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


December 1, 2016

This study analyzes the relationship between general philosophies/practices at each of seven National Guard Youth ChalleNGe Program sites and cadet outcomes. It also considers the relationship between these outcomes and population demographics. The research question originated from an earlier CNA study in which we found that cadets' final cognitive skills, final noncognitive skills, and probability of completing the ChalleNGe program were affected by which of the seven sites they attended. We hypothesized that there were two potential explanations for these significant site effects: that the populations served by each program differed significantly in demographic and socioeconomic terms and/or that the sites differed significantly in their overarching philosophies and program administration. Our findings suggest that programmatic differences in philosophy, general practices, and classroom instruction are responsible for the role of the specific program attended in determining cadets' final outcomes.

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November 1, 2016

CNA designed and conducted a table-top exercise (TTX) at the U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM) Amphibious Leaders Symposium (PALS) in July 2016 that explored seabasing operations and interoperability during future contingency operations. Using a scenario that revolved around a massive natural disaster striking a fictitious country in the southern Indian Ocean, the TTX strengthened relationships and improved mutual understanding among participating militaries. Military leaders from the 22 Asian, Latin American, and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) countries participating in PALS formed coalitions, planned how they would operate within these coalitions to provide relief, and assembled their forces to conduct humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HA/DR) operations. PALS participants contributed a broad range of sea-based capabilities and employed them in creative ways. This revealed areas of opportunity and friction that could benefit from discussion at future PALS, dialogue during bilateral military engagements, and inclusion in bilateral and multinational command-post and at-sea exercises.

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October 1, 2016

On October 14, 2016, CNA convened a half-day meeting of experts to discuss the use of special operations forces (SOF) by the next administration. Our speakers and panelists consisted of a former Assistant Secretary of Defense and six former SOF Commanders whose rank at retirement ranged from one to four stars. Our audience of approximately 50 attendees consisted largely of active duty SOF and their civilian equivalents, ranging from the rank of Major to Lieutenant General. The conversation was held under the Chatham House Rule of non-attribution to facilitate a frank exchange of ideas. The discussion began with a keynote brief on the dynamics of the current and likely future security environment, which prompted significant discussion on actions the next administration could take to ensure SOF are being used strategically and in line with their full range of capabilities to address future security challenges, while simultaneously preserving and balancing the force for the future. The remainder of this proceedings document will summarize that keynote presentation and discuss four overarching themes on the use of SOF and some associated recommendations for the next administration that were made by our attendees.

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October 1, 2016

The recent spike in popularity of electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) among America's adolescents may have significant health consequences. Such consequences would affect the Department of Defense's recruitable population, which is predominantly composed of adolescents and young adults. Using data from the National Youth Tobacco Survey (NYTS), we examine trends over time in the use of traditional tobacco and e-cigarettes. We also use NYTS data during the 2002-2006 period to predict the use of traditional cigarettes and chewing tobacco (chew) among NYTS respondents participating in the 2011-2014 survey waves. By comparing the accuracy of these predictions across e-cigarette users and nonusers, we shed light on the relationship between e-cigarette and traditional tobacco use. Specifically, we demonstrate that NYTS participants in the 2011-2014 waves who report having ever tried e-cigarettes are far more prone to using cigarettes and/or chew than the data from the 2002-2006 period predict. We also show that these youth smoke conventional cigarettes more frequently and intensely than expected. In stark contrast, 2011-2014 NYTS respondents who have not tried e-cigarettes are less prone to tobacco use than predicted, and they smoke less often/less intensely. One interpretation of these results is that e-cigarettes could be a "gateway drug" that will entice more youth to eventually smoke or chew—diminishing the overall health of the recruitable population.

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October 1, 2016

This report examines the impact of the new military blended retirement system (BRS) on various U.S. Marine Corps force management objectives (FMOs). We estimated the effect of the retirement system changes on active component (AC) and reserve component (RC) force profiles and personnel costs and the financial impact on individual AC Marines. Our results depend on assumptions about personal discount, BRS opt-in, Thrift Savings Plan contribution, and return-on-investment rates. Our baseline estimates of the effects on FMOs use the assumptions in the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission (MCRMC) final report. We tested the sensitivity of our estimates to changes in the MCRMC assumptions and found that enlisted force profiles change very little, while enlisted personnel costsaving estimates are more varied. Our long-run annual AC enlisted personnel costsaving estimates range from $87 million to $225 million. Estimates for AC officer FMOs are more sensitive to changes in the assumptions. AC officer personnel cost savings range from $10 million to $54 million. RC enlisted and officer personnel cost savings are in the respective ranges of $0.2 million to $5 million and -$0.3 million to $1.5 million.

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September 30, 2016

In August 2016, CNA hosted an Executive Session in Arlington, VA, to facilitate a discussion among a diverse group of representatives of local agencies and law enforcement practitioners on the impact of policing reforms on local government. Law enforcement practitioners discussed the growing demand for departments to achieve more in areas such as training and technology. Representatives from local government expressed their need for a police force to reach the standards illustrated in the Final Report of the President's Task Force on 21st Century Policing, but they also discussed the constraints that limited the agencies to allocating more resources. Each group of participants engaged with candor and, in many cases, expressed complementary ideas and solutions. The August 2016 Executive Session was the sixth in a series sponsored by CNA.

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August 1, 2016

In this CNA-initiated study, we examined fuel-use data over the past 25 years to determine whether there are indications of increasing efficiency since the Navy began its high-level focus on energy.

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August 1, 2016

This CNA-initiated study creates a primer for CNA analysts who are doing cybersecurity workforce analyses for the Department of Defense and the services. It is intended as a starting point to accelerate an analyst's understanding of the cybersecurity labor market, employment and training opportunities for cybersecurity professionals, key private-sector companies that provide cybersecurity services and/or employ cybersecurity professionals, and the certifications that cybersecurity personnel can earn. This work also includes a "big data" analysis (focused on current cybersecurity employment openings across the United States) that shows how state-of-the-art data analysis techniques can be used to analyze a rapidly changing labor market such as the one for cybersecurity professionals.

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For more CNA research, click here.