Four Scenarios – Stalled Engines

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One of the favorite subjects during this year’s political debates has the future. You’ve likely heard any number of pundits holding forth on what the future will hold. There are some that hit and some that miss. There’s a cottage industry of “punditry” on the subject.

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 – and especially, the impact this future world will have on those of us living in the United States.

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. It’s not an overstatement to say this 160-page document represents the definitive look at the future.

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. Over the next several weeks I’ll share them with you. Today, let’s talk about Stalled Engines.

Stalled Engines is the most plausible worst-case scenario presented in the GT2030 study and, in a sentence, is one in which “all boats sink.” However, this all-too-brief description doesn’t tell us enough about the details of this alternative worlds scenario, and we need to peel the onion a bit more to understand its potential implications more fully.

Global Trends 2030: Alternative Worlds leads with the Stalled Engines alternative world – a scenario in which the United States and Europe turn inward and globalization stalls – as one of its “bookends,” illustrating the most plausible worst-case scenario. Arguably, darker scenarios are imaginable, including a complete breakdown and reversal of globalization due to a potential large-scale conflict on the order of World War I or World War II, but such an outcome does not seem probable.

Stalled Engines is nevertheless a bleak future. The National Intelligence Council’s modeling and analysis suggests that under this scenario total global income would be $27 trillion less than under Fusion, the NIC’s most optimistic scenario. This amount is more than the combined economies of the United States and Eurozone today. In a Stalled Engines world, the United States and Europe are no longer capable, nor interested, in sustaining global leadership. In this dark scenario, the United States’ political system fails to address its fiscal challenges and consequently economic policy and performance drift.

And there is much more!

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

 

Missile Defense!

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It’s easy to look back from the perspective of 2016, with scores of Aegis cruisers and destroyers populating the U.S. Navy’s fleet – and with Aegis ships now serving as the Navy’s primary surface combatant – and think that the journey toward building an Aegis fleet was simple or straightforward. It was not. A full description of that journey is vastly beyond the scope of this post. But for those readers wanting more, the 2009 Naval Engineer’s Journal, “The Story of Aegis: Special Edition” contains a rich and detailed description of the Aegis program – how it came into being, where it is today, and where it is going in the future.

As Adm. John Harvey, former Commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command, explained, what made the original Aegis program so successful was “a single-minded dedication to the pursuit of technical excellence.” That commitment to excellence permeated the Aegis community even before the first ship of the class, the cruiser Ticonderoga (CG 47), was commissioned in January 1983. It likewise remains embedded in Aegis today.

The heart of Aegis – and the U.S. Navy’s fleet air defense capabilities – is the Aegis Weapons System. Consisting of the AN/SPY-1 phased-array radar, the Mk 99 fire-control system, the Weapon Control System, the Command and Decision suite, and Standard missiles, Aegis can simultaneously detect and track hundreds of threats and friendly/neutral aircraft and engage multiple targets simultaneously. When combined with the MK 41 Vertical Launch System (VLS), the AN/SQQ-89 underwater combat system, command-and-control, and self-defense weapons and systems, the weapons system acts as the central component of the broader Aegis Combat System.

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

What Does the Future Hold?

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If you watched any of the news coverage of the Republican or Democratic Conventions, you likely heard any number of pundits holding forth on a number of issues.

One of the favorite subject some pundits take on is the future. There are some that hit and some that miss. Suffice it to say there’s a cottage industry of “punditry” on the subject.

For most of us in the business, these pundits are, at best, a secondary source. The real pros 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 – as well as the impact this future world will have on those of us living in the United States.

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. It’s not an overstatement to say this 160-page document represents the definitive look at the future.

Among the major projections in GT2030: China’s economy is set to overtake that of the United States in the 2020s, but China will not challenge the United States’ pre-eminence or the international order; Asia will become more powerful than both North America and Europe combined (based on GDP, population, military spending, and technological investment); the United States will achieve energy independence with shale gas; and wider access to disruptive technologies – including precision-strike capabilities, cyber instruments, and bioterror weaponry – could increase the risk of large-scale violence and disruption.

And there is much more in this report!

Read the entire article here on the Defense Media Network website and consider what our world may look like in the future.

Tank Man

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Many believe the United States and China are on a mutual path to peace and prosperity, citing the “Walmart factor,” and suggesting our economies are so intertwined conflict between our two nations is impossible. For those who believe this, it may be worth remembering that over a quarter century ago China ruthlessly crushed the student uprising in Tiananmen Square.

