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NIC Chairman: Intelligence Challenges for the Next Generation

Remarks by John C. Gannon
Chairman, National Intelligence Council
to the World Affairs Council
Washington, D.C.

"Intelligence Challenges for the Next Generation"

June 4, 1998

Thank you, and good evening. It's a pleasure to be with you tonight. In fact, it is a delight to be away from Langley for a few hours. We've had a rough couple of weeks. I dozed off late last night reading a book when my 15 year old daughter came home and, with the usual gusto, hurled her basketball shoes into the closet behind me. I sprang to my feet terrified that I had missed another Indian nuclear test!

Tonight, I want to share a perspective on the future of the world and of the intelligence business. I will make a few points about South Asia at the close of my talk and will gladly take any questions you may have. I will devote most of my time to a discussion of the world we see a decade or more away, in which we will be challenged by threats and by opportunities for the United States and the intelligence services that help protect our great democracy.

Pondering the future is no easy task for us government folks. We tend to be imbedded in the present. Dwight Eisenhower once said that, "Things are more like they are today than they have ever been before." Not much help there! A subsequent US Vice President once provided another twist on the theme when he said: "It's a question of whether we're going to go forward into the future or past into the back."

Of course, the private sector also has a mixed record on the "vision thing." Popular Mechanics in 1949, forecasting the relentless march of science, told its readers that "Computers in the future may weigh no more than 1.5 tons." Charles H. Duell, Commissioner of the US Office of Patents, stated in 1899: "Everything that can be invented has been invented." In 1968, an engineer at the Advanced Computing System Division of IBM examined a computer chip and asked: "But what...is it good for"? H. M. Warner of Warner Brothers grumbled in 1927, "Who the Hell wants to hear actors talk?" Finally, a quote for you music fans. . . from Decca Recording Company commenting on the Beatles in 1962, "We don't like their sound, and, besides, guitar music is on the way out."

So, based on this record, I won't try to predict events tonight. What I will do is lay out a broad conceptual framework of the world in the next generation. Three fundamental observations underlay what I will say:

     

 

  • First, international relations will be even less the exclusive purview of military and security affairs than they are today. Indeed trade, investment, and technology issues will increasingly shape the international agenda and challenge our understanding of how the world works. Capital flows across borders will increase more rapidly than domestic flows. The real world will shrink dramatically in communications terms.

     

  • Second, a networked global economy will be a net contributor to increased political stability in the world. But, in areas not effectively integrated into the world economy, disaffection will grow as economic development and investment in technology and people lag behind. Terrorism and WMD programs will continue to be, to some degree, a manifestation of this disaffection.

     

  • Third, for intelligence, priority issues will become more diverse and complicated. Critical expertise we need to inform our analysis will increasingly be found outside the Intelligence Community, and our professionals will need to be out there to engage it. Technology will challenge us in every area of our business to be smarter, more agile, more customer focused, and more collaborative with experts, wherever they may be found. In a nutshell, we face some big challenges.
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Expanding on these points, let me lay out five global trends and then talk about prospects for specific regions of the world by the year 2010. This is speculative analysis resulting from collaboration with experts in other US Government agencies, academia, and the private sector. It is not drawn from intelligence sources.

First, despite dramatic drops in fertility, the world's population will increase by 1.2 billion to around 7 billion. About 95 percent of this growth will be in developing countries, and much of this will be in the increasingly crowded and volatile cities of these lands. In many of these countries, a "youth bulge" -- the burgeoning number of people between 15 and 24 in age -- will strain educational systems, infrastructure, and job markets. Meanwhile, in the industrialized world, slow or negative population growth means that governments will struggle to provide social welfare and health services to aging populations while labor forces -- the pools whose taxes help finance services -- will shrink. In some areas, there will be real pressure on basic resources, such as water in the Middle East.

Second, we anticipate that economic developments, such as accelerating global trade and growing integration of capital markets, will lead to at least modest real growth in world GDP and, quite possibly, in per capita income. Despite the current problems in Asia, the world is likely to be more prosperous a decade or two from now. But the rising tides will not lift all boats. Obviously, not every state will benefit equally, nor will every group within every state. More winners will be in the West and in China; more losers will be in Africa and the Middle East.

Third, developments in the world will be driven as never before by technology. The continued digital data and communications revolution will shrink distances and weaken barriers to the flow of information. At the same time, rigid and authoritarian governments, such as that of North Korea, which resist the flow of information associated with communications advances, will fall further behind technologically and ultimately will collapse, victims of forces they would not accommodate and could not contain.

To cite a fourth global trend, growing populations and increases that occur in per capita income will drive the demand for more energy. By 2010, the world will require added production of petroleum on the order of what OPEC produces now. Improvements in the efficiency of solar cells and batteries will result in greater use of these and other renewable energy resources, but they are unlikely significantly to affect global reliance on fossil fuels in the foreseeable future.

