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


May 10, 2017

Since the civil wars of the 1990s, the Western Balkans region has been plagued by conflict and instability. The United States and Western Europe disengaged from this region in the last decade, and the Western Balkan countries have become particularly unstable due to internal vulnerabilities and external influence from state and non-state actors. CNA initiated a study to assess these internal vulnerabilities and external influence and threats from Russia, international terrorism, and transnational organized crime. Using research and semi-structured discussions with subject matter experts in the United States, Serbia, and Macedonia, including recent U.S. senior military and civilian leaders, this paper presents findings and implications for U.S. and European civilian and military leaders to consider in order to proactively engage in this region, and promote a regional strategy that supports a Europe that is "whole and free," and one that is based on Western institutions and democratic principles.

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May 8, 2017

Russia views cyber very differently than its western counterparts, from the way Russian theorists define cyberwarfare to how the Kremlin employs its cyber capabilities. The paper examines the Russian approach to cyber warfare, addressing both its theoretical and its practical underpinnings.

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April 26, 2017

As Cuba opens up to greater foreign tourism, commerce, and exchange, it faces growing pressures to bring its security capabilities and practices in line with those of the international community. The recent adjustment of relations between the United States and Cuba presents fresh opportunities for the two nations to enhance security and development within a framework of cooperation in the Caribbean region. We propose a new strategic framework that would include alternative, cooperative initiatives especially at the multilateral level, to promote progress on important, shared security issues and get beyond wrangling over a checklist of disagreements and bureaucratic gaps. Three critical issues could serve as the core of this framework: migration; disaster preparedness; and transnational organized crime. Each area is important for the regional community in its own terms and encompasses some of the most challenging issues for current U.S.-Cuban negotiations.

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April 21, 2017

During Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom, the Marine Corps had to augment active component (AC) officers to fill vacant platoon leader billets at activated Selected Marine Corps Reserve (SMCR) units. In 2006, the Reserve Officer Commissioning Program (ROCP) was created to recruit non-prior-service officers into the SMCR. This study looks at the performance of the ROCP candidates and their effect on SMCR personnel readiness. We find that ROCP candidates perform similarly to their AC counterparts and tend to affiliate with the SMCR beyond their initial obligations—particularly if they have active-duty (AD) experience. We also found a positive relationship between the presence of lieutenants at SMCR units and the retention of nonobligor enlisted Marines. We recommend that the Marine Corps explore opportunities to expand ROCP recruiting sources, provide ROCP officers with AD experience, and continue to monitor ROCP officers' career development as the program matures.

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April 19, 2017

Nations have a variety of options for exerting influence, such as through diplomatic, military, or economic means. In recent years, some nations have shifted to more ambiguous activities for exerting global influence, in attempts to achieve benefits normally obtained through conventional war, but without triggering such a war. In this report, we explored a different way of thinking about these ambiguous activities and their implications, which suggested a need to shift U.S. focus away from preparing to win tomorrow and toward winning today. From this shift, we described a different approach to U.S. activities in such competitive environments. We also identified the unique qualities of U.S. Special Operations Forces (SOF) as the military force having the best alignment with these different activities.

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April 17, 2017

The Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), led by Ugandan national Joseph Kony, has survived for over three decades despite a concerted effort to defeat it. The LRA was formed in the late 1980s in response to the historic marginalization of the Acholi people, inequitable treatment by the Ugandan government and uneven development across the country. The LRA became a powerfully destructive force in northern Uganda, with thousands of combatants killing over 100,000 people. Since 2006, the group has been largely degraded to less than 150 core combatants, and is currently in survival mode on the borders of the Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan, and South Sudan. Despite these setbacks, the LRA is still active in central Africa and serves as a lesson in resiliency and survival. In March 2017, U.S. Africa Command announced the end of its anti-LRA operations. Although some observers see the operation as a success, it failed to capture Kony or to eliminate the group. This paper argues that the LRA has two major sources of resilience: it positions itself within the nexus of four interconnected conflicts in the region, and it adapts its tactics to changes in its capabilities and environment. The resilience of the LRA has implications both for its potential resurgence and for other armed groups who may look to it as a template for survival.

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March 31, 2017

During the Executive Session, CNA and its invited guest speakers discussed how approaches to officer safety and wellness have evolved over time, and the law enforcement community's current understanding of these issues. The session included perspectives from researchers, practitioners, policymakers, and other justice stakeholders. The following summary provides an overview of the discussion that took place during the session, organized by keynote speakers and panels.

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February 28, 2017

The 2010-2011 Arab Spring caused upheaval in North Africa's Maghreb region, which comprises Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and Libya. This upheaval elevated the Maghreb's importance globally, including for the United States and the Gulf Arab states—Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar in particular. The Gulf Arab countries' increased engagement in the Maghreb is the result of shifts within the internal politics of the Arab world. In the Maghreb, U.S. and Gulf state interests overlap to the extent that all players want stability, but each state has its own definition of what stability means. The U.S. and the Gulf states all support the Moroccan and Algerian regimes, but intra-Gulf rivalries are helping destabilize Libya, where different Gulf-backed proxy forces are exacerbating that country's civil war. Moving forward, the United States and the Gulf states may find areas where their interests converge (e.g., stabilizing Tunisian politics, fighting terrorism, and promoting development) but also areas where they diverge, especially in Libya.

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February 22, 2017

This study examines how the Indian Navy's new maritime strategy and missions, evolving capabilities, and vigorous diplomacy backed by India's political leadership and Ministry of External Affairs are heralding a more cooperative and activist Indian navy in what India calls the "Indo-Pacific" region and what U.S. defense officials refer to as the "Indo-Asia-Pacific" region. The Indian Navy's focus will be on the country's immediate neighbors in the Indian Ocean and strongly driven by its self-proclaimed "imperatives" (e.g., maritime boundaries, energy trade, protection of overseas Indians and primary areas of geographic interest to India's west). But a noteworthy emerging feature is India's expansion of maritime outreach and engagement in the East Asian and Pacific regions. The salience of maritime issues in the East and South China Seas, India's membership in mechanisms that could promote maritime cooperation, improved bilateral ties to regional countries, and the improvement of U.S.-India relations create opportunities for further Indian maritime engagement to its east with regional and extra-regional partners, including the United States.

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February 22, 2017

Three proposed defense foundational agreements between the United States and India—the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA), the Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement, and the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geospatial Intelligence—have been in negotiations for years. The LEMOA was finally signed in August 2016, while the other two agreements remain sticking points in the relationship. From India's point of view, the agreements have been controversial; for the United States, the failure to conclude the agreements has impeded further growth in its defense ties with India. This paper explains the legal requirement for the agreements, provides analysis of the relevant legal texts, examines India's strategic and operational concerns, and offers recommendations to further bilateral defense relations.

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February 22, 2017

CNA conducted this study to determine how the United States can advance its naval and maritime relationship with India in the coming five to 10 years. U.S.-India defense relations, especially in the naval domain, have expanded in the past two decades and soared under Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The study analyzes the key factors that have shaped the course of relations between the U.S. Navy (USN) and the Indian Navy and considers India's possible future trajectories and how they may impact bilateral naval ties. CNA concludes that key factors affecting the evolution of the USN-Indian Navy relationship are mostly beyond the control of the two navies themselves. Despite the wider diplomatic and geopolitical circumstances, there are many overlapping areas of ongoing interest between the two navies that favor closer ties. Finally, drawing on an accompanying project paper, this study suggests viewing the increasing importance of the region west of India as a promising area of bilateral naval security cooperation.

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For more CNA research, click here.