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Comparing Alternative U.S. Counterterrorism Strategies: Can Assumption-Based Planning Help Elevate the Debate?

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Publication Date: January 2008

Publisher(s): RAND Corporation

Author(s): David Aaron; Horacio R. Trujillo; Robert J. Lempert; James A. Dewar

Funder(s): RAND Corporation

Funder(s): RAND Corporation

Topic: Government (Internal security)

Type: Brief

Abstract:

The United States faces the challenge of countering the terrorism threat. Frequently, both expert decisionmakers and lay citizens have trouble assessing alternative strategies to address such issues because of the emotions they engender and of the deep uncertainty involved. RAND has a long history of developing and employing methods for addressing such questions and distilling complex policy problems into their essential trade-offs. One such approach, assumption-based planning (ABP), focuses on identifying and addressing the key assumptions and thus the key vulnerabilities underlying an organization's plans. ABP not only offers a qualitative approach widely useful in its own right but has also provided the foundation for a family of new quantitative methods that aim to improve strategic decisionmaking under the conditions of deep uncertainty that are characteristic of the terrorism threat. Can ABP help contentious groups more systematically debate alternative U.S. counterterrorism strategies? This briefing reports on two sets of workshops that attempted to do just that.