Understanding and Reducing the Ability of Violent Nonstate Actors to Adapt to Change


Research Thoughts

  1. How do VNSAs adapt to improvements in their operational environments?
  2. What varieties of diversifications do they make?
  3. How could possibly the Army anticipate such variations and just take steps to mitigate them just before they happen?

Violent nonstate actors (VNSAs) — terrorist teams, drug trafficking organizations, and other folks — are ever more part of the setting in which the Army and other govt forces run. These types of companies pose strong and direct threats to U.S. security passions. The ability of VNSAs to wage war, inflict violence, and interact in huge transnational prison exercise make them a persistent threat. Countering these companies is hard because they are typically versatile and structured in means that facilitate their capacity to adapt to variations happening within just their operational environments and, in some instances, outside of. This report summarizes analysis into how VNSAs adapt to variations in their operational environments and presents suggestions on how the Army may foresee this kind of adaptations and mitigate them before they arise. The authors have drawn from a sequence of historic case experiments and related literature to provide insights on the most popular VNSA diversifications and means of detecting and mitigating every single. Among other observations, the authors take note that VNSAs reach their peak adaptive capacity in just the 1st 5 years of their existence but that not all VNSAs have the very same amount of adaptive ability.

Vital Conclusions

The most VNSA variations arise within just the to start with five a long time of a VNSA’s existence

  • The VNSAs examined adapted to their environments speedily and then retained an adaptive ability through their lifestyle cycles. This suggests that an prospect to limit a VNSA’s capacity to adapt soon immediately after it emerges and, probably, reduce its ability to remain operationally effective.

Not all VNSAs adapt with the exact same frequency

  • The pressures (or strategies) that counter-VNSA forces exert, coupled with improvements in the operational surroundings, may perhaps guide to diverse levels of adaptation.

Of the 46 VNSA diversifications examined, 12 transpired in approximately a person-50 % of the durations and two-thirds of the circumstances examined

  • The 12 diversifications come about frequently. Recognizing that these adaptations are the most most likely to happen can notify how sources are targeted, the advancement of indicators for their detection, and the creation of signifies for mitigating their prevalence or the effects of their prevalence.

Limiting obtain to warfighting belongings could hinder VNSA’s skill to adapt

  • To cut down VNSA capacity to adapt, strategies and initiatives need to target on restricting VNSAs’ accessibility to navy, technological, and warfighting materiel and on VNSAs’ potential to seize and keep terrain.


  • Discover, observe, and consider proactive techniques to limit VNSAs’ evolution in the to start with couple of years next their emergence.
  • Incorporate operational atmosphere and organizational variables linked to greater stages of VNSA adaptation into operational assessment frameworks, these as political, navy, economic, social, data, and infrastructure, setting, and time.
  • Target tactics and attempts on restricting VNSAs’ access to navy, technological, and warfighting materiel and on VNSAs’ capability to seize and hold terrain.

This investigate was sponsored by the Deputy Chief of Employees, G-3/5/7, U.S. Army and conducted by the Tactic, Doctrine, and Resources Application inside of the RAND Arroyo Heart.

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