What is the RAND Corporation?


RAND Corporation (“research and development”) is an American non-profit global policy think tank created in 1948 by Douglas Aircraft Company to offer research and analysis to the United States Armed Forces.

It is financed by the US government and private endowment, corporations, universities and private individuals. The company has grown to assist other governments, international organisations, private companies and foundations with a host of defence and non-defence issues, including healthcare. RAND aims for interdisciplinary and quantitative problem solving by translating theoretical concepts from formal economics and the physical sciences into novel applications in other areas, using applied science and operations research.


RAND has approximately 1,850 employees. Its American locations include: Santa Monica, California (headquarters); Arlington, Virginia; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; the San Francisco Bay Area; and Boston, Massachusetts. The RAND Gulf States Policy Institute has an office in New Orleans, Louisiana. RAND Europe is located in Cambridge, United Kingdom, and Brussels, Belgium. RAND Australia is located in Canberra, Australia.

RAND is home to the Frederick S. Pardee RAND Graduate School, one of eight original graduate programmes in public policy and the first to offer a PhD. The programme aims to provide practical experience for its students, who work with RAND analysts on real-world problems. The campus is at RAND’s Santa Monica research facility. The Pardee RAND School is the world’s largest PhD-granting programme in policy analysis. Unlike many other universities, all Pardee RAND Graduate School students receive fellowships to cover their education costs. This allows them to dedicate their time to engage in research projects and provides them on-the-job training. RAND also offers a number of internship and fellowship programs allowing students and outsiders to assist in conducting research for RAND projects. Most of these projects are short-term and are worked on independently with the mentoring of a RAND staff member.

RAND publishes the RAND Journal of Economics, a peer-reviewed journal of economics.

Thirty-two recipients of the Nobel Prize, primarily in the fields of economics and physics, have been associated with RAND at some point in their career.

Brief History

Project RAND

RAND was created after individuals in the War Department, the Office of Scientific Research and Development, and industry began to discuss the need for a private organization to connect operational research with research and development decisions. On 01 October 1945, Project RAND was set up under special contract to the Douglas Aircraft Company and began operations in December 1945. In May 1946, the Preliminary Design of an Experimental World-Circling Spaceship was released.

RAND Corporation

By late 1947, Douglas had expressed their concerns that their close relationship with RAND might create conflict of interest problems on future hardware contracts. In February 1948, the chief of staff of the newly created United States Air Force approved the evolution of Project RAND into a non-profit corporation, independent of Douglas.

On 14 May 1948, RAND was incorporated as a non-profit corporation under the laws of the State of California and on 01 November 1948, the Project RAND contract was formally transferred from the Douglas to the RAND Corporation. Initial capital for the spin-off was provided by the Ford Foundation.

Since the 1950s, RAND research has helped inform United States policy decisions on a wide variety of issues, including the space race, the US-Soviet nuclear arms confrontation, the creation of the Great Society social welfare programs, the digital revolution, and national health care. Its most visible contribution may be the doctrine of nuclear deterrence by mutually assured destruction (MAD), developed under the guidance of then-Defence Secretary Robert McNamara and based upon their work with game theory. Chief strategist Herman Kahn also posited the idea of a “winnable” nuclear exchange in his 1960 book On Thermonuclear War. This led to Kahn being one of the models for the titular character of the film Dr. Strangelove, in which RAND is spoofed as the “BLAND Corporation”.


RAND was incorporated as a non-profit organisation to “further promote scientific, educational, and charitable purposes, all for the public welfare and security of the United States of America”. Its self-declared mission is “to help improve policy and decision making through research and analysis”, using its “core values of quality and objectivity”.


The achievements of RAND stem from its development of systems analysis. Important contributions are claimed in space systems and the United States’ space programme, in computing and in artificial intelligence. RAND researchers developed many of the principles that were used to build the Internet. RAND also contributed to the development and use of wargaming.

Current areas of expertise include: child policy, civil and criminal justice, education, health, international policy, labour markets, national security, infrastructure, energy, environment, corporate governance, economic development, intelligence policy, long-range planning, crisis management and disaster preparation, population and regional studies, science and technology, social welfare, terrorism, arts policy, and transportation.

RAND designed and conducted one of the largest and most important studies of health insurance between 1974 and 1982. The RAND Health Insurance Experiment, funded by the then-US Department of Health, Education and Welfare, established an insurance corporation to compare demand for health services with their cost to the patient.

According to the 2005 annual report, “about one-half of RAND’s research involves national security issues”. Many of the events in which RAND plays a part are based on assumptions which are hard to verify because of the lack of detail on RAND’s highly classified work for defence and intelligence agencies. The RAND Corporation posts all of its unclassified reports in full on its website.

