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

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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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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