1995 Congressional Hearings
Intelligence and Security

The Worldwide Threat to U.S. Interests

Prepared statement of Lt. Gen. James R. Clapper Jr., USAF, director, Defense Intelligence Agency, to the Senate Armed Services Committee, Jan. 17, 1995.

I testified before this committee last year on threats to U.S. interests and identified three principal concerns: North Korea, political/military developments in Russia and the proliferation of technology associated with weapons of mass destruction. These three areas, as well as a myriad of lesser regional challenges, remain of primary importance to the defense intelligence community as we stretch our resources to cover these complex and sophisticated intelligence targets.

Before I get into the specifics of these threats, however, or address the issues the committee asked that I cover, I want to mention a growing concern of mine.

In his Atlantic Monthly article entitled "The Coming Anarchy," Robert Kaplan says, "A large number of people on this planet, to whom the comfort and stability of a middle-class life is utterly unknown, find war and a barracks existence a step up rather than a step down." Certainly we have seen ample evidence over the last several years that much of the Third World rests on a bed of kindling wood with unpredictable flash points. Dealing with these "premodern" or "irregular" threats is a challenge that we in military intelligence have just begun to confront systematically.

I will address in more detail both traditional threats from a regional perspective as well as some of the nontraditional problems we in military intelligence are facing. I ask, however, that you bear in mind the potential for this flash-point warfare that could ignite virtually anywhere and with little notice, but which has wide-ranging implications for U.S. policy and military operations.

Asia. North Korea continues to be my major near-term military concern. In my view, the nuclear framework agreement, coupled with the leadership transition, offers the greatest promise of a significantly more stable Korean Peninsula than I have seen in the last 10 years. I believe North Korea's leadership now recognizes its chances for regime survival are better served by strategies emphasizing economic improvement and political-economic accommodation rather than those stressing implacable confrontation with the outside world.

That said, even in the face of this potentially historic change, I continue to focus on the realities on the ground. Thus far we see no significant changes in North Korea's conventional military posture. Concentrated in the southern part of the country and able to transition to war in a matter of days, the North's military continues to significantly outnumber the combined ROK [Republic of Korea] and U.S. forces. To be sure, this military has shortcomings and vulnerabilities, but the nuclear framework accord has done nothing to diminish the North's current capabilities to conduct a war against the South. Moreover, the North's military preparations continue apace, with additional long-range artillery and missile systems being moved closer to the DMZ [demilitarized zone].

In the future the key questions will be whether the North follows through on the nuclear agreement and whether, finally, they begin to reallocate very scarce resources away from the military. In any event, North Korea will remain a potentially very unstable place for the next few years.

The other country in the Far East we watch carefully is China. In part this is because of its strategic nuclear capability: A small deterrent force but with considerable reach, this force will grow in the next decade. And we are watching how China deals with its rapid economic growth.

As a result of defense spending increases, the military is buying a small number of modern fighter aircraft and air defense systems from Russia and is investing heavily to improve its indigenous production capabilities. This is not necessarily threatening; some force modernization is to be expected because China has a large, old military.

Over time we will be observing the degree to which China dedicates its national resources to the military and the implications this has for the ways in which China might use its military forces. We see signals, for example, that Beijing intends to continue developing its military capabilities to enable it to more effectively protect its interests close to its own borders. Such military improvements will undoubtedly cause concern among its neighbors.

Eurasia. The tragic events in the former Yugoslavia receive most of the attention in Europe. Ultimately a political solution is the only answer for ending the conflict. Unfortunately, I'm convinced intense fighting will resume next spring even if the current cease-fire holds and could then spin out of control, potentially spreading beyond the boundaries of the former Yugoslavia and leading to greater involvement of military personnel from NATO countries and elsewhere.

Within NATO itself I'm concerned about continuing tensions between Greece and Turkey, as reflected by last fall's crisis in the Aegean over territorial sea limits and each country's simultaneous military exercises. The alliance is weakened by this persistent acrimony, and I worry about a clash neither side wants growing out of an inadvertent incident during such exercises.

Over the longer term events in Russia remain the key to future security on the Eurasian land mass. There is a growing perception in Russia that President [Boris] Yeltsin is increasingly isolated, and there is deepening political disarray in Moscow. Russia's very difficult transition to a democratic government and a market-oriented economy is not assured.

