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NIC Chairman: Intelligence Challenges Through 2015

Intelligence Challenges Through 2015

Remarks by John C. Gannon
, Chairman,
National Intelligence Council
to the
Columbus Council on World Affairs

April 27, 2000

Thank you for the kind introduction. It’s a pleasure to be here in Columbus and to have this opportunity to talk with you about some of the challenges facing the Intelligence Community as we enter the new millennium.

The Columbus Council on World Affairs—through its many programs and outreach efforts—is making a significant contribution to public education and debate in Ohio and beyond at a time when voter interest in foreign affairs has declined but the stakes for our country abroad are arguably higher than ever. The broad range of issues covered by the Council—including weapons of mass destruction, the Asian financial crisis, water resources, humanitarian interventions, the information age, and NATO enlargement––reflects the Council’s keen understanding of the complexity of the national security issues facing our country and its Intelligence Community today. I am honored to help with the Council’s important work, and I look forward to some give-and-take with this well-informed audience after my remarks today. Hearing your views and concerns is the real value-added for me in being here, in addition to the pleasure that always comes from escaping Washington for a day or two.

As you all know, the world has changed profoundly over the past 15 years. In contrast to the massive but arguably contained Soviet threat, the United States now faces disparate challenges from lesser developed—and less disciplined—states , well-financed international terrorist and criminal groups, and powerful individuals with increasingly easy access to conventional explosives and to biological, chemical, and––to a lesser extent––nuclear weapons, along with the missile systems to deliver them. The bottom line is that these adversaries, who are often motivated by ideological rage or ethnic hatred, will have fewer and less powerful weapons than the Soviets, but are more likely to use them!

Global change now and in the decades ahead will broaden our definition of "national security" and expand the US intelligence agenda.

In the next 15 years, the Intelligence Community will still be focused on the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, terrorism, narcotics, and organized crime. But newer issues, such as information operations and threats to our space systems, will command a growing amount of our time. And we will be engaged, even more than today, in covering technological developments, key economic trends, regional conflicts, multilateral peacekeeping operations, refugee and humanitarian crises, environmental problems, global health issues, and challenges to the development of democracy in different parts of the world. The critical public-education mission of the World Affairs Councils across our country will continue to be essential to a healthy democracy.

What will the world look like over the next 15 years? My two-sentence encapsulation would say the following: "Globalization driven by information technology will provide humankind with the unprecedented opportunity to improve the quality of life across the planet. But progress will be accompanied by:

  • increasing economic volatility,
  • sharpening inequalities in income, at least some of which will have political and security implications, and
  • growing threats from adversaries with relatively small-scale programs of weapons of mass destruction, and from transnational terrorist and criminal networks."

For the next few minutes, I would like to share with you the preliminary results of some strategic work we are now doing on the National Intelligence Council, or NIC, which I am proud to chair, and then tell you how the US Intelligence Community is adapting to this changing world.

The NIC is producing a study, which we call "Global Trends 2015," that attempts to identify the drivers that will influence the world of 2015.

Let me stress that all the trends that we identify combine some hard data with a range of expert judgments about their likelihood. Inevitably this is an uncertain world, and although the summary judgments that follow are clearly and confidently stated, my intent is to encourage, not curtail, debate.

The first driver that our study considers is global population trends. Despite continuing decline in global population growth rates, the momentum of the existing population translates into an increase in the world’s population over the next 15 years: from 6.1 billion in 2000 to around 7.2 billion by 2015.

And population patterns will vary markedly in different regions of the world:

  • Most population growth will occur in relatively low-income, developing countries in Sub-Saharan Africa and parts of South Asia, as well as in much of the Middle East. Much of this growth will occur in crowded and volatile cities.
  • Russia’s population will decrease—perhaps substantially–– as a result of declining birth rates and declining life expectancy.
  • In many countries in Sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East, a "youth bulge" — the disproportionately large number of people between ages 15 and 24— will continue to strain educational systems, infrastructure, and job markets.
  • At the same time, populations are aging markedly in the industrialized world—including the United States––and in many developing countries. Some governments in Europe as well as Japan will have to deal with providing social welfare and health services to aging populations while labor forces will shrink.
  • Facing labor shortages, some industrialized countries will encourage immigration of both skilled and less-skilled labor. As such voluntary migration increases, it will often raise sensitive questions of citizenship and national or cultural identity.