Fifth, we expect advances in precision-guided munitions and information technologies to bring on a revolution in military affairs. Other countries will have technologically advanced military equipment, but no power will be able to match US battlefield capabilities, at least not in the next decade or two, provided that we maintain our commitment to technological superiority. And potential adversaries are not likely to repeat Iraq's mistake in challenging the United States in set-piece conventional warfare.

Adversaries' technological inferiority, however, will not mean that they will acquiesce in American policies or a global "Pax Americana." Many will try to blunt US military superiority in other ways -- for example, by improving their capabilities relative to those of their neighbors and by using asymmetric means, such as terrorism and weapons of mass destruction. Because of the high cost involved in developing a nuclear capability, most of these countries or groups are not likely to take the path followed by India and Pakistan. They are likely to focus on chemical and biological weapons as more feasible and cost-effective ways to threaten their neighbors and raise the potential costs of US or other outside involvement in their region.

In short, our military and technological prowess will not be enough to guarantee that our interests are protected. We are likely to find that what some would call a doctrine of "massive technological superiority" is limited in its applications and effectiveness today, just as was the doctrine of "massive nuclear retaliation" 40 years ago.

To view matters from a regional perspective, between now and 2010 we expect that:

The push of European governments for economic and political union will proceed, albeit by fits and starts, and with less optimism than when the Maastricht Treaty was signed in 1992. An enlarged and deepened Europe gradually will become a more effective vehicle for policy deliberation and execution.

Russia will remain in a state of profound transformation, the outcome of which is very uncertain. While a return to Soviet-style Communism is extremely unlikely, it is not at all clear that Russia will be able to develop either a liberal, Western-style democracy or a thriving market economy. The road ahead will be far from smooth.

Even if the economy begins to deliver, the spread between winners and losers will be pronounced, and corruption, if unchecked, will undercut the legitimacy of national institutions. The post- Yel'tsin leadership could well set the tone for the next decade or more. In all likelihood, that government on many fronts will pursue policies at odds with our own, not because of differing ideologies or personal antipathies but because of competing interests.

As for East Asia, had I spoken to you a year ago, I would have stated that the economic miracle we saw at work in Japan, China, and the Asian "tiger" states generally would be sustained and in a decade or so also extend to North Korea, Mongolia, and possibly even the Russian Far East. This may well still be the case, but the financial turmoil we have seen in Southeast Asia in the past year suggests that, even if the overall trend remains positive, the ride for most countries will be a rocky one. Moreover, one of the lessons to be learned from the financial crisis, which will hold with even greater force in the more economically integrated world of the future, is that economic developments in one country or region can have profound implications for another.

China, which today observes the ninth anniversary of the tragic events of Tiananmen Square, by dint of its population, regional sweep, economic potential, territorial claims, and aspirations to be a major foreign policy player, will challenge US policymakers over the next decade and beyond. As intelligence officers, we can neither assume that China will be an entirely benign actor on the world scene, nor should we view prospects for confrontation as inevitable. There are issues over which China probably is willing to resort to force -- to head off Taiwan's drive for independence being one -- but how this issue evolves will depend as much on Taipei's actions as Beijing's.

Looking out a decade in North Korea, our analysts debate the end game for the Kim Jong Il regime, but all agree it will not be long in coming. Whether the North expires with a whimper or a bang, one thing is sure: the South will have to pay a heavy price for the North's recovery and one that it will find hard to pay. In the meantime, we cannot relax our guard about the North's intentions.

The Middle East is the only region not participating in the global trends of broader political participation, enhanced governance, and more openness. In Iraq, we expect that Saddam will be gone. In Iran, the social factors favoring political change will continue, and power will pass to another generation of leaders. But we do not expect the Middle East to contribute to underemployment in the Intelligence Community. Progress between Israelis and Palestinians, for example, will be uneven and interspersed with violence.

Turning to South Asia, let me make two points up front on the 11 May incident in the Thar Desert of northern India:

     

 

  • Our failure to predict India's nuclear test that day leaves no room for defensiveness in a professional work force. I and my colleagues, led by our Director, George Tenet, accept the findings of the Jeremiah report and will move expeditiously to implement its recommendations.

     

  • While our record on India is creditable, on both the general intentions of the new BJP government and its specific decision to test on 11 May, we got it wrong. But let me stress that our analysts were not complacent on these issues. As the Jeremiah report makes clear, we need to work much harder to weigh alternative scenarios.
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South Asia is likely to remain a source of concern, even if a balance of terror restrains India and Pakistan from a nuclear exchange. The potential for miscalculation, particularly in the highly charged domestic political environments of the two countries, is real. More generally, over the next decade or two, India will emerge as an economic powerhouse relative to Pakistan and its South Asian neighbors. And Pakistan's serious economic difficulties could well lead to political turbulence there.

