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NIC Chairman: National Security in the Next Generation

Title of Speech Here
"National Security in the Next Generation"
Address by John C. Gannon
Chairman, National Intelligence Council

The Academy of Senior Professionals
At Eckerd College, St. Petersburg, Florida
(as prepared for delivery)


March 27, 2001


Thank you. It is a special pleasure to be in Saint Petersburg to address the Academy of Senior Professionals at Eckerd College (ASPEC). At Eckerd, you might say, everything comes together. Nature has integrated the best features of a spectacular seascape, landscape, and climate to form a strikingly beautiful place to live and work. ASPEC, for its part, brings together the generations here in a stimulating program that is a model for education in America.


In an effort now recognized and applauded far beyond Florida, ASPEC has transformed the rich professional experience and inspiring personal example of its distinguished members into a powerful educational resource for the younger generation. I am honored to play even a small part in such a dynamic and worthwhile program.

Let me add that my appreciation for ASPEC has been enhanced by the testimony of my deputy in Washington who is here this afternoon. He is the proud son of a founding faculty member of Eckert's Institutional Forum, Florida Presbyterian College, and who was an avid supporter of ASPEC. I know that my deputy is delighted to be among so many of his Dad’s old friends here today.

The National Intelligence Council (NIC), which I chair, is charged by the Director of Central Intelligence to produce National Intelligence Estimates for the President on issues of high priority to U.S. National Security. Our focus is strategic. Our work is coordinated by twelve regional and functional National Intelligence Officers who are acknowledged experts in their fields and come from outside, as well as inside, the Intelligence Community.

For about eighteen months, the NIC, which I chair, worked in close collaboration with US Government specialists and a wide range of experts outside the government to identify drivers and related trends that will shape the world of the next generation. The result is a study that many of you are familiar with, called Global Trends 2015.

The drivers that emerged from our discussions were: demographics, natural resources and environment, science and technology, globalization, national and international governance, future conflict, and the role of the United States. Taken together, these drivers and trends intersect to create an integrated picture of the world of 2015, about which we can make projections with varying degrees of confidence and identify some troubling uncertainties of strategic importance to the United States. The resulting report has drawn a lot of constructive reaction from our own government and from both government and non-government experts abroad.

Most of our readers have recognized that our goal here is to stimulate a continuing dialogue about the future, not to make rigid predictions with false precision. We hope, in fact, that the report will result in government and international actions that will turn around these trends and cause many of our projections to turn out wrong.

Today, I will briefly summarize the report, describe eight strategic uncertainties we see emerging from this work, and discuss some implications we see for the United States. I will leave time for your questions and comments, which is always the most enjoyable part of the program for me.

So, let’s run through the drivers.

First, demographics: The world in 2015 will be populated by some 7.2 billion people, up from 6.1 billion in the year 2000. The rate of world population growth, however, will have diminished from 1.7 percent annually in 1985, to 1.3 percent today, to approximately 1 percent in 2015.

More than 95 percent of the increase in world population will be found in developing countries, nearly all in rapidly expanding urban areas.

  • India’s population will grow from 900 million to more than 1.2 billion by 2015; Pakistan’s will swell from 140 million now to about 195 million. This challenge to governance clearly will not be helped by great investment in nuclear programs.

  • Some countries in Africa with high rates of AIDS will experience reduced population growth or even declining populations despite relatively high birthrates. In South Africa, for example, the population is projected to drop from 43.4 million in 2000 to 38.7 million in 2015.

Russia and many post-Communist countries of Eastern Europe will have declining populations. Russia, as a result of high mortality and low birthrates, will see its population decline from 146 million to 130-35 million by 2015.

Movement of People

By 2015 more than half of the world’s population will be urban. The number of people living in mega-cities—those containing more than 10 million inhabitants—will double to more than 400 million. These will include Mexico City, Sao Paulo, Buenos Aires, Lagos, Cairo, Karachi, Mumbai, Calcutta, Dhaka, Beijing, Shanghai, and Tokyo.

