National Security in the 21st Century
Report of the National Defense Panel - December 1997
A Changing World:
Political decisions of the twentieth century may define the environments of the twenty-first century
New ethnic-cultural-religious polarization National boundaries redrawn Powerful nonstate entities
These developments have implications for our approach to security arrangements, alliances, and international agreements on everything from nonproliferation of weapons of mass destruction, to trade and the environment. We will continue to honor what has been a strong obligation: to support our historic European and other long-term allies and partners, both bilaterally and as a part of NATO. Increased interaction between NATO and the countries of Eastern Europe and newly independent states invites military and economic cooperation that can have profound effects on world stability and long-term U. S. military requirements.
Our involvement in Asia will likely increase and change over time, making our alliances and relationships in this region even more important. We envision a reconciled, if not a unified, Korean peninsula— an eventuality that has significant security implications for the United States as well as for our relations with Japan and China. China and India, with their growing populations and economies, promise to be increasingly important to our strategic interests.
We will continue to be involved in regions that control scarce resources, such as the Middle East and the emerging Caspian Sea areas for oil, as we try to hedge our own and our allies' resource dependencies. We will also continue to be involved with the nations of Africa in areas of mutual interest.
Neither can we overlook the importance of those who share our borders and our hemisphere— Canada, Mexico, Central and South America, and the Caribbean nations. Developments in these countries can have a profound effect on our security and economic well-being.
The impact of burgeoning population growth will not be evenly distributed over the globe. The world's poor and developing countries face the greatest rates of population increase and the concomitant challenge of providing jobs, health care, decent living conditions, and requisite social services. This challenge will be especially serious in urban areas, which are already experiencing acute shortfalls in services. Such developments may trigger recurrent humanitarian crises characterized by famine and disease that could require military involvement and other responses by the international community. Conversely, it should be noted that the slowing of population growth— and even declines— in other parts of the world will create economic challenges, including strong downward pressure on defense spending in most European countries and Japan.
At the same time, the flow of private capital into the less-developed world can be a force for positive change. The explosion of communications and information accessibility will influence political, cultural, and economic patterns, perhaps profoundly. Critical resources such as water or arable land may become scarcer than oil, exacerbating political, economic, and ethnic tensions. However, access to oil in the Gulf, the Caspian Sea, and elsewhere will likely remain critical to global economic stability. Finally, perceived disparities of wealth, where vast riches are controlled by a relatively few countries, could also create tension and present political and moral challenges for governments.
In short, we are in the early stages of a revolution in military affairs¾a discontinuous change usually associated with technology but also representing social or economic changes that fundamentally alter the face of battle. The rapid rate of new and improved technologies¾a new cycle about every eighteen months¾is a defining characteristic of this era of change and will have an indelible influence on new strategies, operational concepts, and tactics that our military employs. If we do not lead the technological revolution we will be vulnerable to it.
1. The first world, Shaped Stability, describes an environment in which international cooperation on economic development and security issues has created a relatively stable international order. The world's wealth is greater and more evenly distributed. The rise of such transnational challenges as terrorism, organized crime, and environmental degradation has created broad public understanding of the importance of cooperative security arrangements. As a result, the American people have accepted vigorous engagement abroad as essential to their security. For example, the deterrence and prosecution of international crime has required U. S. law enforcement agencies, the intelligence community, the military, and various international government and nongovernment police institutions to collaborate regularly. Partially as a consequence of this cooperation, the rule of law is increasingly accepted internationally.
Nevertheless, this world is not without its continuing frictions. These frictions include demographic pressures, shortages of natural resources, weapons proliferation (including weapons of mass destruction), and continuing ethnic and national tensions. Although somewhat ameliorated by global prosperity, these tensions exist in isolated pockets of the developing world, occasionally spilling over into the developed world. The U. S. military's principal role as an instrument of national security is to augment diplomatic, economic, and political efforts and protect against their failure.
The future is hidden even from the men who make it. –Anatole France
2. The second world, Extrapolation of Today, is a baseline projection of today's uncertainties into an increasingly competitive and politically diverse world. Although the global economy continues to expand, some countries remain disadvantaged. Economic expansion is most pronounced along the Pacific Rim, where China has become the key economic and political state in the region. India, with a larger middle class and possibly a greater population than China, is also important. Some rogue states, as well as nonstate actors, have acquired the means of delivering weapons of mass destruction. The American homeland cannot be viewed as a sanctuary from their use. Although the United States is still the leading world power, its sustained political-economic-military dominance is uncertain.
3. The third world, Competition for Leadership, envisions a traditional balance of power world in which a hostile regional alliance (or possibly a single nation) is rising to challenge the United States. As a result, the United States adapts existing security relationships and enters into new alliances and trading partnerships to balance and, if necessary, counter these challenges. An all-Asia trading bloc has been formed in the Far East. A new alliance of South and Southwestern Asian nations has formed, centered on opposing the political, economic, and cultural influence of the West. Increased military spending worldwide and regional arms races are prominent features of this world. Moreover, many states have acquired weapons of mass destruction and the means to deliver them. Although ethnic and humanitarian tensions still exist, their relative significance in the international system has been reduced owing to the resurgence of nation-state conflict.