Such actions should give us pause especially since China has put policies in place to completely block any mention of Tiananmen, an uprising on that date, or any reference to the event where the government turned on its own people. Not only that, but this incident has eerie parallels to events that impact U.S. national security today. Here is how Daniel Henninger put it:

This Thursday is the 25th anniversary of the Tank Man’s solitary protest. On June 5, 1989, the morning after the Chinese army crushed the students’ democracy rebellion in Tiananmen Square, with hundreds dead, a man in a white shirt walked in front of the army’s tanks, driving down a street near the square. For a while, he made the tanks stop.

To this day, no one knows who the brave Tank Man was. But the whole world watched on global television as he stood down the tank commander. When the tanks tried to go around him, he moved in front of them. Eventually, two people came from the crowd and led him away. He was never seen again.

As the United States continues to “Rebalance to the Asia-Pacific Region, we should remember the Tank Man – and especially what happened to him.

Future World

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The National Intelligence Council (NIC) has released its quadrennial report forecasting global trends that have a major impact on our world, “Global Trends 2030: Alternative Worlds,” in shorthand, GT2030. While many organizations, both inside and outside of government, as well as pundits of varying stripes attempt to project what the future may hold – with varying degrees of success – GT2030 does this and does it extraordinarily well. And this is an especially important time to leverage this analysis. As the chairman of the NIC, Christopher A. Kojm puts it in an opening letter to readers:

We are at a critical juncture in human history, which could lead to widely contrasting futures. It is our contention that the future is not set in stone, but is malleable, the result of an interplay among megatrends, game-changers and, above all, human agency. Our effort is to encourage decision makers – whether in government or outside – to think and plan for the long term so that negative futures do not occur and positive ones have a better chance of unfolding.

Read the entire article here on the Defense Media Network website and consider what the future might hold.

Pacific Pivot

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Much ink has been spilled discussing the United States “Rebalance to the Asia-Pacific region” or as it is known more colloquially – especially in naval circles, the “U.S. Pivot to the Pacific.” President Obama put it this way almost five years ago:

“Our new focus on this region reflects a fundamental truth – the United States has been, and always will be, a Pacific nation … Here, we see the future. With most of the world’s nuclear power and some half of humanity, Asia will largely define whether the century ahead will be marked by conflict or cooperation, needless suffering or human progress.”

President Barack Obama
Remarks to the Australian Parliament November 17, 2011

There has been much talk of late of the United States’ “Rebalance Towards Asia,” or as it is more popularly known, its “Pivot to the Pacific.” This “Pivot” is being watched carefully – and it should be.  Major powers have sometimes been long on rhetoric and short on action. Understanding the factors that are driving the United States in this direction can help in discerning whether this rebalance – or pivot – is something that will be sustained or an initiative that will run its course until a new “strategy de jour” presents itself.

Without putting too fine a point on it, beyond the economic, demographic, trade and other reasons the United States is becoming more focused on the Asia-Pacific region to the extent it has announced a substantial shift in its military forces to the region; the rise of China as a major Asia-Pacific and world superpower is clearly driving U.S. initiatives in this region.  It is fair to say that the moves by the United States are a natural response to new geopolitical realities of a rising China in general and the rise of China’s military in particular.  Most would agree the United States’ rebalance towards the Asia-Pacific is one of the most effective ways for the United States to provide and sustain credible military presence in the world’s most dynamic area.

It’s clear that the United States wants to “Pivot to the Pacific,” but how it plays out is still a matter of debate.

In this prize-winning article in the Australian Navy League’s premier publication, The Navy, we examine whether this “pivot” is real or just rhetoric.

Alternative Worlds?

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Most of us wonder what the world will look like in the future. All of us have opinions – and they are more or less well-informed. The U.S. Intelligence Community – the IC – has looked at this intently and shared their results with the public in its capstone publication – Global Trends 2030. The results are startling.

The Global Trends 2030 report builds on the precedent set by earlier editions of Global Trends in identifying four possible future models of the world out to 2030 – but takes this alternative world futures analysis to a new level. It presents these models with a caveat, by noting that “none of these alternative worlds are inevitable and in reality, the future will probably consist of elements from all the scenarios.”