Fueled in part by population growth, urbanization and migration, as well as a number of other factors, such as microbial resistance, the threat from infectious diseases is growing. Although progress is being made throughout the world in controlling certain infectious diseases, such as polio and measles, others remain major causes of death, particularly in developing countries.

  • Some infectious diseases, such as tuberculosis and malaria, are reemerging in deadlier, drug-resistant forms…and new infectious diseases are emerging.

Senior policymakers are becoming increasingly concerned about the implications of growing infectious disease threats for US citizens at home and abroad, for US armed forces deployed overseas, and for countries and regions in which the United States has major interests.

Moving on to a second global trend, the demand for food, water, and energy will increase over the next 15 years. Scarcities resulting from the uneven distribution of natural resources—especially fresh water–– will rise by 2015 in many developing countries.

The good news is that world food stocks are projected to be sufficient to meet overall global needs by 2015.

  • But despite promising technologies and liberalized trade, bottlenecks remain in the distribution of food. Thus, the problems of feeding the world’s poorest populations, as well as those affected by internal conflicts, will persist.

Water is a big issue! Fresh water––while globally abundant–– is scarce in much of South Asia, northern China, the Middle East, and parts of Africa, and will become scarcer in the years ahead. At the same time, global demand for water for agricultural and industrial production and household uses is increasing steadily.

  • Experts at the Global Water Policy Project estimate that by 2025, 40 percent of the world’s population will live in countries that are "water stressed."
  • These countries—most of which are in Africa and South Asia––will be unable to provide enough water for agricultural, industrial, and household needs.

Growing populations and increases in per capita income will drive the demand for more energy. Assuming a fairly robust annual global per capita income growth of 2 percent through 2015, the demand for primary energy will increase by about 60 percent over present levels. Fortunately, this demand will not be difficult to meet.

  • Technological innovations will continue to expand access to oil fields, lower costs of developing new wells, and improve efficiencies in automotive transport.
  • The oil deposits most economically exploited remain in the Persian Gulf region and Venezuela, with new areas coming online in the West African Basin and the Caspian Sea.
  • The global shift to natural gas—with its fixed installations for fuel delivery––will establish long-lasting energy dependencies. Energy-importing countries will become increasingly reliant upon natural gas supplies from Russia, Algeria, and Central Asia.

The third global trend is that international affairs, in all its dimensions, will increasingly involve competing uses of information networks, but information and technology will not be "owned" by a single country, nor can they be easily contained.

Information and communications technologies will continue to advance and diffuse rapidly, empowering individuals and groups of all kinds, with widespread but uneven consequences.

  • Communications technology will become so inexpensive that most countries will be able to connect to the global information infrastructure, accelerating their entry into the global economy.
  • But rigid and authoritarian governments that attempt to resist the flow of information will fall further behind––technologically, economically, and politically.

The United States is increasingly dependent on the unimpeded and secure flow of information. Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet has noted that the foreign cyber threat is one of the key transnational issues that we face as a nation. Any adversary, foreign or domestic, that develops the ability to interrupt the flow of data to our critical infrastructures will have the potential to weaken us dramatically or even render us helpless.

We are detecting, with increasing frequency, the appearance of doctrine and dedicated offensive cyber warfare programs in other countries. We have identified several that are pursuing government-sponsored offensive cyber programs.

  • A major challenge in the next decade will be to find ways to defend our infrastructure and protect our commerce while maintaining an open society; or put in another way, reap the benefits of technology while minimizing the vulnerabilities that come with it.
  • Attributes such as openness and ease of connectivity, which promote efficiency and expeditious customer service are the same ones that now make our information infrastructures vulnerable to attacks.
  • Unlike the threats of the Cold War, which required state-sponsored infrastructures and installations, cyber threats are by their nature strategically asymmetric, require no state sponsorship, and use commercially available equipment and facilities. A computer in a basement hardly qualifies as a weapons site. These threats can affect systems anywhere in the world, can disguise origins and travel routes, and can do it all instantaneously.

The fourth major trend is economic growth. I recently read that an American electronics producer created a shipping label which read: "Made in one or more of the following countries: Korea, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, Indonesia, or the Philippines. The exact country of origin is unknown." This, in fact, is not surprising when we appreciate the growing impact of a global economy driven by information technology.

Frankly, the global financial crisis of 1997-1998 surprised us all. But perhaps more surprising has been the speed of the recovery from the crisis.