Clearly recognized emerging threats foster public support for the expansion, and use, of military power. The U. S. military must now plan for the possibility of major combat operations against powerful enemies capable of quickly concentrating force against our interests within critical security regions. The military must also position itself to defend the homeland against attacks, the most likely being covert introduction of weapons of mass destruction, attacks by ballistic and cruise missiles, or information systems disruption.
4. The fourth world, Chronic Crisis, describes deteriorating global economic conditions coupled with the breakdown of international institutions. Weakened nation-states, nonstate organizations, and coalitions fight over scarce resources. Alliances are fluid, unpredictable, and opportunistic. Nationalism and ethnic hatreds have formed violent independence movements in Asia, South Asia, and the Middle East. Pivotal states are in crisis. Virtual narco-states (host states dominated by drug organizations) exist in regions of South America and Southeast Asia. Weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery are widely available. Unchecked massive migrations and failing municipal infrastructures accelerate urban chaos. The United States is in danger of losing much of its will and ability to influence international events.
The American public— perceiving little chance of influencing the chaos abroad— is preoccupied with domestic security as nonstate actors increasingly penetrate the United States with illegal drugs, terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, and transnational crime.
The World in 2020:
Hedge against uncertainty Curtail the outdated/ less useful Explore new concepts Adapt over time
The World in 2020:
The required military transformation must be done within the context of a parallel review of the entire national security establishment.
The range of possible outcomes is wide and impossible to predict with any certainty. Each will present unique conditions, many very different from those of today. The central challenge to our defense structure, therefore, is to move forward in a manner that enables us to respond effectively to whatever does occur. This strongly suggests a hedging approach to preparing for the future. We must maintain adequate current capability as we adapt. As we learn more about new ways to apply military power, we can shift the emphasis of our forces while curtailing outdated or less useful forces and operational concepts. As time passes we will learn more about evolving challenges and competitors while continuing to adapt our forces accordingly.
The U. S. military must not go through this transformation alone. Our entire national security establishment and our alliance relationships must change in parallel if we hope to sustain global stability through regional partnerships. Alliance structures, both formal and informal, will grow in importance and should be viewed as essential ingredients to regional stability. For example, we must encourage China to be a constructive member of the international community even as we balance the security needs of our allies with the concerns of China. We must encourage Russian stability as well. At the same time, we may face new regional competitors that threaten U. S. ability to influence events in regions of vital interest. Above all, we must recognize that while protecting traditional interests (nuclear deterrence, support of alliance structures, protection of critical resources, the safety of Americans abroad, etc.), an entire new array of operational challenges is emerging that our forces of 2010– 2020 must be able to handle.
We can assume that our enemies and future adversaries have learned from the Gulf War. They are unlikely to confront us conventionally with mass armor formations, air superiority forces, and deep-water naval fleets of their own, all areas of overwhelming U. S. strength today. Instead, they may find new ways to attack our interests, our forces, and our citizens. They will look for ways to match their strengths against our weaknesses. They will actively seek existing and new arenas in which to exploit our perceived vulnerabilities. Moreover, they will seek to combine these unconventional approaches in a synergistic way.
THE ASYMMETRIC THREAT
An adaptive adversary:
exploiting his strengths— attacking our weaknesses
Attack our will to fight Employ imaginative tactics and techniques Deny access to forward locations Exploit WMD technology Target fixed installations and massed formations Move the fight to urban areas Combine approaches for even greater synergy
We should recognize that potential competitors will seek every advantage. Their forces almost certainly will not be a mirror image of ours. They may attempt to:
DEMANDS for power projection continue to increase
CHALLENGES to power projection continue to increase
As flowing water avoids the heights and hastens to the low lands, so an army avoids strength and strikes weakness.INFORMATION OPERATIONS
A future opportunity, competition, and vulnerability —all at once
Even if we retain the necessary bases and port infrastructure to support forward deployed forces, they will be vulnerable to strikes that could reduce or neutralize their utility. Precision strikes, weapons of mass destruction, and cruise and ballistic missiles all present threats to our forward presence, particularly as stand-off ranges increase. So, too, do they threaten access to strategic geographic areas. Widely available national and commercial space-based systems providing imagery, communication, and position location will greatly multiply the vulnerability of fixed and, perhaps, mobile forces as well.
At the same time, constraints on forward-basing (i. e., infrastructure outside the continental United States: ports, installations, prepositioned equipment, and airfields) and advanced technologies threaten to impede our access to key regions. Geographic realities are putting greater demands on power projection capabilities. For example, as oil and gas fields in Central Asia gain in strategic value, we may need to project power greater distances, farther from littorals or established bases. Political realities also drive our standoff options. As we attempt to protect our own forces, we are left with a dilemma: our allies, whom we are trying to protect, will remain exposed¾a situation that requires new provisions for their defense. Adaptive enemies, emerging technologies, greater distances, and altered alliance relations will present new conditions to U. S. military forces that must be mastered if we are to maintain our current ability to project power.