Notable Participants

  • Henry H. “Hap” Arnold: General of the Air Force, United States Air Force.
  • Kenneth Arrow: economist, won the Nobel Prize in Economics, developed the impossibility theorem in social choice theory.
  • Bruno Augenstein: V.P., physicist, mathematician and space scientist.
  • Robert Aumann: mathematician, game theorist, won the Nobel Prize in Economics.
  • J. Paul Austin: Chairman of the Board, 1972-1981.
  • Paul Baran: one of the developers of packet switching which was used in Arpanet and later networks like the Internet.
  • Richard Bellman: Mathematician known for his work on dynamic programming.
  • Yoram Ben-Porat: economist and President of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
  • Barry Boehm: worked in interactive computer graphics with the RAND Corporation in the 1960s and had helped define the Arpanet in the early phases of that programme.
  • Harold L. Brode: physicist, leading nuclear weapons effects expert.
  • Bernard Brodie: Military strategist and nuclear architect.
  • Samuel Cohen: inventor of the neutron bomb in 1958.
  • Franklin R. Collbohm: Aviation engineer, Douglas Aircraft Company, RAND founder and former director and trustee.
  • Walter Cunningham: astronaut.
  • George Dantzig: mathematician, creator of the simplex algorithm for linear programming.
  • Linda Darling-Hammond: co-director, School Redesign Network.
  • Stephen H. Dole: Author of the book Habitable Planets for Man and head of Rand’s Human Engineering Group.
  • Donald Wills Douglas, Sr.: President, Douglas Aircraft Company, RAND founder.
  • Hubert Dreyfus: philosopher and critic of artificial intelligence.
  • Karen Elliott House: Chairman of the Board, 2009-present, former publisher, The Wall Street Journal; Former Senior Vice President, Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
  • Daniel Ellsberg: economist and leaker of the Pentagon Papers.
  • Alain Enthoven: economist, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defence from 1961 to 1965, Assistant Secretary of Defence for Systems Analysis from 1965-1969.
  • Francis Fukuyama: academic and author of The End of History and the Last Man.
  • Horace Rowan Gaither: Chairman of the Board, 1949-1959, 1960-1961; known for the Gaither Report.
  • David Galula, French officer and scholar.
  • James J. Gillogly: cryptographer and computer scientist.
  • Paul Y. Hammond: political scientist and national security scholar, affiliated 1964-1979, programme director 1973-1976.
  • Anthony C. Hearn: developed the REDUCE computer algebra system, the oldest such system still in active use; co-founded the CSNET computer network.
  • Fred Iklé: US nuclear policy researcher.
  • Brian Michael Jenkins: terrorism expert, Senior Advisor to the President of the RAND Corporation, and author of Unconquerable Nation.
  • Herman Kahn: theorist on nuclear war and one of the founders of scenario planning.
  • Amrom Harry Katz.
  • Konrad Kellen: research analyst and author, co-wrote open letter to US government in 1969 recommending withdrawal from Vietnam war.
  • Zalmay Khalilzad: US ambassador to United Nations.
  • Henry Kissinger: United States Secretary of State (1973-1977); National Security Advisor (1969-1975); Nobel Peace Prize Winner (1973).
  • Kevin N. Lewis.
  • Ann McLaughlin Korologos: Chairman of the Board, April 2004-2009; Chairman Emeritus, The Aspen Institute.
  • Lewis “Scooter” Libby: United States Vice-President Dick Cheney’s former Chief of Staff.
  • Ray Mabus: Former ambassador, governor.
  • Harry Markowitz: economist, greatly advanced financial portfolio theory by devising mean variance analysis, Nobel Prize in Economics.
  • Andrew W. Marshall: military strategist, director of the US DoD Office of Net Assessment.
  • Margaret Mead: US anthropologist.
  • Douglas Merrill: former Google CIO & President of EMI’s digital music division.
  • Newton N. Minow: Chairman of the board, 1970-1972.
  • Chuck Missler: Bible Teacher, Engineer, Chairman and CEO Western Digital.
  • Lloyd N. Morrisett: Chairman of the board, 1986-1995.
  • John Forbes Nash, Jr.: mathematician, won the Nobel Prize in Economics.
  • John von Neumann: mathematician, pioneer of the modern digital computer.
  • Allen Newell: artificial intelligence.
  • Paul O’Neill: Chairman of the board, 1997-2000.
  • Edmund Phelps: winner of the 2006 Nobel Prize in Economics.
  • Arthur E. Raymond: Chief engineer, Douglas Aircraft Company, RAND founder.
  • Condoleezza Rice: former intern, former trustee (1991-1997), and former Secretary of State for the United States.
  • Michael D. Rich: RAND President and Chief Executive Officer, 01 November 2011 to present.
  • Leo Rosten: academic and humourist, helped set up the social sciences division of RAND.
  • Donald Rumsfeld: Chairman of board from 1981 to 1986; 1995-1996 and secretary of defence for the United States from 1975 to 1977 and 2001 to 2006.
  • Robert M. Salter: advocate of the vactrain maglev train concept.
  • Paul Samuelson: economist, Nobel Prize in Economics.
  • Thomas C. Schelling: economist, won the 2005 Nobel Prize in Economics.
  • James Schlesinger: former secretary of defence and former secretary of energy.
  • Dov Seidman: lawyer, businessman and CEO of LRN.
  • Norman Shapiro: mathematician, co-author of the Rice–Shapiro theorem, MH Email and RAND-Abel co-designer.
  • Lloyd Shapley: mathematician and game theorist, won the Nobel Prize in Economics.
  • Cliff Shaw: inventor of the linked list and co-author of the first artificial intelligence programme.
  • Abram Shulsky: former Director of the Pentagon’s Office of Special Plans.
  • Herbert Simon: Political scientist, psychologist, won the 1978 Nobel Prize in Economics.
  • James Steinberg: Deputy National Security Advisor to Bill Clinton.
  • Ratan Tata: Chairman Emeritus of Tata Sons.
  • James Thomson: RAND president and CEO, 1989. 31 October 2011.
  • Willis Ware: JOHNNIAC co-designer, and early computer privacy pioneer.
  • William H. Webster: Chairman of the Board, 1959-1960.
  • Oliver Williamson: economist, won the 2009 Nobel Prize in Economics.
  • Albert Wohlstetter: mathematician and Cold War strategist.
  • Roberta Wohlstetter: policy analyst and military historian.

Over the last 60 years, more than 30 Nobel Prize winners have been involved or associated with the RAND Corporation at some point in their careers.


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