The globalization of financial transactions and the rapid increase in the volume of money in global financial markets leads us to expect that the next 15 years will be punctuated by more global financial crises.

Notwithstanding these crises, we anticipate that accelerating global trade, the continued integration of capital markets, and efficiencies gained from the increasing use of information technology will lead to real growth in world GDP and in per capita income. We expect world per capita income to increase at an average annual rate of at least 2 percent between now and 2015.

In addition, we believe the "new economy" corporate model, largely derived from the US, will continue to spread in many parts of the world. This model is characterized by increasing accountability to shareholders, efficient operations shaped by the use of the information revolution, and a global perspective.

What will be some of the key impacts of these trends?

  • For one thing, the private sector will increase in size and importance, and businesses in many countries will be playing transnationally.
  • Global economic influence and power is expected to spread from the current G-7 countries of North America, Europe, and Japan to a more multipolar global economic system in which Brazil, India, China, and South Korea will be increasingly important players in the world economy.
  • Output from emerging market/advanced developing countries is likely to rise from 45 percent to around 60 percent of global GDP by 2015.
  • Although market liberalization and economic growth will ultimately benefit additional developing countries, their road to inclusion in the global economy will be bumpy and slow.

The rising tide will not lift all boats, and not every state will benefit equally.

  • In particular, countries with active internal conflicts will tend to fall further behind economically.
  • Disparities within societies will increase in almost all countries. The wealthy and well educated will get richer, while the poor will get relatively poorer, with middle classes moving toward one or the other group.

Despite the generally positive economic outlook I have described, the international economy has a number of vulnerabilities that could create shocks and disruptions––or worse, lead to a systemic crisis:

  • One glaring vulnerability is that the world economy is highly dependent on the United States. A major US stock market correction could have a significant global impact.
  • Meanwhile, weak domestic financial institutions in emerging countries could undermine the confidence of the marketplace so much that financial flows will not be forthcoming. The strength of financial institutions in some countries has simply not grown commensurate to the expansion of the volume of financial flows. What will happen the next time there is a financial crisis in the developing world? Will the money go back in?
  • And divisions between "haves" and "have-nots" could spark a backlash against globalization, reversing the trends of openness to foreign investment and trade that have been driving global economic growth.
  • A major disruption in global energy markets stemming from political instability in the Persian Gulf also could threaten the world economy.
  • Finally, the international economic system will face uncertainty over the issue of economic governance. We already see evidence of profound disagreement in the Seattle protests against the WTO, the dispute over a new IMF Director, and the continuing conflict about reform of the major financial institutions. As you know, this conflict was reflected in the streets of Washington two weekends ago.

To cite a fifth trend, the relative control and influence of many nation-states over developments within their borders is likely to continue to decline over the next 15 years. Globalization and the permeability of borders to the flow of people, goods, and information are all combining to reduce state sovereignty.

  • The state’s power appears to be shifting in many directions: to international businesses, nongovernmental organizations, ethnic groups, terrorists, criminal groups and narcotraffickers and to regional and international organizations and legal regimes.

International businesses and financial institutions will play increasingly important roles in the world market economy and in broader society.

  • At times, this will present problems for US national security policymakers, as US businesses, tightly integrated into national, regional, or even global economies, find their interests diverging from US policies.

At the same time, nongovernmental organizations are increasingly taking on what were once "public" or "official" roles. Although no widely accepted global count exists, NGOs today may number in the millions if you include the full range of organizations from large international groups to tiny village associations. Over the next 15 years, NGOs will continue to expand in sheer numbers, range of activity, and political clout.

Meanwhile, ethnic and indigenous groups—now numbering more than 2,000 worldwide––are mobilizing for their respective causes. By 2015, at least a few new ethnic-based nation-states are likely to come into being.

Terrorist groups, criminal organizations, and narcotraffickers also are expanding their operations and sometimes forming "alliances" of convenience.

  • In some countries, criminal networks will be better armed than the government and will be able to control portions of national territory.

Let me add that, although the relative power of nation-states appears to be declining, they will continue to be key actors on the world stage.

The sixth trend points to a shift in power relationships and international alignments. The world currently has only one superpower, but the United States will not be a hegemon. Other states – principally the collective European Union, Japan, Russia, and China – will actively try to shape the world of the future.

