Current and Projected National Security Threats to the United States

Vice Admiral Lowell E. Jacoby, USN
Director, Defense Intelligence Agency

Statement For The Record
Senate Select Committee on Intelligence

11 February 2003

Defense Intelligence today is at war on a global scale. We are committed in support of military forces fighting the War on Terrorism in Afghanistan and other locations where war might take us. We provide warning and intelligence for force protection of our military deployed worldwide even as they increasingly are targeted by terrorists. Detailed intelligence is essential long before forces are deployed. This detailed effort, termed Intelligence Preparation of the Battlespace, has been ongoing for many months to support potential force employment in Iraq. Other Defense Intelligence resources are committed to careful assessment of the dangerous situation on the Korean Peninsula. Defense Intelligence is also providing global awareness, meaning we're watching for developments that might require U.S. military employment. These situations range from internal instability and threat of coups that could require evacuation of American citizens, to interdiction of shipments of materials associated with weapons of mass destruction. We recognize that we're called upon to 'know something about everything' and it's a daunting task for those already at war on a global scale. Our sustained level of crisis and operational commitment is straining personnel, equipment, and resources, and reducing time for 'sustaining' activities such as training, education, data base maintenance, and longer-term research and analysis. I am increasingly concerned that our Defense Intelligence capability is being stretched too thin and that we are being forced to sacrifice longer term capabilities in order to respond to today's requirements.

Near Term Priorities

Within the broader global context, my most important current priorities are supporting the Global War on Terrorism, retaining our readiness to support any military missions that may be assigned, Iraq, monitoring the North Korea situation, and maintaining the global situational awareness required to warn decision-makers of emerging crises.

Global Terrorism. Despite our significant successes to date, terrorism remains the most immediate threat to U.S. interests at home and abroad. A number of terrorist groups - including the FARC in Colombia, various Palestinian organizations, and Lebanese Hizballah - have the capability to do us harm. But I am most concerned about the al-Qaida network.

Al-Qaida rewns a presence on six continents, with key senior leaders still at large. It has a corps of seasoned operatives and draws support from an array of legitimate and illegitimate entities. The network is adaptive, flexible, and arguably, more agile than we are. Eager to prove its capabilities in the wake of significant network losses, al-Qaida had its most active year in 2002 - killing hundreds in Bali, striking a French oil tanker off the coast of Yemen, attacking Marines and civilians in Kuwait, murdering a U.S. diplomat in Jordan, bombing a hotel popular with foreign tourists in Mombassa, attacking a synagogue in Tunisia, and attempting to down an Israeli airliner.

Al-Qaida remains focused on attacking the U.S., but I expect increasing attacks against our allies - particularly in Europe - as the group attempts to widen its campaign of violence and undermine coalition resolve. I'm also very concerned about the potential for more attacks using portable surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) with civilian airliners as the key target. Al-Qaida and other terrorist groups are seeking to acquire chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear capabilities, and we are working to prevent their use of weapons of mass destruction (WMD). Radiological Dispersal Devices (RDD) or 'dirty bombs,' pose a particular problem. An RDD is simple to make, consisting of conventional explosives and radiological materials widely available from legitimate medical, academic, and industrial activities.

Iraq. Saddam Hussein appears determined to retain his WMD and missile programs, reassert his authority over all of Iraq, and become the dominant regional power. He recognizes the seriousness of the current situation, but may think he can 'outwit' the international community by feigning cooperation with UN weapons inspectors, hiding proscribed weapons and activities, playing on regional and global 'anti-American' sentiments, and aligning himself with the 'Palestinian cause.' Saddam's penchant for brinksmanship and miscalculation increases the likelihood that he will continue to defy international will and refuse to relinquish his WMD and related programs. Should military action become necessary to disarm Saddam, he will likely employ a host of desperate measures.

North Korea. Pyongyang's open pursuit of additional nuclear weapons is the most serious challenge to U.S. regional interests in a generation. The outcome of this current crisis will shape relations in Northeast Asia for years to come. While the North's new hard-line approach is designed to draw concessions from the United States, Pyongyang's desire for nuclear weapons reflects a long term strategic goal that will not be easily abandoned. Three factors complicate the issue.

Pyongyang will continue its hard-liner rhetoric, while moving forward with 'start-up' and reprocessing activities at the Yongbyon nuclear facility. Kim Chong-il has a number of options for ratcheting-up the pressure, to include: increasing efforts to drive a wedge between the U.S. and other regional states; provocative actions along the Demilitarized Zone; increasing military training and readiness; and conducting large-scale military exercises or demonstrations, ircluding a missile launch or nuclear weapons test.

