as nuclear, hydro, renewable, or alternative power–and the associated technologies and systems that distribute, store, and manage energy. They also comprise systems that make existing energy uses more efficient. Just as the 20th century was dominated by energy production derived from oil, coal, and natural gas, we expect the 21st century to have both greater energy efficiency from traditional sources and a greater array of new sources.

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May 30, 2017

The military is on the cusp of a major technological revolution, in which warfare is conducted by unmanned and increasingly autonomous weapon systems. However, unlike the last "sea change," during the Cold War, when advanced technologies were developed primarily by the Department of Defense (DoD), the key technology enablers today are being developed mostly in the commercial world. This study looks at the state-of-the-art of AI, machine-learning, and robot technologies, and their potential future military implications for autonomous (and semi-autonomous) weapon systems. While no one can predict how AI will evolve or predict its impact on the development of military autonomous systems, it is possible to anticipate many of the conceptual, technical, and operational challenges that DoD will face as it increasingly turns to AI-based technologies. This study examines key issues, identifies analysis gaps, and provides a roadmap of opportunities and challenges. It concludes with a list of recommended future studies.

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For more CNA research, click here.