GT2030 has delineated four archetypal futures. The four posited “worlds” that could present themselves as we move toward 2030 are:

Stalled Engines, the most plausible worst-case scenario, is one in which the risk of interstate conflict rises due to a new “great game” in Asia. Although the National Intelligence Council does not foresee a “full-scale conflagration” along the lines of a world war, this scenario is still a bleak one, with the U.S. and Europe turning inward and no longer interested in global leadership; a euro zone that has unraveled; and a global pandemic and recession causing a retrenchment from globalization.

Fusion, is a scenario at the other end of the spectrum, representing the most plausible best case scenario. The U.S. and China successfully manage their relationship and together halt spreading conflict in South Asia. GDP accelerates in both developing and advanced economies, and technological innovation mitigates resource constraints.

Gini out of the Bottle is a world of extremes, in which inequalities within and between countries dominate and major powers remain at odds, raising the potential for conflict. Economic growth is far below the Fusion scenario, but not as grim as in Stalled Engines.

In the last scenario, Nonstate World, new and emerging technologies (such as ICTs – information and communication technologies) spur the increased power of non-state actors, including NGOs, multinational businesses, academic institutions and wealthy individuals. In addition, subnational units such as “megacities” flourish. These networks manage to solve some global problems, but security threats, such as the increased access to lethal technologies, pose an increasing challenge.

Read the entire article here on the Defense Media Network website and consider what our world may look like in the future.

Technology Revolution

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Max Boot said in his New York Times best-selling book, War Made New: “My view is that technology sets the parameters of the possible; it creates the potential for a military revolution.”

But Max Boot isn’t the only one who shares this point of view. The U.S. Intelligence Community has also come to this conclusion. Here is part of what the IC says:

The United States no longer has a monopoly on innovation or innovative technologies. The U.S. Intelligence Community’s capstone publication Global Trends 2030, places a huge emphasis on technology in general and on what it considers potential (and likely) “technological game changers” in the foreseeable future, at least out to 2030. These potential technological game changers are of enormous significance to investment and other business decisions.

Global Trends 2030 notes that technology will figure prominently in what kind of future world we live in. It asks the question, will technological breakthroughs be developed in time to boost economic productivity and solve the problems caused by the strain on natural resources and climate change as well as chronic disease, aging populations, and rapid urbanization

Read the entire article here on the Defense Media Network website and consider what role technology will play in ensuring our security and prosperity.

Our Existential Threat

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There are few issues where the U.S. intelligence community, academia, industry, the U.S. military, and think tanks all agree.

The singular issue that brings all of them together is this: The one existential threat to the United States is ballistic missiles armed with weapons of mass destruction.

Today, a number of unstable nations possess these weapons. The U.S. Missile Defense Agency has a number of assets for defense against ballistic missiles with weapons of mass destruction.

And by any estimate, the most important weapon for defense against ballistic missiles with WMD is built around the U.S. Navy Aegis weapons system with a BMD package.

The U.S. Navy’s contribution to U.S. BMD is based on the Aegis weapon system and has been on patrol in guided-missile cruisers and destroyers since 2004. Aegis BMD has grown in importance based on its proven performance as well as its long-term potential.

Read more about this issue – including our article in U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings.

Is Autonomy Okay?

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Few issues related to national security fire up such passion as the use of unmanned or autonomous systems for military use. Over the past decade, these technological wonders have been used on the battlefield as well as in targeted killings of terrorists. By-and-large, the public is torn on this issue, suffice it to say, there has been vastly more heat than light regarding their use.

The expanding use of armed unmanned systems (UxS) is not only changing the face of modern warfare, but also altering the process of decision-making in combat operations. Indeed, it has been argued that the rise in drone warfare is changing the way we conceive of and define “warfare” itself. These systems have been used extensively in the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, and will continue to be equally relevant – if not more so – as the United States’ strategic focus shifts toward the Asia-Pacific region and the high-end warfare this strategy requires. The exploding use of UxS is already creating strategic, operational, and tactical possibilities that did not exist a decade ago.

With the prospect of future flat or declining military budgets, the rapidly rising costs of military manpower, and the increased DoD emphasis on total ownership costs, the mandate to move beyond the “many operators, one-joystick, one-vehicle” paradigm that has existed during the past decades for most UxS is clear and compelling. The DoD and the services are united in their efforts to increase the autonomy of UxS as a primary means of reducing manning and achieving acceptable total ownership costs. But this drive for autonomy begs the question as to what this imperative to increase autonomy comports and what, if any, downside occurs if we push UxS autonomy too far. Is there an unacceptable “dark side” to too much autonomy?

Read the entire article here on the Defense Media Network website and consider what the dark side of autonomy could mean: