What Will Tomorrow Bring?

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Every four years, the National Intelligence Council (NIC) releases their comprehensive report forecasting global trends that have a major impact on our world. The current publication is, “Global Trends 2030: Alternative Worlds.”  In shorthand – GT2030. Global Trends 2030 helps us have an informed and well-nuanced view of the future. This is not as easy as it sounds, for, as John Maynard Keynes famously said in 1937: “The idea of the future being different from the present is so repugnant to our conventional modes of thought and behavior that we, most of us, offer a great resistance to acting on it in practice.”

NIC has been in existence for over three decades and represents the primary way the U.S. intelligence community (IC) communicates in the unclassified realm.  Initially a “wholly-owned subsidiary” of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the NIC now works directly for the director of national intelligence and presents the collective research and analysis of the entire IC, an enterprise comprising 16 agencies with a combined budget of well over $80 billion.  In a sentence: There is no more comprehensive analysis of future trends available anywhere, at any price. It’s not an overstatement to say this 160-page document represents the most definitive analytical look at the future security environment.

Read a detailed look at this publication in my post on the Defense Media Network website here.

The U.S. Navy and Missile Defense

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Last week, we posted information about the existential threat posed by Chinese ballistic missiles. It is a threat that bedevils United States national security professionals who must devise an effective counter to this real – and growing – threat. Here is part of what I posted on the Defense Media Network website:

Dealing with just the multi-headed hydra of the Chinese ballistic missile threat is a complex issue that belies a complete treatment here. Clearly, in the case of dealing with the threat the DF-21D poses for U.S. carrier strike groups that operate in the Western Pacific, a large part of the response must be naval. Add to this the fact that, as pointed out above, China’s decision to deploy the DF-21D on mobile launching systems makes it less likely that the missile can be destroyed before it is launched.

Without putting too fine of a point on it, this compels U.S. Navy carrier strike groups (CSGs) – as well as other battle formations such as expeditionary strike groups – to contend with this missile in the maritime arena. It is for this reason that the nation and the Navy are outfitting existing and emerging Aegis cruisers and destroyers, which will provide the lion’s share of the naval defense against ballistic missiles, with Aegis BMD at an accelerated pace. Clearly, the flexibility and mobility of these platforms makes them not only vital – but indispensable – assets to defend these strike groups.

Read more about the United States journey to provide world-class missile defense – and especially how the U.S. Navy is leading the way in our defense against China’s ballistic missiles – in my series of articles on missile defense on the Defense Media Network’s website here.

Missile Defense

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The recent presidential election campaign highlighted many issues between the United States and China. And beyond this campaign, there are many issues that the world’s two superpowers must resolve. But often lost in this dialogue is the clear and present danger presented by China’s ballistic missiles. We hear a lot about North Korea’s missile efforts, but not China’s.

Clearly, China’s ballistic missiles represent just one arrow in a quiver of offensive and defensive weapons in China’s arsenal. And just as there is danger in attempting to address this capability in isolation, it is also not especially useful examining U.S. capabilities to defend against these missiles in a stovepiped manner. In any conflict – and even in the context of saber-rattling – it is important to examine the total force each nation brings to the table today, and perhaps more importantly, in the future.

That said, it is possible to drill down and examine this one capability in detail as a means of understanding not only China’s strategic intent today, but also its likely course in the future, and perhaps most importantly, the measures the United States it taking to enable the U.S. military to address this threat today and tomorrow. There is a vast body of work in this area, and reading just some of it will put this threat in stark relief.

Read more about the United States journey to provide world-class missile defense – and especially defense against China’s ballistic missiles – in my series of articles on missile defense on the Defense Media Network’s website here.

Missile Defense

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Last month, we posted about missile defense and the U.S. Navy’s lead role in dealing with this existential threat to our nation and our allies. We continue that theme here about the ongoing evolution of this critical pillar in our national defense. Whether it is North Korean or Iranian ballistic missiles, the threat is here today and it is growing.

The National Security Strategy underscored the most important functions of the national government:

This administration has no greater responsibility than the safety and security of the American people.  And there is no greater threat to the American people then weapons of mass destruction, particularly the danger posed by the pursuit of nuclear weapons by violent extremists and their proliferation to additional states.

Today, as described earlier, the global ballistic missile threat has morphed from massed numbers of ICBMs unleashed by a peer competitor to the threat of accidental release of a ballistic missile or the threat of one fired by a so-called rogue nation or a national or international terrorist group.  And the threat of what these ballistic missiles could carry – from solely nuclear WMD to chemical and biological WMD – has multiplied the number of nations that can combine these capabilities to threaten the United States, forward-deployed forces, allies, and friends.

Read more about the United States journey to provide world-class missile defense in my series of articles on missile defense on the Defense Media Network’s website here

Four Scenarios – Non-State World

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We posted a number of stories under National Security that mined the National Intelligence Council’s capstone publication: Global Trends 2030: Alternative Worlds. In our last few posts we looked at three of those alternative worlds. This final Global Trends 2030 post discusses the final  alternative world, Stalled Engines.

