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


March 26, 2018

U.S. Navy planners should assume that the PLA Navy's presence in the western Indian Ocean will grow, and that new bases and places will be organized to support its expanded presence. U.S. authorities can no longer assume unencumbered freedom of action when electing to posture U.S. naval forces offshore of the Horn of Africa and other East African hotspots. If China's interests are involved and differ from Washington's, the Chinese could dispatch their own naval forces to the water offshore of the country in question. The U.S. Navy faced similar circumstances between 1968 and 1991, when the United States and the Soviet Union competed for friends, political influence, maritime access, and bases in the western Indian Ocean region. This paper briefly discusses this period in order to provide some historical context for what might occur in the future. As Mark Twain purportedly quipped, "History does not repeat, but it often rhymes."

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March 19, 2018

This report examines the issue of human control with regard to lethal autonomy, an issue of significant interest in United Nations discussions in the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) forum. We analyze this issue in light of lessons and best practices from recent U.S. operations. Based on this analysis, we make the case for a wider framework for the application of human control over the use of force. This report recommends that CCW discussions currently focusing on process considerations, such as human control, should instead focus on outcome—namely, mitigation of inadvertent engagements. This allows consideration of a more complete set of benefits and risks of lethal autonomy and better management of risks. The report also describes best practices that can collectively serve as a safety net for the use of lethal autonomous weapons. It concludes with concrete recommendations for how the international community can more effectively address the risk of inadvertent engagements from lethal autonomy.

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March 7, 2018

On January 18, 2018, CNA convened a roundtable to discuss France's strategic interests in the Indian Ocean. Nilanthi Samaranayake, Director of CNA's Indian Ocean and South Asia Security Program, framed the discussion by noting the expanding role of extraregional actors operating in the Indian Ocean, including Japan, China, and France. The United States, Japan, India, and Australia have revamped their "Quad" discussions over the past year. However, Ms. Samaranayake noted, France has a range of territorial, economic, and security interests in the Indian Ocean, and the roundtable offered an opportunity to examine those interests and potential opportunities to deepen U.S.-French cooperation in the region.

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February 26, 2018

A key goal of the Navy's Digital Warfare Office (DWO) is to use the emerging field of big data analytics to tackle numerous challenges facing the Navy. DWO asked CNA to examine the issue of Super Hornet (F/A-18E/F strike fighter) readiness and recommend data-driven solutions that leverage underutilized sensor data. CNA proposed a pilot program that integrated sensor data across maintenance levels to expedite repairs of aviation parts. The five-month pilot program began on July 10, 2017, at the Fleet Readiness Center at Oceana in Virginia Beach, Virginia, and was implemented on APG-65 and APG-73 radars. We assessed the pilot program through several metrics and found that, during the program, repair time was significantly decreased and repair efficiency increased. Our findings suggest that sensor data integration across maintenance levels may considerably improve F/A-18 readiness.

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January 29, 2018

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia has used media as an important instrument and lever of influence. The role of media in promoting Russian foreign policy and exerting the influence of President Vladimir Putin has become increasingly visible since the conflict Ukraine and other domestic and international confrontations began. CNA has undertaken an effort to map the Russian media environment and examine Russian decision-making as it relates to the media. This report provides an overview of the role that the media plays in Russian foreign policy. Specifically, we examine Russia's media environment, Russia's decision-making related to media and messaging, including the drivers and boundaries of that decision-making. We evaluate the role of Vladimir Putin and his inner circle, and finally, we examine the role that Russia's media and messaging plays in external influence. In addition, we highlight that while media is a key instrument of influence, culture, politics, and business are also important in broader Russian influence efforts abroad. Furthermore, this report outlines the way that decision-making and messaging is carried out by Vladimir Putin and his closest advisors through a series of scenarios that range from crisis to steady state. Finally, we provide overarching takeaways for policy makers and the international community to consider in understanding Russia's media environment and Russian decision-making in the media.

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January 22, 2018

In this study, we evaluate the feasibility of increasing the number of graduates from the National Guard Youth ChalleNGe Program (ChalleNGe) who could be employable in one of the four military services. Because of the Department of Defense's (DOD's) and the services' quality goals, this requires that a significant portion of ChalleNGe graduates have high school diplomas and score in the upper 50th percentiles on the Armed Forces Qualification Test (AFQT). Our methodology is three pronged: (1) we interviewed program directors, (2) we developed a test linking that allows us to predict AFQT scores based on ChalleNGe cadets' scores on the Test of Adult Basic Education (TABE, a registered trademark of Data Recognition Corporation), and (3) we analyzed the test scores and attrition behavior of those ChalleNGe graduates who joined the services. We ultimately determine that increasing DOD employability would require changes to the ChalleNGe program; the program directors would have to carefully consider whether such changes align with the program's philosophy and mission.

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November 30, 2017

By their very nature, transnational challenges are murky and often intermingled, and thus are 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 11 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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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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November 1, 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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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 16, 2017

The military is on the cusp of a major technological revolution, in which warfare is conducted by unmanned and increasingly autonomous weapon systems. This exploratory study considers the state-of-the-art of artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, and robot technologies, and their potential future military implications for autonomous (and semi-autonomous) weapon systems. Although no one can predict how AI will evolve or how it will affect the development of military autonomous systems, we can anticipate many of the conceptual, technical, and operational challenges that DOD will face as it increasingly turns to AI-based technologies. We identified four key gaps facing DOD as the military evolves toward an "autonomy era": (1) a mismatch of timescales between the pace of commercial innovation and DOD's acquisition process; (2) an underappreciation of the fundamental unpredictability of autonomous systems; (3) a lack of a universally agreed upon conceptual framework for autonomy; and (4) a disconnect between the design of autonomous systems and CONOPS development. We examine these gaps, provide a roadmap of opportunities and challenges, and identify areas of future studies.

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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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October 1, 2017

Child trafficking is a pervasive criminal justice and public health concern in the United States. Over the past 17 years, law enforcement agencies have made great strides in understanding child trafficking networks, investigating child trafficking cases, bringing traffickers to justice, and restoring freedom to children trafficked for sex and labor. Law enforcement agencies are frequently the first contacts for child victims of trafficking and serve as community leaders for local anti-trafficking initiatives. While law enforcement agencies have grown in their capacity to identify and respond to child trafficking situations, key challenges persist in victim identification, victim engagement and support, and investigation protocols. This document provides a broad overview of the challenges facing law enforcement agencies and how interdisciplinary partnerships are being used across the country to overcome these barriers and ensure a comprehensive approach to curbing child sex and labor trafficking.

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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 28, 2017

Many community stakeholders and criminal justice leaders have suggested placing body-worn cameras (BWCs) on police officers improves the civility of police-citizen encounters and enhances citizen perceptions of police transparency and legitimacy. In response, many police departments have adopted this technology to improve the quality of policing in their communities. However, the existing evaluation evidence on the intended and unintended consequences of outfitting police officers with BWCs is still developing. This study reports the findings of a randomized controlled trial (RCT) involving more than 400 police officers in the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department (LVMPD). We find that BWC-wearing officers generated significantly fewer complaints and use of force reports relative to control officers without cameras. BWC-wearing officers also made more arrests and issued more citations than their non-BWC-wearing controls. In addition, our cost-benefit analysis revealed that savings from reduced complaints against officers, and the reduced time required to resolve such complaints, resulted in substantial cost savings for the police department. Considering that LVMPD had already introduced reforms regarding use of force through a Collaborative Reform Initiative prior to implementing body worn cameras, these findings suggest that body worn cameras can have compelling effects without increasing costs.

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For more CNA research, click here.