  • Urbanization will provide many countries the opportunity to tap the information revolution and other technological advances.

  • But the explosive growth of cities in developing countries will test the capacity of governments to stimulate the investment required to generate jobs and to provide the services, infrastructure, and social supports necessary to sustain livable and stable environments.


Disparities in health status between developed and developing countries—particularly the least developed countries—will persist and widen. In developed countries, major inroads against a variety of maladies will be achieved by 2015 as a result of generous health spending and major medical advances. The revolution in biotechnology holds the promise of even more dramatic improvements in health status, especially for those who can afford it.

Developing countries, by contrast, are likely to experience a surge in both infectious and noninfectious diseases and in general will have inadequate health care capacities and spending.

  • Tuberculosis, malaria, hepatitis, and particularly AIDS will continue to increase rapidly. AIDS and TB together are likely to account for the majority of deaths in most developing countries.


  • AIDS will be a major problem not only in Africa but also in India, Southeast Asia, several countries formerly part of the Soviet Union, and possibly China.

  • AIDS will reduce economic growth by up to 1 percent of GDP per year and consume more than 50 percent of health budgets in the hardest-hit countries.

  • AIDS and such associated diseases as TB will have a destructive impact on families and society. In some African countries, average lifespans will be reduced by as much as 30 to 40 years, generating more than 40 million orphans and contributing to poverty, crime, and instability.

Natural Resources and Environment


Driven by advances in agricultural technologies, world food grain production and stocks in 2015 will be adequate to meet the needs of a growing world population. Despite the overall adequacy of food, problems of distribution and availability will remain.

  • The number of chronically malnourished people in conflict-ridden Sub-Saharan Africa, for example, will increase by more than 20 percent over the next 15 years.

Water, as you may know, is a big deal.

By 2015 nearly half the world’s population—more than 3 billion people—will live in countries that are "water-stressed"—having less than 1,700 cubic meters of water per capita per year—mostly in Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and northern China.


  • Turkey is building new dams and irrigation projects on the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, which will affect water flows into Syria and Iraq—two countries that will experience considerable population growth.

  • Egypt is proceeding with a major diversion of water from the Nile, which flows from Ethiopia and Sudan, both of which will want to draw more water from the Nile for their own development by 2015. Water-sharing arrangements are likely to become more contentious.

Water shortages occurring in combination with other sources of tension—such as in the Middle East—will be the most worrisome.

  • In the Middle East, per capita decline in water availability over the next 25 years looks something like this: Israel, 33 percent; Jordan, 75 percent; Iran, 50 percent; Saudi Arabia, 67 percent; Egypt, 40 percent; Ethiopia/Rwanda, 60 percent; and South Africa, 55 percent.


The global economy will continue to become more energy efficient through 2015.

Asia will drive the expansion in energy demand, replacing North America as the leading energy consumption region and accounting for more than half of the world’s total increase in demand.


  • China, and to a lesser extent India, will see especially dramatic increases in energy consumption.


    • By 2015, only one-tenth of Persian Gulf oil will be directed to Western markets; three-quarters will go to Asia.

    Meeting the increase in demand for energy will pose neither a major supply challenge nor lead to substantial price increases in real terms. Estimates of the world’s total endowment of oil have steadily increased as technological progress in extracting oil from remote sources has enabled new discoveries and more efficient production. Recent estimates indicate that 80 percent of the world’s available oil still remains in the ground, as does 95 percent of the world’s natural gas.


    Today’s environmental problems will persist and in many instances grow over the next 15 years. With increasingly intensive land use, significant degradation of arable land will continue as will the loss of tropical forests. Given the promising global economic outlook, greenhouse gas emissions will increase substantially. The depletion of tropical forests and other species-rich habitats, such as wetlands and coral reefs, will further increase the historically large losses of biological species now occurring.

    • Environmental issues will become mainstream issues in several countries, particularly in the developed world. The consensus on the need to deal with environmental issues will strengthen; however, progress in dealing with them will be uneven.

