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


April 8, 2016

The Department of Defense (DOD) is developing an education strategy to ensure that servicemembers and their families are aware of changes to the military retirement system and are prepared to make the timely decisions necessary to ensure their financial readiness. To assist DOD in this endeavor, CNA recently convened a group of stakeholders from government, academia, and private financial institutions to discuss best practices for reaching and educating servicemembers on these types of choices. This document summarizes the overarching issues discussed and presented at the gathering.

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April 6, 2016

Although Congress changed the military retirement system effective January 1, 2018, military personnel who entered service after July 31, 1986, and before January 1, 2018, who are eligible and intend to serve for 20 years must choose between two retirement plans at their 15th year of service. The two choices are: (1) High-3 retirement plan (2) REDUX retirement plan plus a $30,000 bonus paid at the 15th year of service. We have used a different approach that many have found useful in evaluating these retirement choices. Here, we update that work for those making the retirement choice in 2016.

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March 4, 2016

The Commander, U.S. Marine Corps Forces Central Command (COMUSMARCENT) asked CNA, working in partnership with the UK's Permanent Joint Force Headquarters (PJHQ), to capture insights from U.S.-UK staff integration in Afghanistan. A combined U.S.-UK study team was created, consisting of three CNA analysts from the United States, two UK military officers from PJHQ, and a scientist from the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory. The study team used a hybrid analytic approach involving interviews of U.S. and UK military officers and other subject matter experts, combined with analysis of previous studies and references pertaining to U.S. and UK military operations and integration of forces. The U.S.-UK study team twice traveled to Afghanistan to conduct field research, completing about 60 interviews with personnel at RC(SW), TF Helmand, and the UK's Joint Force Support-Afghanistan (JFSp(A)). In addition, the study team met with previous senior leaders and personnel to better understand the evolution of operations and U.S.-UK interactions over time. While the study report was written by CNA analysts, the UK team contributed important thoughts and discussion in the spirit of a joint study. Also, the report authors benefitted from CNA's considerable body of work regarding Afghanistan operations; U.S. joint lessons-learned reports on Iraq and Afghanistan; and the UK's Herrick Campaign Study, a comprehensive examination of UK operations in Helmand province that identifies lessons for the UK to pursue. This occasional paper presents an unclassified overview of the complete (and classified) CNA report from this study, titled (U) U.S.-UK Integration in Helmand.

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February 29, 2016

This study examines how people in China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) think about and discuss escalation control in their public writings. It draws on over two dozen PLA writings, most issued since 2008, to explore the current state of PLA thinking on how crisis and conflict erupt, escalate, and end. We focused on PLA views of conventional (non-nuclear) conflict. We found that controlling the outbreak and escalation of crisis is an area of focus for the PLA. We also found that there are divergences from U.S. thinking that are worthy of attention. Chief among these is that some Chinese military activities in a crisis could be perceived as—and therefore become—escalatory even if they are not intended as such. Finally, we found that PLA views on these issues are evolving, and that there are still many critical unknowns in our understanding of PLA views on escalation control.

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February 12, 2016

Since the attacks on September 11, 2001, the United States has dedicated an extraordinary amount of time, money, and effort to countering terrorism, using a variety of approaches and tools. However, it has devoted comparatively little effort to developing rigorous and useful assessment frameworks to help policymakers and practitioners understand how effective these counterterrorism (CT) actions have been. To address this shortfall, in this paper we first identify and characterize today's prevailing theories of terrorism and their associated CT actions. For each theory, we then create an assessment framework—consisting of specific questions that need to be answered in order to gauge the success or failure of CT actions, and indicators that could be used to answer those questions. These assessment frameworks—which rigorously link policy to practice—should enable CT practitioners to provide policymakers and commanders direct and actionable feedback on whether the approaches they have chosen to countering terrorist groups are having the impacts they expect and desire.

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