  • Shifting power alliances will take place because of the increased economic and political power of Europe and East Asia and because of the potential for American internationalism to continue to wane over time.

Power alignments are in great flux as key states undergo uncertain transitions:

  • European states—through a new EU military organization linked to NATO—will retain ties with the United States to ensure Washington’s nuclear umbrella and continued military presence in the region.
  • US ties with Japan and Korea may become more complex, but neither is likely to discard its American connections.
  • Russia’s claim to continued great power status rests almost entirely on nuclear weapons. Russia is likely to spend the next 15 years trying to restore its economy and struggling to reconcile the gap between its reduced capabilities and the continuing great power aspirations of many of its elites.
  • China is a rapidly modernizing country with growing economic strength and assertive national and regional interests. The direction China goes will be determined by its internal political and economic evolution.
  • Several regional powers in Asia and the Middle East—North Korea, India, Pakistan, Iran, and Iraq––will continue to pursue regional agendas that collide with US interests. All these states are developing weapons of mass destruction and long- or medium-range ballistic missiles.

Two wildcards might change these projections:

  • What if Russia and China pursue a de facto political and military alliance in competition with the United States?
  • And what if our current assumptions about China—that it will continue to stress domestic social and economic development rather than military buildup and that the military cannot absorb a lot of high technology––are BOTH WRONG?

Our best judgment, however, is that the risk of conflict among the great powers and the United States remains low.

  • The most dangerous consequence of a return to multipolarity will be the risk of the reemergence of national rivalries within East Asia, and even within Europe, if American internationalism declines.

The seventh and final trend is the changing nature of warfare. The widespread consensus is that the United States will have no peer military competitor by 2015. But our military and technological prowess will not be enough to guarantee that our interests are protected.

  • Many countries and groups 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, instead of large conventional forces.

Terrorist incidents are likely to continue, at least at current levels, and may increase by 2015. Terrorists will be better armed with more sophisticated weaponry. Some groups are already pursuing chemical and biological weapons capabilities. In the future, terrorists will seek to cause more casualties per incident, the vast bulk of whom will be civilians…and they will pose a much greater threat to the US homeland than ever before.

  • We are particularly concerned by the emergence of a new breed of terrorists that is skilled in conventional explosives, interested in weapons of mass destruction, and able to maintain international networks.

Because of the high cost involved in developing a nuclear capability, most countries or groups are unlikely to take the path followed by India and Pakistan, although we cannot rule this out.

  • Instead, most countries probably will focus on chemical and biological weapons.

As you may know, in 1999 the NIC published and declassified a National Intelligence Estimate on the worldwide ballistic missile threat.

  • We projected that during the next 15 years, in addition to Russia and China, North Korea also will have ICBMs capable of threatening the United States; Iran is likely to have similar capabilities; and Iraq may as well.
  • We said that the arsenals of the new missile powers will be dramatically smaller, less reliable, and less accurate than those of Russia and China.
  • Nonetheless, the probability that a missile armed with chemical or biological weapons may be used against US forces or interests is higher today than during most of the Cold War. More nations now have longer range missiles and warheads armed with weapons of mass destruction.

Our potential adversaries are likely to conclude that the threat of using longer range missiles would complicate US decision-making during a crisis.

  • The bottom line is that we could find that what some call a doctrine of "massive technological superiority" is limited in its applications and effectiveness today, just as was the doctrine of "massive nuclear retaliation" some years ago.

Viewing the world of 2015 as a whole, no country, no ideology, and no movement will emerge to threaten US interests on a global scale. But 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 increase.

The scenarios of the future world I have posited, by and large, are the most probable ones. 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 than we have projected. And the potential for global violence would decline if Middle East peace talks were successful; when Slobodan Milosevic, Saddam Hussein, Kim Jong Il, and Fidel Castro depart the scene; or Iran reasserts itself as a responsible regional power. Alternatively, we could be in for a rockier ride than I have projected.

What if:

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

Implications for Intelligence

Looking at global trends as a whole, what does all this mean for CIA and the Intelligence Community? A few observations:

First, technology will challenge us in every area of the intelligence business to be smarter, more agile, and more responsive to policymakers. The revolution in information technology and telecommunications has fundamentally transformed the globe we cover, the services we provide, and the workplace in which we function.