At the same time, the military has been under extraordinary pressure. As Deputy Defense Minister Kokoshin has said, "The military is fighting for its survival." A precipitous decline in defense budgets has severely impacted the military's ability to reform itself, and we anticipate that continued economic problems will adversely affect the military for a number of years.

Strategic nuclear forces have been relatively the least affected, and I am confident that they remain under the centralized control of the Russian president and the general staff. The conventional forces, however, have been particularly hard hit.

It sometimes is alleged by some Western observers that Russia's military is in total disarray. This is clearly not the case. The general staff has orchestrated the largest strategic withdrawal in the history of the world in an organized manner. The Russians are taking logical cuts, and their force development activities make sound military sense.

On the other hand, things beyond their control -- particularly budget cuts -- are taking a huge toll. By virtually every objective standard used to measure military capabilities -- manning, readiness, training, morale, logistics and materiel maintenance -- the Russian military continues to suffer major problems. As a result, it is currently only capable of conducting limited conventional operations in and around the periphery of Russia. And as we have seen in Chechnya, even that small-scale operation has experienced profound problems.

While these degraded capabilities are likely to confront the Russian military through at least the rest of this decade, we are still concerned about a number of military-related developments in Russia. For example, we continue to note large investments in their deep underground program -- a concern I know is shared by Sen. [Strom] Thurmond. In addition they maintain active chemical warfare and biological warfare research and development programs. Politically, moreover, we believe that START [strategic arms reduction treaty] II ratification in the Duma [Russian parliament] is problematic, and the Russians are continuing to express intense opposition to the flank limitations of the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe.

Middle East/South Asia. In the Middle East we continue to closely monitor the threat posed by Iraq and Iran.

In the case of Iraq the military continues to suffer from the results of Desert Storm. Only about one half the size it was during the Persian Gulf war, its military continues to be constrained by U.N. sanctions. Saddam [Hussein, Iraqi president] is succeeding in rebuilding some military capabilities and, we believe, hiding missile and WMD [weapons of mass destruction] capabilities. But overall, large portions of the regular military continue to suffer localized shortfalls in morale, readiness, logistics and training.

Nevertheless, the events of last October, in which the bulk of two Republican Guard divisions were quickly moved to the Kuwaiti border, remind us that Saddam retains residual capability to project power. Then, early warning by the intelligence community enabled us to deploy a deterrent force in a timely manner. The ability to limit Iraq's future offensive military capability is directly related to two factors: first, continued enforcement of the sanctions; and second, the forward presence of U.S. military power to deter and, if necessary, to defeat Iraqi forces.

Iran's military is also in the midst of rebuilding from the decade-long war with Iraq. But Iran has major economic constraints as well that have slowed its weapons acquisition plans. Hard currency shortages and a poor debt servicing record have limited Teheran's ability to acquire weapons systems in the international arms market.

Spending between $1 [billion] and $2 billion a year on arms, Iran has focused on missiles and WMD capability and some limited growth in conventional capabilities. Some systems they are acquiring, such as Kilo submarines and anti-ship cruise missiles, could complicate operations in and around the Persian Gulf; however, overall both the quality and quantity of arms they are purchasing remain constrained by budgetary shortfalls. We expect that trend to continue.

Degraded military capabilities of Iraq and Iran, as well as those of Syria, coupled with progress in the peace process, mean that the major near-term threat of conventional aggression against Israel continues to be low. Beyond the immediate terrorist threat I believe the greatest threat to Israeli security over the midterm will be from the increased numbers of long-range surface-to-surface missiles equipped with weapons of mass destruction warheads.

In South Asia, India and Pakistan remain a concern because of the presence of very large forces in close proximity across the line of contact, as well as their pursuit of ballistic missiles and weapons of mass destruction. We believe both Islamabad and Delhi are preoccupied with internal problems and recognize that war is not in the interest of either. However, as always, this remains a potential flash point because of the danger of miscalculation and the prospect for rapid escalation of a crisis.

Transnational and Subnational Forces. Because of the nature of your request I have focused principally on the traditional military capabilities of major regional actors. However, the lessons of the past few years are apparent: We must also pay increased attention to forces at both the transnational and subnational levels. We can, unfortunately, anticipate that conflicts such as those in Somalia, the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda will be far more likely than the kinds of major regional aggression that have confronted us in the past.