    Science and Technology

    The next 15 years will see many new IT-enabled devices and services. Rapid diffusion is likely because equipment costs will decrease at the same time that demand increases. Local-to-global net access holds the prospect of universal wireless connectivity via hand-held devices and large numbers of low-cost, low-altitude satellites. Satellite systems and services will develop in ways that increase performance and reduce costs.


    By 2015, the biotechnology revolution will be in full swing with major achievements in combating disease, increasing food production, reducing pollution, and enhancing the quality of life. Many of these developments, especially in the medical field, will remain costly through 2015 and will be available mainly in the West and to wealthy segments of other societies. Some biotechnologies will, of course, continue to be controversial for moral and religious reasons. Among the most significant developments by 2015 are:


    • Genomic profiling—by decoding the genetic basis for pathology—will enable the medical community to move beyond the description of diseases to more effective mechanisms for diagnosis and treatment.

    • Biomedical engineering, exploiting advances in biotechnology and "smart" materials, will produce new surgical procedures and systems, including better organic and artificial replacement parts for human beings, and the use of unspecialized human cells (stem cells) to augment or replace brain or body functions and structures. It also will spur development of sensor and neural prosthetics such as retinal implants for the eye, cochlear implants for the ear, or bypasses of spinal and other nerve damage.

    • Therapy and drug developments will cure some enduring diseases and counter trends in antibiotic resistance. Deeper understanding of how particular diseases affect people with specific genetic characteristics will facilitate the development and prescription of custom drugs.

    • Genetic modification—despite continuing technological and cultural barriers—will improve the engineering of organisms to increase food production and quality, broaden the scale of bio-manufacturing, and provide cures for certain genetic diseases. Cloning will be used for such applications as livestock production. Despite cultural and political concerns, the use of genetically modified crops has great potential to dramatically improve the nutrition and health of many of the world’s poorest people.

    Other Technologies

    Breakthroughs in materials technology will generate widely available products that are smart, multifunctional, environmentally compatible, more survivable, and customizable. These products not only will contribute to the growing information and biotechnology revolutions but also will benefit manufacturing, logistics, and personal lifestyles. Materials with active capabilities will be used to combine sensing and actuation in response to environmental conditions.

    Discoveries in nanotechnology will lead to unprecedented understanding and control over the fundamental building blocks of all physical things. Developments in this emerging field are likely to change the way almost everything—from vaccines to computers to automobile tires to objects not yet imagined—is designed and made. Self-assembled nanomaterials, such as semiconductor "quantum dots," could by 2015 revolutionize chemical labeling and enable rapid processing for drug discovery, blood content analysis, genetic analysis, and other biological applications.

    The Global Economy

    The global economy, though susceptible to volatility and cyclical downturns, is well positioned to achieve a sustained period of dynamism through 2015. Global economic growth will return to the high levels reached in the 1960s and early 1970s, the final years of the post-World War II "long boom." Dynamism will be strongest among so-called "emerging markets"—especially in the two Asian giants, China and India—but will be broadly based worldwide, including in both industrialized and many developing countries. The rising tide of the global economy, however, will not lift all boats. The information revolution will make the persistence of poverty more visible, and regional differences will remain large.

    The countries and regions most at risk of falling behind economically are those with endemic internal and/or regional conflicts and those that fail to diversify their economies. The economies of most states in Sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East and some in Latin America will continue to suffer. A large segment of the Eurasian land mass extending from Central Asia through the Caucasus to parts of southeastern Europe faces dim economic prospects. Within countries, the gap in the standard of living also will increase. Even in rapidly growing countries, large regions will be left behind.

    National and International Governance

    The state will remain the single most important organizing unit of political, economic, and security affairs through 2015--and this is significant for our Intelligence Community--but will confront fundamental tests of effective governance. The first will be to benefit from, while coping with, several facets of globalization. The second will be to deal with increasingly vocal and organized publics.

    • The elements of globalization—greater and freer flow of information, capital, goods, services, people, and the diffusion of power to nonstate actors of all kinds—will challenge the authority of virtually all governments. At the same time, globalization will create demands for increased international cooperation on transnational issues.