Without putting too fine a point on it, the Nonstate World scenario represents what is arguably the most uncertain and unpredictable scenario presented in Global Trends 2030: Alternative Worlds. While the future worlds presented in the other three scenarios presented in GT2030 have their own uncertainties and conundrums, the Nonstate World scenario envisions a world where it is hard enough to guess, let alone “know,” what will transpire circa 2030.

Global governance institutions that do not adapt to the more diverse and widespread distribution of power are also less likely to be successful. Multinational businesses, IT communications firms, international scientists, NGOs, and groups that are used to cooperating across borders thrive in this hyper-globalized world where expertise, influence, and agility count for more than “weight” or “position” in this scenario. Private capital and philanthropy matter more, for example, than official development assistance. Social media, mobile communications, and big data are key components, underlying and facilitating cooperation among nonstate actors and with governments.

This is a “patchwork” and uneven world. Some global problems get solved because networks manage to coalesce, and cooperation exists across state and nonstate divides. In other cases, nonstate actors may try to deal with a challenge, but they are stymied because of opposition from major powers who, as noted above, often consider these NGOs, multinational businesses, academic institutions, and wealthy individuals as threats to their authority. This world may be shaping our future today.

Read the entire article here on the Defense Media Network website and consider what our world may look like in the future – especially if “Non-State World” prevails.

No Fear of Failure

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There’s little question that we’re a success-oriented society. Many carry around famed football coach Vince Lombardi’s mantra, “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing” as a personal mantra.

And in American society today, with our basic needs fulfilled for the majority of our citizens, we turn to “winning” as our measure of success. That covers the spectrum from getting our kids into the best schools, ensuring we have the best lawn on the block and being almost perfect in every way. In most aspects of our lives we all but shout, “Failure is not an option!”

Now, two Stanford professors ask us to step back and reconsider and try to accept the fact that it is OK to fail and that there isn’t just one way to deal with tough challenges. Here is part of what Steven Kurutz shared in his short piece, “Life Has Questions. They Have Answers.”

“The two professors claim that you can design an amazing life in the same way that Jonathan Ive designed the iPhone. They say the practices taught in the class and the book can help you (in designing-your-life-speak) “reframe” dysfunctional beliefs that surround life and career decisions and help you “wayfind” in a chaotic world through the adoption of such design tenets as bias-for-action, prototyping and team-building.”

“After nine years of teaching their secrets to future Google product managers and start-up wunderkinds, two designers, Mr. Burnett and Mr. Evans are opening up the curriculum to everyone. “What do I want to be when I grow up?” and “Am I living a meaningful life?” aren’t only subjects for late-night pot-fueled dorm hangouts, the men said.”

You can read the full article that hits the core question, “What do I do with the rest of my one wild and wonderful life?” here

Four Scenarios – Gini Out of the Bottle

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The National Intelligence Council report, Global Trends 2030, helps us to understand what the future may holds, both for our personal lives, as well as the broader issue of what the world will be like years hence.

We have previously looked at the “Stalled Engines” and “Fusion” scenarios as “Alternative Worlds.” Now we’ll turn to the third-of-four, Gini Out of the Bottle. This more nuanced scenario represents yet another way the world may look in 2030. The NIC’s companion report to Global Trends 2030 entitled “Le Menu” provides the Cliff’s Notes description of this third alternative world this way:

“Inequalities within countries and between rich and poor countries dominate. The world is increasingly defined by two self-reinforcing cycles – one virtuous leading to greater prosperity, the other vicious leading to poverty and instability. Major powers remain at odds; the potential for conflict rises. An increasing number of states fail. Economic growth continues at moderate pace, but the world is less secure.”

“In the Gini out of the Bottle scenario inequalities within countries and between rich and poor countries dominate. The world becomes wealthier – as global GDP grows – but is much less happy and stable as the differences between the haves and have-nots become starker and increasingly immutable. The world is increasingly defined by two self-reinforcing cycles – one virtuous leading to greater prosperity, the other vicious, leading to poverty and instability.”

“In this Gini out of the Bottle world, the lack of societal cohesion domestically is mirrored at the international level. With Europe weakened and the United States more restrained, international assistance to the most vulnerable populations declines. Major powers remain at odds; the potential for conflict rises. An increasing number of states fail, fueled in part by the lack of much international cooperation on assistance and development.”

Read the entire article here on the Defense Media Network website and consider what our world may look like in the future – especially if “Gini out of the Bottle” prevails.

Missile Defense!

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Most national security and military experts agree that the threat of ballistic missiles armed with weapons of mass destruction represents the primary existential threat to the United States. One only need read the extensive reporting of North Korea’s recent ballistic missile and nuclear tests to understand that this is a clear and present danger.