  • Information abounds. A lot of open-source material is relevant to our needs. Everybody is better informed. Intelligence requirements, as a result, tend to be sharper and more time sensitive.
  • Everything moves faster! And Will Rogers’ advice still holds: "It isn’t good enough to be moving in the right direction. If you are not moving fast enough, you can still get run over!"
  • We must see technology as a golden opportunity as well as a challenge in every area of our business—from operations and collection in the field, to protecting our own information systems, to analytic tools, to dissemination of analysis to consumers.

Second, we must continue our efforts to apply greater rigor to our analytic work—using competitive analysis; scenario-building exercises; political, military, and economic simulations; and state-of-the-art gaming techniques that rely on technologies to weigh alternative outcomes. This will be an imperative in a fast-paced, distributed threat environment in which the potential for surprise will be frequent and response time often short.

  • We will have to devote more effort to strategic work such as the Global Trends 2015 study, so that we can better understand the dynamics of the world in which intelligence will be operating.
  • And we will need to work harder to make our strategic analysis relevant and useful, not just to consumers, but also to resource planners in the defense and collection communities.

Third, the intelligence business is fundamentally about skills and expertise. No system or technology by itself will enable us to master the new threat environment or the glut of information we will face in the years ahead. We will need a skilled and expert work force to do the job.

Right now, we’re stretched pretty thin. One overworked analyst has this sign posted over her desk: "I can only please one person at a time. Today is not your day. Tomorrow isn’t looking particularly good either."

There is a story, perhaps apocryphal, about J. Edgar Hoover's aides at the FBI who once sent their boss a memorandum with margins too small for his liking. In big red letters Hoover scrawled an angry warning across the top: "Watch the borders!" The next morning his frightened staff transferred 200 FBI agents to posts bordering Canada and Mexico.

Unlike Hoover's aides, we don't have the luxury of moving people and resources on a whim. In today's tough budget climate, we need to target our efforts.

  • To be prepared for the challenges of the new millennium, the Intelligence Community will have to offer stronger incentives and rewards to develop our people both as regional and technical specialists and, at the same time, as broad-gauged intelligence officers who know our business end to end.

Fourth, and mercifully last, we will have to be more collaborative with experts outside the Intelligence Community, both to improve our analysis and to get the cutting-edge technology we need.

To deal with our packed agenda we cannot think of intelligence as a compartment, existing apart from the information world. We will continue to be the storied espionage business that steals secrets and protects sources. But more and more, we will be a modern "knowledge business" that skillfully integrates classified reporting with the best available unclassified information—with the latter becoming an increasingly larger piece of the pie.

I am glad to say that the Intelligence Community is well on its way to building outside partnerships with academia, the private sector, and nongovernmental organizations.

The NIC, for its part, is making a concerted effort to learn the views of outside experts through conferences and other means—and we are incorporating their views into National Intelligence Estimates. During the last year, for example, the NIC has hosted conferences with outside experts on a number of countries and regions—Africa, Colombia, East Asia, Mexico, Russia, and Ukraine—as well as a wide range of issues, including:

  • the future of military conflict,
  • the Y2K problem,
  • weapons of mass destruction,
  • world views of so-called US "Hegemony," and
  • economic power and trends.

And we have consulted with academic experts from dozens of universities, domestic and foreign think tanks; private sector consultants, and businesses—even Wall Street—as well as other governmental agencies, to challenge and enhance our analysis.

Without question, the Intelligence Community’s efforts to reach outside the confines of our previously insular world are enhancing our products. And we’ll continue such efforts in the future.

Let me close by saying that, with all my talk of change, the fundamental role of the intelligence officer in 2015 will be essentially what it is today: to anticipate and meet the needs of our consumers, who are the President and his senior national security advisers, cabinet heads, diplomats, law enforcement officers, and warfighters.

Former national security adviser Brent Scowcroft summed it up in a letter to The Washington Post, when he wrote:

 

The most difficult task the foreign affairs policymaker faces is making decisions in an environment of ambiguity and inadequate information. The role of intelligence is to narrow the range of uncertainty within which a decision must be made. What really matters is not how well the Intelligence Community predicts particular events, but its ability to spot, track, and interpret trends and patterns.

My key point tonight is that to keep doing this in the world we see ahead, smart intelligence officers are going to have to train harder, run faster, and continue to team up with players outside the Intelligence Community.

Let me stop here. I welcome your questions and comments.


Historical Document
Posted: Apr 03, 2007 08:58 PM
Last Updated: Jun 20, 2008 08:19 AM