    Nonstate Actors

    States will deal increasingly with private-sector organizations—both for-profit and nonprofit. These nonstate actors increasingly will gain resources and power over the next 15 years as a result of the ongoing liberalization of global finance and trade, as well as the opportunities afforded by information technology.

    Over the next 15 years, transnational criminal organizations will become increasingly adept at exploiting the global diffusion of sophisticated information, financial, and transportation networks.

    Criminal organizations and networks based in North America, Western Europe, China, Colombia, Israel, Japan, Mexico, Nigeria, and Russia will expand the scale and scope of their activities. They will form loose alliances with one another, with smaller criminal entrepreneurs, and with insurgent movements for specific operations. They will corrupt leaders of unstable, economically fragile or failing states, insinuate themselves into troubled banks and businesses, and cooperate with insurgent political movements to control substantial geographic areas. Their income will come from narcotics trafficking; alien smuggling; trafficking in women and children; smuggling toxic materials, hazardous wastes, illicit arms, military technologies, and other contra-band; financial fraud; and racketeering.

    Now, let me say a few words about the nature of future conflict.

    The United States will maintain a strong technological edge in IT-driven "battlefield awareness" and in precision-guided weaponry in 2015. The United States will face three types of threats from adversaries:

    • Strategic WMD threats, including nuclear missile threats, in which (barring significant political or economic changes), Russia, China, most likely North Korea, probably Iran, and possibly Iraq will have the capability to strike the United States; and the potential for unconventional delivery of WMD by both states and nonstate actors also will grow.

    • Asymmetric threats in which state and nonstate adversaries avoid direct engagements with the US military but devise strategies, tactics, and weapons—some improved by "sidewise" technology—to minimize US strengths and exploit perceived weaknesses;

    • Regional military threats in which a few countries maintain large military forces with a mix of Cold War and post-Cold War concepts and technologies.

    The risk of war among developed countries will be low. The international community will continue, however, to face conflicts around the world, ranging from relatively frequent small-scale internal upheavals to less frequent regional inter-state wars. The potential for inter-state conflict will arise from rivalries in Asia, ranging from India-Pakistan to China-Taiwan, as well as among the antagonists in the Middle East. Their potential lethality will grow, driven by the availability of WMD, longer-range missile delivery systems and other technologies.

    Internal conflicts stemming from religious, ethnic, economic or political disputes will remain at current levels or even increase in number. The United Nations and regional organizations will be called upon to manage such conflicts because major states—stressed by domestic concerns, perceived risk of failure, lack of political will, or tight resources—will minimize their direct involvement.

    Internal Conflicts

    Many internal conflicts, particularly those arising from communal disputes, will continue to be vicious, long-lasting and difficult to terminate—leaving bitter legacies in their wake.

    • International conflicts frequently will spawn internal displacements, refugee flows, humanitarian emergencies, and other regionally destabilizing dislocations.

    Internal conflicts stemming from state repression, religious and ethnic grievances, increasing migration pressures, and/or indigenous protest movements will occur most frequently in Sub-Saharan Africa, the Caucasus and Central Asia, and parts of south and southeast Asia, Central America and the Andean region.

    The United Nations and several regional organizations will continue to be called upon to manage internal conflicts because major states—stressed by domestic concerns, perceived risk of failure, lack of political will, or tight resources—will wish to minimize their direct involvement.

    Meanwhile, states with poor governance; ethnic, cultural, or religious tensions; weak economies; and porous borders will be prime breeding grounds for terrorism. In such states, domestic groups will challenge the entrenched government, and transnational networks seeking safehavens.

    Examining the interaction of these drivers and trends points to some major uncertainties that will only be clarified as events occur and leaders make policy decisions that cannot be foreseen today but must be guided by good intelligence along the way. We cite eight transnational and regional issues for which the future, according to our trends analysis, is too tough to call with any confidence or precision.