But few realize it is the U.S. Navy that is doing the heavy lifting to protect the homeland and our forces forward from this threat. U.S. Navy Aegis ballistic missile defense (BMD) is the key. While the story of Aegis writ large has been told more extensively in many fora, most notably in the 2009 Naval Engineer’s Journal, The Story of Aegis: Special Edition – the story of Aegis BMD, that is, how Aegis BMD evolved from just a nascent idea into arguably the strongest pillar of national BMD, is a relatively new story.

When President Ronald Reagan asked, in his now-famous speech; “What if free people could live secure in the knowledge that their security did not rest upon threat of instant U.S. retaliation to deter a Soviet attack, but instead that we could intercept and destroy strategic ballistic missiles before they reached our own soil or that of our allies?” it caused a sea change in the entire concept of U.S. national BMD. That single statement still provides the organizing impulse for the United States’ ballistic missile defense efforts.

When the U.S. Navy commissioned USS Ticonderoga (CG 47) in 1983, it was, to many, merely the first ship of a new class of warships, one among many in a U.S. Navy that numbered well over 500 ships. Then a tiny fraction of an almost 600-ship Navy, Aegis cruisers and destroyers have now become the Navy’s primary surface combatants. And, importantly, Aegis has enabled the nation and the Navy to take a significant step in accomplishing President Reagan’s vision three decades ago.

Read more about the United States journey to provide world-class missile defense in my series of articles on missile defense on the Defense Media Network’s website here.

Four Scenarios – Fusion

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We all want to know what the future holds, both for our personal lives, as well as the broader issue of what the world will be like years hence. For most of us in the latter business, we go to the National Intelligence Council – the NIC. It harnesses the collective wisdom of the Nation’s sixteen intelligence agencies to deep dive into what our future world will look like. This collective wisdom is captured in their report, Global Trends 2030. In a sentence, there is no more comprehensive analysis of future trends available anywhere, at any price.

The beauty – and utility – of this report is that it doesn’t a point solution and state, unequivocally, “the world will look like this.” Instead it offers us four potential scenarios. The last time we visited Global Trends 2030 we looked at the dark Stalled Engines scenario, the most plausible worst-case scenario presented in the National Intelligence Council’s (NIC) comprehensive analysis.

The “bookend” to this scenario, Fusion, represents the most-plausible best-case scenario. The NIC’s companion report to Global Trends 2030 entitled “Le Menu” provides a possible scenario leading to a description of this second alternative world:

“The specter of a spreading conflict in South Asia prompts the U.S. and China to intervene. Washington and Beijing find other issues to collaborate on. Emerging economies grow faster than advanced economies, but GDP growth in advanced economies also accelerates. Technological innovation is critical to the world staying ahead of the rising resource constraints that result from the rapid boost in prosperity.”

Fusion is the most-plausible best-case scenario presented in the GT2030 study and in a sentence is one in which “all boats substantially rise.” However, this all-too-brief description only scratches the surface of this “happy” scenario.

Read the entire article here on the Defense Media Network website and consider what our world may look like in the future – especially if “Fusion” prevails.

Missile Defense!

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Most national security and military experts agree that the threat of ballistic missiles armed with weapons of mass destruction represents the primary existential threat to the United States. But few realize it is the U.S. Navy that is doing the heavy lifting to protect the homeland and our forces forward from this threat.

The Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States provided a dramatic warning that even the “world’s hegemon,” as America was called by some, was not invulnerable to threats against the homeland. As Americans, their elected officials, and the intelligence and military communities evaluated 21st century threats, the assessment was clear. Absent terrorists operating on American soil, the one existential threat to the nation was the rapidly growing number of states and other actors who already possessed – or were developing – chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and who also possessed, or were developing, ballistic missiles to carry these weapons great distances. In the decade-plus since those 9/11 attacks, rogue nations such as Iran and North Korea have, in fact, developed and in some cases launched ballistic missiles, often designed to intimidate their neighbors.

One of the early – and compelling – calls for a prominent Navy role in dealing with the ballistic missile threat came over a decade ago in a little-noticed report issued by the U.S. National Defense University. Published in their occasional series Defense Horizons, and written by Hans Binnendijk and George Stewart, the report broke important new ground. Provocatively titled Toward Missile Defenses from the Sea, the study’s authors were prescient in envisioning the role Aegis BMD is playing today. Their report noted, in part:

During the past several years, national intelligence estimates have indicated a growing missile threat from North Korea, Iran, and Iraq that will continue to increase throughout this decade… Developments of the past 18 months have created new possibilities for seabasing of national defenses against intercontinental ballistic missiles… Using missile interceptors based at sea to defend the United States against ICBMs offers several advantages, the most important of which are flexibility and control. The most cost-effective option for a potential seaborne deployment is the use of upgraded Aegis radars and modified SM-3 missiles for boost-phase intercepts onboard existing combat ships stationed near the Korean Peninsula and the eastern Mediterranean. In addition to providing a layer of boost-phase defense, ships at these locations would provide radar coverage early in the flight of an ICBM – a valuable asset to the midcourse defense layer.

Read more about the United States journey to provide world-class missile defense in my series of articles on missile defense on the Defense Media Network’s website here.