Whether these kinds of conflict impact on U.S. interests is not for me to say. But as a purely factual matter, their numbers are increasing and at a minimum they will confront the world with humanitarian disasters involving millions of people. Thus far, these conflicts have had a relatively indirect impact on the West's "interests" -- largely directed toward our conscience and our urge to make things better. However, it will only be a matter of time before the impact, whether it is major refugee movement or some other phenomenon directed against one of our close allies, is much more direct.

When the United States does choose to commit its military to these kinds of operations, the challenges to the intelligence community are immense. Now we must focus not on some geopolitical "big picture" view of the threat but rather on the precise nature of the actual threats to our deployed forces and the operational environment in which they will deploy.

Threat analysis must be much more concrete and specific. Of course we still provide in-depth orders of battle, targeting data and traditional military capabilities analysis. But we must also provide the commanders on the ground with detailed information regarding local customs, ethnicity, biographic data, military geography and infectious diseases. All of these can have a direct bearing on the threats posed to our forces. A couple of examples:

The information we provide regarding the operational environment in which our forces will operate goes well beyond direct threats to U.S. servicemen and women. Though the threat of contracting AIDS by our deployed forces is very low, the disease is having a tremendous impact on many Third World countries -- whether that of a country in which we might be conducting a peacekeeping operation or one that is participating with us in a multilateral operation. Moreover, in countries where the HIV rate exceeds 50 percent in the military, the long-term impact on both the military as an institution and the fabric of society is devastating.

Having initially taken a regional approach, let me now briefly address the nature of threats in a functional manner by examining proliferation and weapons systems that could confront our forces.

As I indicated, one of my major concerns is tracking the continued proliferation of technologies associated with weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems. Approximately two dozen countries have ongoing programs to develop or acquire weapons of mass destruction. While it is possible to slow the proliferation of these weapons, a country that is intent on gaining such a capability will eventually do so. And in addition to the weapon itself, many countries, particularly in the Middle East, are also gaining the capability to build surface-to-surface missiles as delivery system.

By the turn of the century we could see many countries with the capability to mate a WMD warhead (whether chemical, biological or nuclear) with an indigenously produced missile of 500-1,000 kilometers or greater range. At the same time, however, we see no interest in, or capability of, any new country reaching the continental United States with a long-range missile for at least the next decade.

With respect to conventional weapons systems development, the picture is mixed. There are very advanced weapons systems under development in all of the major industrial countries. At the same time, however, declining defense budgets coupled with a very soft international arms market is limiting the ability of countries to develop, field and sell these systems.

This is no more true than in Russia. The defense establishment has been attempting to protect the research and development of major systems despite a defense budget that is less than a third of that of the former Soviet Union -- and getting smaller. While R&D [research and development] does continue on many advanced systems, major difficulties are evident.

The Russians themselves are complaining that virtually every big ticket item -- including the Navy's latest-generation nuclear-powered attack submarine, the Air Forces' multirole fighter interceptor and the Army's helicopter program -- are having problems because of funding limitations. This trend can be expected to continue and could get worse as Moscow is forced to make very difficult procurement tradeoff decisions.

In response to the needs of the acquisition and planning communities to cope with a variety of foreign threats, DIA has established the Department of Defense Futures Intelligence Program. Key to this program is the development of a series of mutually supportive analytical products and a force-projections data base -- looking forward 20 years -- that respond to a wide variety of consumer requirements. These products, joint efforts with the services and unified commands, include global, regional and major threat countries' military force assessments, as well as a family of scenarios specifically designed to support defense weapons acquisition programs. The force-projections data base is the single authoritative data base for such information.

Finally, while we tend to focus on current and future high technology big ticket items, it's important to remember that the world is already awash in weapon systems. These range from the relatively simple small arms and mines to more advanced hand-held surface-to-air missiles to increasingly advanced anti-ship cruise missiles. Any country with hard currency can and will get these systems. And while they won't lead to military defeat of U.S. forces, they certainly hold out the prospect of casualties. As we have seen in the past, this can have both a major impact on force planning for peacekeeping operations and a significant domestic political impact.

In summary, I believe the issues of greatest concern to defense intelligence are essentially the same as those I identified last year: the Korean Peninsula; political/military developments in Russia and the worldwide proliferation of technology associated with weapons of mass destruction.