On the subject of miscalculation, let me share this story with you as a senior manager of analysts who almost invariably know more about a given subject than I do. It is pitch dark on the high sea. The Captain is standing on the bridge looking out into the darkness when he suddenly spots a light on a collision course with his ship. He quickly sends for his signalman and has him send out the following message: right rudder ten degrees. He receives a message back: order you right your rudder ten degrees. The Captain, irritated, sends out the message: I am a US Navy Captain, change your course as directed. The message comes back: I am a seaman apprentice, respectfully request you change your course as indicated, sir. The Captain is outraged. He sends out the message: I am a battleship, and I am not changing course. A message comes back. I am a lighthouse, but it's your call, sir.

Sub-Saharan Africa, while in the aggregate the poorest and least globally integrated region, is becoming more differentiated. The situation in southern Africa is likely to continue to improve, and in various parts of the continent individual countries such as Ghana, Mali, Botswana, Mozambique, and Uganda are likely to make significant progress. But Africa still suffers from widespread ethnic conflict and, despite improvements, will remain the region most vulnerable to conflict. Whether an African state succeeds will depend more on the quality of its leadership than on its natural endowments.

In Latin America, prospects appear brighter in many respects but the region, perhaps more than any other, will have to contend with narcotrafficking and, in a few places, such as contemporary Colombia, insurgencies.

Viewing the world of 2010 as a whole, no country, no ideology, and no movement will emerge on a global scale to threaten US interests. Nonetheless, the regional agendas of some countries will collide with those of the United States, and the threat of terrorism directed against US interests -- both at home and abroad -- will remain.

The scenarios of the future world I have posited by and large are the most probable ones as we see matters today. We are realistic enough to understand, however, that in our business the only certainty is that there are no certainties. The world may well be a far more benign place than I have portrayed it. Economic growth may be more rapid, for example, or terrorism could wane if - despite the odds peace breaks out in the Mideast. Alternatively, however, we could be in for a rockier ride than I have projected. What if:

  • The East Asian financial crisis becomes a global one?

     

  • Russia takes a turn toward authoritarianism domestically and acts like a regional bully or, alternatively, drifts into anarchy and even fragmentation?

     

  • China cannot peacefully resolve its differences with Taiwan?

     

  • North Korea in an act of desperation marches south?

     

  • Nuclear conflict occurs in South Asia?

     

  • Greece and Turkey come to blows over Cyprus?

     

  • An information warfare attack on the US grinds major sectors of the economy to a halt?

     

  • Iran or an Arab state, perhaps with the assistance of others, gets the "bomb?"

     

  • A failure of the Middle East peace process leads to another Palestinian intifada, and Jordan and Egypt are dragged into a conflict with Israel.

     

  • Foreign terrorists foul our water supplies in a major metropolitan area or pollute the air our forces abroad breathe with toxic chemicals.

     

  • A government unfriendly to the United States makes a major technological breakthrough that has at least the potential to do major damage to US security interests.

     

  • An epidemic breaks out in the Third World for which there is no ready cure.
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The list of such "wildcards" could go on and on. Fortunately, most of these tragic scenarios will not unfold. A safe bet, however, is that at least one of them will.

So, what does this mean for the intelligence business? Six quick observations.

  • The challenges will be wide ranging and complicated. We'll need lots more specialized expertise inside the Intelligence Community and a much greater capability to leverage outside expertise.

     

  • Customers - our senior leaders, diplomats, negotiators, and warfighters correspondingly, will be focused on their particular programs and more demanding and critical of our products and services. We'll have to get better and better at customer service.

     

  • The efficient use of increasingly expensive collection systems will require a much more integrated approach among collectors and between analysts and collectors. We cannot afford stovepipes any more.

     

  • Beyond our traditional collection stovepipes, we cannot even afford to think of intelligence itself as a stovepipe, existing apart from the information world. Our predecessors served by providing consumers with secrets. We, and the generation that follows, will provide information sometimes secret, sometimes not. But always representing the fullest available integration of open and classified information. We are still in the secrets business; to an ever greater degree, however, we are also in the knowledge business.

     

  • Rapidly advancing technology will have a powerful impact on every phase of the intelligence process from collection in the field through dissemination of analysis to customers. We'll need to stay on top, if not ahead, of the technological curve.

     

  • And, we will need to recruit and constantly train a work force with stronger and more specialized skills and with deep expertise in both regional and technical analyses. We'll have to devote much more time to management at CIA and in the Intelligence Community.
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In short, we've got our work cut out for us and we know it!

Let me stop here and turn to your questions and comments.


Historical Document
Posted: Apr 03, 2007 08:56 PM
Last Updated: Jun 20, 2008 08:04 AM