Global Situational Awareness. While Terrorism, Iraq, and North Korea have our immediate attention, they are not the only challenges we face. We must assess global developments to provide strategic warning on a wide spectrum of potential threats. We continue to generate the requisite intelligence to give our leaders the opportunity to preclude, dissuade, deter, or defeat emerging threats.

Enduring Global Realities

The situations outlined above, and others we have to contend with, have their basis in a number of 'fundamental realities' at work in the world. These are enduring - no power, circumstance, or condition is likely to emerge in the next decade capable of overcoming them and creating a less turbulent global environment. Collectively, they create the conditions from which threats and challenges emerge, and they define the context in which U.S. strategy, interests, and forces operate.

Reactions to U.S. Dominance. Much of the world is increasingly apprehensive about U.S. power and influence. Many are concerned about the expansion, consolidation, and dominance of American values, ideals, culture, and institutions. Reactions to this sensitivity to growing 'Americanization' can range from mild 'chafing' on the part of our friends and allies, to fear and violent rejection on the part of our adversaries. We should consider that these perceptions, mixed with angst over perceived 'U.S. unilateralism' will give rise to significant anti-American behavior.

Globalization. The increasing global flow of money, goods, services, people, information, technology, and ideas remains an important influence. Under the right conditions, globalization can be a very positive force, providing the political, economic, and social context for sustained progress. But in those areas unable to exploit these advantages, it can leave large numbers of people seemingly worse off, exacerbate local and regional tensions, increase the prospects and capabilities for conflict, and empower those who would do us harm. Our greatest challenge may be encouraging and consolidating the positive aspects of globalization, while managing and containing its 'downsides.'

Uneven Economic and Demographic Growth. The world will add another billion people over the next 10 to 15 years, with 95 percent of that increase occurring in developing nations. Rapid urbanization continues - some 20-30 million of the world's poorest people migrate to urban areas each year. Economic progress in many parts of Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and Latin America will not keep pace with population increases. These conditions strain the leadership, resources, and infrastructures of developing states. Corrupt and ineffective governments particularly are unable to cope. Their actions marginalize large numbers of people, foster instability, spawn ethnic, religious, and cultural conflict, create lawless safe-havens, and increase the power of dangerous non-state entities. In some areas, particularly in the Middle East, rising unemployment among expanding youth populations, stagnant or falling living standards, ineffective governments, and decaying infrastructures create environments conducive to extremist messages.

General Technology Proliferation. Advances in information processing, biotechnology, communications, materials, micro-manufacturing, and weapons development are having a significant impact on the way people live, think, work, organize, and fight. New vulnerabilities, interdependencies, and capabilities are being created in both advanced and less developed states. The globalization of 'R&D intensive' technologies is according smaller countries, groups, and individuals access to capabilities previously limited to major powers. The integration of various advancements, and unanticipated applications of emerging technologies, makes it extremely difficult to predict the technological future. Surprises will result. Some aspects of our technological advantage are likely to erode.

Weapons of Mass Destruction and Missile Proliferation. The long-term trends with respect to WMD and missile proliferation are bleak. States seek these capabilities for regional purposes, or to provide a hedge to deter or offset U.S. military superiority. Terrorists seek greater physical and psychological impacts. The perceived 'need to acquire' is intense and, unfortunately, globalization provides a more amenable proliferation environment. Much of the technology and many of the raw materials are readily available. New alliances have formed, pooling resources for developing these capabilities, while technological advances and global economic conditions make it easier to transfer materiel and expertise. The basic sciences are widely understood, although the complex engineering tasks required to produce an effective weapons capability are not achieved easily.

Some 25 countries possess or are actively pursuing WMD or missile programs. The threat to U.S. and allied interests will grow during the next decade.

Declining global defense spending. Global defense spending has dropped 50% during the past decade and, with the exception of some parts of Asia, is likely to remain limited. This trend will have multiple impacts. First, both adversaries and allies will not keep pace with the U.S. military. This drives foes toward 'asymmetric options,' widens the capability gap between U.S. and allied forces, and increases the demand on unique U.S. force capabilities. Additional, longer-term impacts on global defense technology development and on U.S.-allied defense industrial cooperation and technological competitiveness are likely. Finally, defense resource constraints, declining arms markets, and globalization are leading to a more competitive global armaments industry. In this environment, technology transfer restrictions and arms embargoes will be more difficult to maintain, monitor, and enforce.