Similarly, I would emphasize two additional factors that I highlighted last year. First, we face a high degree of uncertainty regarding the nature of the threats that will confront U.S. interests in the early 21st century, and second, the world's major militaries are in a decade of transition, the end points of which are not entirely clear.

The end of the Cold War is still playing itself out, and as a result of decreasing threat perceptions and generally declining defense budgets (China being a notable exception), militaries are not enjoying the resource prominence they once did. In the majority of countries in the world, friends and foes alike, militaries are getting smaller and readiness is declining.

If these trends continue, the prospects for well-trained, well-equipped major regional aggressors developing after the turn of the century may be relatively low. Even so, the likelihood of ethnic, religious and sectarian violence both within countries and across borders is likely to grow -- the world is not likely to be a stable place. Moreover, continuation of these favorable trends is not preordained. Depending on the nature of political events, particularly in Europe, Asia and the Middle East, we could see a reversal in many of the gains of the last several years.

Have the major, direct threats to the security interests of the United States declined over the last several years? Of course. But as I said last year, there are midrange dangers and long-range uncertainties that continue to be at the forefront of U.S. national security policy. In such an era I remain convinced that we in defense intelligence will play a critical role in providing accurate, timely data to both our war fighters and policy makers to ensure the success of that security policy.

As I close, I am compelled to say a word about the resource implications of the range of issues I have just covered. This committee has often heard me talk about managing risk.

As we continue our drawdowns I'd ask that you, too, reflect on the range of military threats, risks and concerns highlighted in the statement (and then remember that I haven't even mentioned counterterrorism, counternarcotics or counterintelligence, all of which are monitored to some degree by defense intelligence). These are all issues against which I am called on to devote resources to collect, analyze and produce intelligence. Thus far, at least, I haven't had anyone tell me I can start foregoing any of these issues.

On the high end of the threat spectrum there are numerous countries, all of which are capable to varying degrees of conducting military operations that could impact on U.S. interests. For these countries the demand is that I can track the following kinds of issues in some detail: political/military intentions, military doctrine, strategy and tactics, all the way down to basic order-of-battle analysis -- and everything in between (training, readiness, logistics, etc).

And of course we must be technically versed in all the weapons systems this country has in order to give our forces the best chance to defeat those systems. This is getting increasingly complicated as so-called gray systems are fielded and use the technology of several countries. Ultimately, to defeat that foreign force requires exceptionally fine-grain analysis of the potential enemy's infrastructure for targeting purposes (and again this information is only collectible over a very long period of time, in advance -- if we wait until the crisis develops, it's way too late).

Note as well that there is a time dimension to our intelligence production. I have addressed the maintenance of a current body of knowledge on all these potential threats. But we have to look well forward as well, out a decade or two in the case of support to the weapons acquisition community. This obviously implies a whole separate set of data requirements.

On the lower end of the threat spectrum, as I suggested earlier, flash-point warfare is a particular challenge for those of us in military intelligence. Here the traditional tenets of military intelligence, rooted in order of battle and combined arms warfare analysis, are less and less relevant. Now we must be steeped in the culture and ethnic makeup of multiple tribes and clans within the same "country." How do they fight? What are they fighting over? Are there centers of gravity? How are they making use of very low technology weapons? Beyond the forces, what is the geographic environment in which our forces might have to operate; what, for example, is the best route to evacuate our embassy people out of Kigali [capital of Rwanda] -- a critical issue we needed to address last year? These kinds of data requirements are substantially different than those demanded to support large scale conflict, but are equally complex. As we face more and more of this new environment, clearly, we are not

standing still.

We have taken several initiatives within the military intelligence community to help us better understand and deal with the growing phenomena of flash-point or irregular warfare:

The point of reciting the tremendous range of data requirements we have is to reinforce the notion of managing risk. I can't in good conscience tell you we are doing everything equally well against all of these targets. Moreover, I can certainly say that over time, as we take more cuts, our collection and analytic elements will suffer.

My approach will continue to be to surge people from one crisis to another, but that, too, has a cost; we will do so at the expense of maintaining critical regional and technical expertise. I understand the need for drawdown and will continue to see that it is implemented in as rational a manner as possible. But it is incumbent on all of us -- this committee as well as the leadership of defense intelligence -- to make every reasonable attempt to minimize the risk inherent in still deeper cuts. This concludes my statement.