Already, the commercial development of information technology is so widespread, accessible, and cheap that it promises to create both opportunities and risks for our nation. For example, access to, and the meaningful synthesis of, information will be a key aspect of relations among states and nonstate actors, in peace, crisis, and war. The entity that has greater access to, and can more readily apply, meaningful information will have the advantage in both diplomacy and defense. More ominously, this information arena will also create new vulnerabilities as we depend more and more on computer systems and telecommunications to manage financial operations, public utilities, and other key elements of economic systems.
Effective use of information superiority demands that we move rapidly to the next level of "jointness" among the uniformed services: full commonality of U. S. military information systems. This commonality must be interoperable with the information systems of our allies as well, if we are to reap the advantages of coalition operations.
Given the importance of information— in the conduct of warfare and as a central force in every aspect of society— the competition to secure an information advantage will be a high-stakes contest, one that will directly affect the continued preeminence of U. S. power.
We must anticipate that our enemies will seek to use commercial remote-sensing and communications satellites, along with space-based timing and navigation data, to accurately target U. S. forces with high degrees of accuracy. In turn, they will seek to degrade our abilities to track and target them. If we do not control the military utility of space, the advantages we now hold in information operations and more traditional military operations could be put at risk. Therefore, in addition to exploiting space for our own benefits, we must protect our space assets to include our commercial assets and deny our enemies the opportunity to gain military advantages through their use of space.
An opportunity for us AND our adversaries A lead we cannot lose An asset we must protect WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION Proliferated Available Affordable Simple
Vulnerability of citizens at home and troops abroad
Cities challenge our ability to project power and mount military operations. Urban control— the requirement to control activities in the urban environment— will be difficult enough. Eviction operations— the requirement to root out enemy forces from their urban strongholds— will be even more challenging. Urban operations have historically required large numbers of troops while diluting technological advantages, making for extremely tough fighting. Urban structures and human densities vastly complicate targeting and maneuvering. Many of our current weapons are often ineffective in urban environments because of trajectory limitations, built-up areas, subterranean passages, and unobservable targets. Our ability to employ force could be significantly hampered by the proximity of noncombatants, vital infrastructures, and government and nongovernment institutions.
We should make every effort to avoid conducting urban operations unilaterally. Allies, particularly those in the affected region, will likely be instrumental to mission success and eventual transition back to peacetime conditions. Civil-military operations will be fundamental to the aftermath of such battles.
Prepare now: Contingencies
Urban control Urban defense Eviction operations Targeting and strike
Noncombatants Skyscraper "jungles" Vital infrastructure Government institutions
These weapons threaten security at home. The 1995 use of sarin gas in the Tokyo subways stands as a stark and ready reminder of the chemical threat. Biological weapons are an even more serious problem. For example, they could be readily introduced into mass transportation systems and quickly spread to thousands of people with devastating consequences. Small nuclear devices smuggled into population centers could also produce thousands of casualties.
Abroad, such weapons challenge our ability to project combat power. Their use, or threat of use, could deter allies from granting the United States forward operating areas and degrade or impede the ability of our forces and allies to effectively complete the mission at hand. Campaigns could be waged by our enemies in several venues: from driving wedges among our allies to direct use against American forces in a region to retribution against communities within the United States.
To address the challenges posed by weapons of mass destruction, the United States will need a comprehensive approach that begins with excellent intelligence actions to prevent or slow proliferation, to protect our forces and citizens from attack, and to deal with the consequences of such an event, at home or abroad. Collectively, efforts like these would begin to form the basis of a sufficient weapons of mass destruction deterrence policy for the twenty-first century. The capability to manage the consequences of such weapons of mass destruction, in particular, will be an important tool in strengthening deterrence by denying an adversary the political and psychological benefits of use. As we did with the Cold War nuclear threat, we must invest in preparing for the "unthinkable." Consequence management will require effective coordination among local, regional, national, and international agencies and organizations, both here and overseas. We must take care to ensure that the proper training facilities are available, such as the Center for Domestic Preparedness in Alabama.
Criminal enterprises, to include the illegal drug trade, are also detrimental to the well-being of our society. Their access to enormous amounts of money allows them to purchase the goods and services they need to penetrate our communities more effectively and put our citizens at risk. With ties to rogue states, corrupt public officials, and terrorist organizations, these criminal entities could present a significant challenge to our domestic security.
In short, the increasing erosion of the sanctity of international borders as barriers to the challenges described above will force us away from our existing paradigms; in response, international cooperative agreements, intelligence systems, consequence management structures, and a variety of intergovernmental jurisdictional and legal procedures will have to be developed and adapted.
National Security in the 21st Century
Report of the National Defense Panel - December 1997