International crime. Criminal groups in Western Europe, China, Colombia, Israel, Japan, Mexico, Nigeria, and Russia are broadening their global activities and are increasingly involved in narcotics trafficking, alien smuggling, and illicit transfers of arms and other military technologies. My major concern is over the growing link between terrorism and organized crime, especially the prospect that organized criminal groups will use their established networks to traffic in nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons, and to facilitate movement of terrorist operatives.

Increasing numbers of people in need. A host of factors - some outlined above - have combined to increase the numbers of people facing deepening economic stagnation, political instability, and cultural alienation. These conditions provide fertile ground for extremism. Their frustration is increasingly directed at the U.S. and the West.

Other Regional Issues

There are a number of other regional situations we must monitor because of their potential to develop into more serious challenges.

Israeli-Palestinian Violence. The prolonged Israeli-Palestinian conflict is furthering anti-American sentiment, increasing the likelihood of terrorism directed at U.S. interests, increasing the pressure on moderate Middle East regimes, and carries with it the potential for wider regional conflict. With each side determined to break the other's will, I see no end to the current violence.

Tension Between India and Pakistan. After last year's military standoff along the Line-of-Control (LOC), both Islamabad and Delhi took steps to defuse tensions. But with the Kashmir situation still unresolved and with continued cross border infiltration from Pakistan, the potential for miscalculation remains high, especially in the wake of some violent 'triggering' event such as another spectacular terrorist attack or political assassination. Both sides retain large forces close to the tense LOC and continue to develop their WMD and missile programs. Recent elections have hardened India's resolve and constrain Musharraf's ability to offer additional concessions.

Pressures in the Muslim World. The Islamic world is sorting through competing visions of what it means to be a Muslim state in the modern era. Unfavorable demographic and economic conditions and efforts to strike a balance between modernization and respect for traditional values are exacerbated by the global war on terrorism, continued Israeli-Palestinian violence, and the Iraqi situation. This fosters resentment toward the West and makes it difficult to define the vision of a modern Islamic state. These pressures will be most acute in states important to the U.S., including Pakistan, Afghanistan, Indonesia, Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia. Even in countries where Muslim populations are a minority, such as the Philippines, there are threats from the extremist fringe bent on the violent overthrow of democratic rule.

Other Major Regional Actors

Iran. As the recent protests in Tehran attest, Iran is a country with growing internal tensions. Most Iranians want an end to the clerical rule of the Ayatollahs. Mohammed Khatami, Iran's president, received the bulk of his now-waning support from minorities, youths, and women when he first won the elections. He is also vulnerable to being forced aside by the religious conservatives who have held power since 1979. Iran's conservatives remain in control and continue to view the U.S. with hostility. Iran remains the leading state-sponsor of terrorism. For instance, it has provided safe-haven to al-Qaida and remains the principal source of military supplies and financial support for Hizballah. For these reasons, I remain concerned with Teheran's deliberate military buildup.

Russia. Moscow's muted reaction to NATO enlargement and the U.S. withdrawal from the ABM Treaty, its cooperation in the war on terrorism, and its acceptance of a U.S. military presence in Central Asia emphasize President Putin's commitment to closer integration with the West. I am hopeful the current cooperative atmosphere can be built upon to form a more positive and lasting security relationship. That said, there are no easy solutions to the tremendous challenges confronting Russia. I remain concerned about Russian proliferation of advanced military and WMD technologies, the security of its nuclear materials and weapons, the expanding global impact of Russian criminal syndicates, and unfavorable demographic trends.

Meanwhile, the Russian Armed Forces continue in crisis. Moscow's defense expenditures are inadequate to overcome the problems associated with a decade of military neglect, much less fund Russia's plans for military reform, restructuring, and modernization. Even priority strategic systems have not been immune to the problems affecting the Russian military. The deployment of the SS-27 ICBM is now several years behind schedule. Overall system aging, chronic underfunding, and arms control agreements ensure that Russian strategic warhead totals will continue to decline - from approximately 4,500 operational today to a level near 1,500 by 2010. For at least the next several years, the military will continue to experience shortfalls in pay, housing, procurement, and training. These factors, the war in Chechnya, and inconsistent leadership, will undermine morale and readiness.

China. In November 2002, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) held its 16th Congress. Vice President Hu Jintao was selected as CCP General Secretary and Jiang Zemin was re-appointed Chairman of the Central Military Commission. Beijing is stressing stability during this period of transition and I expect few changes to China's national priorities, including military modernization.