    These are high-stakes, national security issues that will require continuous analysis periodic policy reviews in the years ahead.

    Science and Technology

    Advances in science and technology over the next fifteen years will generate dramatic breakthroughs in agriculture and health and in leap-frog applications, such as universal wireless cellular communications, which already are networking developing countries that never had land-lines. What we do not know about the S&T revolution, however, is staggering. We do not know to what extent technology will benefit, or further disadvantage, disaffected national populations, alienated ethnic and religious groups, or the less developed countries. We do not know to what degree lateral or "side-wise" technology will increase the threat from low technology countries and groups. One certainty is that progression will not be linear.

    Increasing reliance on computer networks is making critical US infrastructures more attractive as targets. Computer network operations today offer new options for attacking the United States within its traditional continental sanctuary—potentially anonymously and with selective effects. Nevertheless, we do not know how quickly or effectively such adversaries as terrorists or disaffected states will develop the tradecraft to use cyber warfare tools and technology, or, in fact, whether cyber warfare will ever evolve into a decisive combat arm.

    Rapid advances and diffusion of biotechnology, nanotechnology, and the materials sciences, moreover, will add to the capabilities of our adversaries to engage in biological warfare or bio-terrorism.

    Asymmetric Warfare

    As noted earlier, most adversaries will recognize the information advantage and military superiority of the United States in 2015. Rather than acquiesce to any potential US military domination, they will try to circumvent or minimize US strengths and exploit perceived weaknesses. IT-driven globalization will significantly increase interaction among terrorists, narcotraffickers, proliferators, and organized criminals, who in a networked world will have greater access to information, to technology, to finance, to sophisticated deception-and-denial techniques and to each other. Such asymmetric approaches—whether undertaken by states or nonstate actors—will become the dominant characteristic of most threats to the US homeland. They will be a defining challenge for US strategy, operations, and force development, and they will require that strategy to maintain focus on traditional, low-technology threats as well as the capacity of potential adversaries to harness elements of proliferating advanced technologies. At the same time, we do not know the extent to which adversaries, state and nonstate, might be influenced or deterred by other geopolitical, economic, technological, or diplomatic factors in 2015.

    The Global Economy

    Although the outlook for the global economy appears strong, achieving broad and sustained high levels of global growth will be contingent on avoiding several potential brakes to growth. These include:

    • The US economy suffers a sustained downturn.

    • Europe and Japan fail to manage their demographic challenges.

    • China and/or India fail to sustain high growth.

    • Emerging market countries fail to reform their financial institutions.

    • Global energy supplies a major disruption.


    The Middle East

    Global trends from demography and natural resources to globalization and governance appear generally negative for the Middle East. Most regimes are change-resistant. Many are buoyed by continuing energy revenues and will not be inclined to make the necessary reforms, including in basic education, to change this unfavorable picture.

    • Linear trend analysis shows little positive change in the region, raising the prospects for increased demographic pressures, social unrest, religious and ideological extremism, and terrorism directed both at the regimes and at their Western supporters.

    • Nonlinear developments—such as the sudden rise of a Web-connected opposition, a sharp and sustained economic downturn, or, conversely, the emergence of enlightened leaders committed to good governance—might change outcomes in individual countries. Political changes in Iran in the late 1990s are an example of such nonlinear development.


    Estimates of developments in China over the next 15 years are fraught with unknowables. Working against China’s aspirations to sustain economic growth while preserving its political system is an array of political, social, and economic pressures that will increasingly challenge the regime’s legitimacy, and perhaps its survival.

    • The sweeping structural changes required by China’s entry into the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the broader demands of economic globalization and the information revolution will generate significantly new levels and types of social and economic disruption that will only add to an already wide range of domestic and international problems.


    • Nevertheless, China need not be overwhelmed by these problems. China has proven politically resilient, economically dynamic, and increasingly assertive in positioning itself for a leadership role in East Asia. Its long-term military program in particular suggests that Beijing wants to have the capability to achieve its territorial objectives, outmatch its neighbors, and constrain US power in the region.

    • We do not rule out, however, the introduction of enough political reform by 2015 to allow China to adapt to domestic pressure for change and to continue to grow economically.

    • Two conditions, in the view of many specialists, would lead to a major security challenge for the United States and its allies in the region: a weak, disintegrating China, or an assertive China willing to use its growing economic wealth and military capabilities to pursue its strategic advantage in the region. These opposite extremes bound a more commonly held view among experts that China will continue to see peace as essential to its economic growth and internal stability.


    Between now and 2015, Moscow will be challenged even more than today to adjust its expectations for world leadership to its dramatically reduced resources. Whether the country can make the transition in adjusting ends to means remains an open and critical question, according to most experts, as does the question of the character and quality of Russian governance and economic policies. The most likely outcome is a Russia that remains internally weak and institutionally linked to the international system primarily through its permanent seat on the UN Security Council. In this view, whether Russia can adjust to this diminished status in a manner that preserves rather than upsets regional stability is also uncertain. The stakes for both Europe and the United States will be high, although neither will have the ability to determine the outcome for Russia in 2015. Russian governance will be the critical factor.


    The first uncertainty about Japan is whether it will carry out the structural reforms needed to resume robust economic growth and to slow its decline relative to the rest of East Asia, particularly China. The second uncertainty is whether Japan will alter its security policy to allow Tokyo to maintain a stronger military and more reciprocal relationship with the United States. Experts agree that Japanese governance will be the key driver in determining the outcomes.


    Global trends conflict significantly in India. The size of its population—1.2 billion by 2015—and its technologically driven economic growth virtually dictate that India will be a rising regional power. The unevenness of its internal economic growth, with a growing gap between rich and poor, and serious questions about the fractious nature of its politics, all cast doubt on how powerful India will be by 2015. Whatever its degree of power, India’s rising ambition will further strain its relations with China, as well as complicate its ties with Russia, Japan, and the West—and continue its nuclear standoff with Pakistan.

    So, What are the Implications for the United States and our Intelligence Community?

    An integrated trend analysis suggests at least four related conclusions:

    • First, national policies will matter. To prosper in the global economy of 2015, governments will have to invest more in technology, in public education, and in broader participation in government to include increasingly influential non-state actors. The extent to which governments around the world are doing these things today gives some indication of where they will be in 2015. What we say about government’s need to invest more in people and technology, of course, also can be said about the Intelligence Community.

    • Second, we will have to continue to worry about primitive weapons while we monitor increasingly sophisticated precision-guided weapons. While we step up to new world challenges, old-world threats will continue to occupy us. The United States and other developed countries will be challenged in 2015 to lead the fast-paced technological revolution while, at the same time, maintaining military, diplomatic, and intelligence capabilities to deal with traditional problems and threats from low-technology countries and groups. The United States, as a global power, will have little choice but to engage leading actors and confront problems on both sides of the widening economic and digital divides in the world of 2015, when globalization’s benefits will be far from global.

    • Third, International or multilateral organizations increasingly will be called upon in 2015 to deal with growing transnational problems from economic and financial volatility; to legal and illegal migration; to competition for scarce natural resources such as water; to humanitarian, refugee, and environmental crises; to terrorism, narcotrafficking, and weapons proliferation; and to both regional conflicts and cyber threats. And when international cooperation—or international governance—comes up short, the United States and other developed countries will have to broker solutions among a wide array of international players—including governments at all levels, multinational corporations, and nonprofit organizations.

    • Fourth, and last, to deal with a transnational agenda and an interconnected world in 2015, governments will have to develop greater communication and collaboration between national security and domestic policy agencies. Interagency cooperation will be essential to understanding transnational threats, including regional conflict, and to developing interdisciplinary strategies to counter them. Consequence management of a BW attack, for example, would require close coordination among a host of US Government agencies, foreign governments, US state and municipal governments, the military, the medical community, and the media.

      Let me stop here. I’d be happy to take your comments and questions.

    Historical Document
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    Last Updated: Jun 20, 2008 08:28 AM