Searching for National Intelligence

The newly released National Intelligence Strategy identifying the top threats to the U.S. and the Department of Defense’s (DoD) report on the military impact of climate change are a stinging and sobering one-two punch from the 21st Century. But, our national leaders in the White House and on Capitol Hill are too busy engaging in futile political trench warfare to notice or act.

The intelligence assessment explicitly states that, “the strategic environment is changing rapidly, and the United States faces an increasingly complex and uncertain world in which threats are becoming ever more diverse and interconnected.” The challenges to the established international order are coming from Russia and China but also from the “increasingly isolationist tendencies in the West”.

Emerging technologies and cyber threats are identified as a dagger threatening the heart of American life, “critical infrastructure, public health and safety, economic prosperity, and stability.” Climate change, migration and increasing urbanization are straining the capacity of all governments to operate effectively and fracturing societies.

DoD’s report is a detailed litany of the challenges climate change is posing for military bases and operations. It references but does not project how much worse the impacts will be as the climate crisis intensifies in coming decades.

The Pentagon is examining how it can reduce its carbon footprint and is considering small scale next generation nuclear reactors as one response. That could offer the added value of using military reservations as test beds for smaller-scale advanced reactors. And both the Congress and the president have approved legislation that can spur the development and deployment of these reactors. But that only addressed a part of the problem. What’s missing is a “whole of government” approach.

PGS is proposing a Next Generation Nuclear Alliance with countries that support strong global security and non-proliferation standards and that are prepared to respond to the challenges of emerging disruptive technologies on nuclear infrastructure and operations. The diverse, multidisciplinary partners of the Global Nexus Initiative also are assessing and making recommendations for how smaller advanced nuclear reactors can be effectively safeguarded and secured in the face of rapidly evolving global changes and challenges. It is these new “break the mold” partnerships and approaches that are necessary to manage the threats of this century.

The Balkanization of Washington’s policymakers and its policymaking apparatus – both official and non-governmental – is a significant impediment to effectively managing this new fused-threat environment. And that leaves many who are trying to push the system to wake up and adapt to these new realities unfortunately left to continue to search for signs of national intelligence in America.

Kenneth Luongo, President, Partnership for Global Security