Coping With U.S. Power

Our opponents understand they cannot match our political, economic, and military power. Accordingly, they seek to avoid decisive engagements and act indirectly, hoping to extract a price we are unwilling to pay, or to present us with capabilities and situations we cannot react to in a timely manner. They want to fundamentally change the way others view the United States. This could include: undermining our political, economic, and social infrastructures, thwarting U.S. global leadership, undermining our will to remain globally engaged, and curtailing the global appeal of our ideas, institutions, and culture.

Threats to the Homeland. Many adversaries believe the best way to avoid, deter, or offset U.S. power is to develop a capability to threaten the U.S. homeland. In addition to the traditional threat from strategic nuclear missiles, our national infrastructure is vulnerable to physical and computer attack. The interdependent nature of the infrastructure creates more vulnerability, because attacks against one sector - the electric power grid for instance - would impact other sectors as well. Many defense-related critical infrastructures are vulnerable to a wide range of attacks, especially those that rely on commercial sector elements with multiple, single points of failure. Foreign states have the greatest attack potential (in terms of resources and capabilities), but the most immediate and serious threat today is from terrorists carrying out well-coordinated strikes against selected critical nodes. Al-Qaida has spoken openly of targeting the U.S. economy as a way of undermining our global power and uses publicly available Internet web sites to reconnoiter American infrastructure, utilities, and critical facilities.

The Intelligence Threat. We continue to face extensive intelligence threats targeted against our national security policy-making apparatus, national infrastructure, military, and critical technologies. The open nature of our society, and the ease with which money, technology, information, and people move around the globe, make counterintelligence and security difficult. Sensitive business information and advanced technologies are increasingly at risk as both adversaries and allies conduct espionage against the private sector. They seek technological, financial, and conunercial information that will provide a competitive edge in the global economy. Several countries continue to pose a serious challenge, prioritizing collection against U.S. military and technological developments, and diplomatic initiatives. The threat from these countries is sophisticated and increasing. They target our political, economic, military, and scientific information, and their intelligence services have demonstrated exceptional patience and persistence in pursuing priority targets.

Information Operations. Adversaries recognize our reliance on advanced information systems and understand that information superiority provides the U.S. unique advantages. Accordingly, numerous potential foes are pursuing information operations capabilities as a means to undermine domestic and international support for U.S. actions, attack key parts of the U.S. national infrastructure, and preclude our information superiority. Information operations can involve psychological operations, physical attacks against key information nodes, and computer network attacks. These methods are relatively inexpensive, can have a disproportionate impact on a target, and offer some degree of anonymity. I expect this threat to grow significantly over the next several years.

Counter-Transformational Challenges. For at least the next decade, adversaries who contemplate engaging the U.S. military will struggle to find ways to deal with overwhelming U.S. force advantages. They will take the time to understand how we operate, will attempt to identify our strengths and vulnerabilities, and will pursue operational and technological initiatives to counter key aspects of the 'American Way of War.' They will focus extensively on the transformation goals that will drive U.S. military developments, and will pursue programs that promise affordable 'counter-transformational' capabilities. Accordingly, I expect our potential enemies will continue to emphasize the following:

Closing Thoughts

As I have noted above, a wide array of threats exists today and others are developing over time. Collectively, these challenges present a formidable barrier to our vision of a secure and prosperous international order.

Against this backdrop, the old defense intelligence threat paradigm, which focused primarily on the military capabilities of a small set of potential adversary states, no longer addresses the entire threat spectrum. More importantly, the emerging threats cannot be dismissed as 'lesser included cases.' In this environment, traditional concepts of security, threat, deterrence, intelligence, warning, and military superiority are not adequate. We must adapt and respond to these new conditions just as our enemies pursue new ways to diminish our overwhelming power.

While the challenges facing us are daunting, I am enthusiastic about the unique opportunity we have to transform our capabilities, personnel, and processes to better address the changing security environment. The intelligence transformation process - intended to improve our capability to provide strategic warning, better facilitate effects-based campaigns, provide greater insights into adversaries' intentions, improve preparation of the intelligence and operational battlespace, and more effectively support homeland defense - will be the centerpiece of my tenure as Director, Defense Intelligence Agency.

The Defense Intelligence community - composed of DIA, the Service Intelligence Centers, and the Combatant Command Intelligence Centers - is working hard to develop the processes, techniques and capabilities necessary to handle the current threat as well as new and emerging security challenges. As I said at the outset, we are at war on a global scale and the task is daunting. With your continued support, I am confident we will be able to provide our decision-makers with the intelligence they need.

PDF Version