Defense Media Network

Global Trends 2030: How Does the Intelligence Community See the Future?

Part 2 of a series covering the National Intelligence Council's look into the future

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Future Thinking

While many organizations – inside and outside of government – of necessity look to the future to attempt to discern what the future security environment portends, the National Intelligence Council (NIC) represents the “Pros from Dover,” in this regard.  The NIC supports the director of national intelligence in his role as head of the intelligence community (IC) and is the IC’s focal point and governing organization for long-term strategic analysis.

Since its establishment in 1979, the NIC has served as a bridge between the intelligence and policy communities, a source of substantive expertise on intelligence issues, and a facilitator of IC collaboration. The NIC’s National Intelligence Officers (NIOs) – drawn from government, academia, and the private sector – are the intelligence community’s senior experts on a range of regional and functional issues.

NIC logoA brief look at the internal workings of the NIC is helpful in understanding how the community pulls together a comprehensive publication like GT2030. Within the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), the NIC carries out its mission under the direction of the deputy director for intelligence integration and the chairman, vice chairman, and counselor, who lead a corps of NIOs. These NIOs serve as the “analytic arm” of the National Intelligence Manager (NIM) teams and are responsible for producing finished intelligence analysis. They support the NIM’s efforts to integrate U.S. intelligence throughout the entire IC and develop and implement unifying intelligence strategies to address the nation’s most pressing national security concerns.

Importantly, none of this suggests that the NIC or GT2030 has “done” anyone’s strategic thinking and planning “for” them. Nothing could be further from the truth.  What we do suggest is that the combined resources of the United States IC to collect, analyze, process and explain a wealth of data and turn it into something actionable provides one-of-a-kind, world-class intelligence analysis.

Readers of GT2030 should use this report as a lens to focus their own strategic thinking and planning. Simply stated, the NIC has done much of the heavy lifting for us already.

 

Using GT2030 – and an Initial Analysis

Among GT2030s projections: China's economy is set to overtake that of the United States in the 2020s, but China will not challenge the United States’ preeminence or the international order; Asia will become more powerful than both North America and Europe combined, based on population, GDP, military spending, and technological investment. Courtesy: Futureatlas.com/blog

Among GT2030s projections: China’s economy is set to overtake that of the United States in the 2020s, but China will not challenge the United States’ preeminence or the international order; Asia will become more powerful than both North America and Europe combined, based on population, GDP, military spending, and technological investment. Courtesy: Futureatlas.com/blog

So how should we all use GT2030 as this lens? Government and industry should look to GT2030 in order to determine future requirements to address threats against the United States and its interests. Why? Because this will drive future platforms, systems, sensors, and weapons needed by the U.S. military and other agencies such as the Departments of State and Homeland Security. Indeed, technology represents a huge focus of GT2030 – more do than in the previous four editions of Global Trends – and this makes the report especially valuable for industry.

Piling on to this “bottom line up front,” in the previous post, GT2030 does make a number of projections, based, primarily, on the mega-trends and tectonic shifts the report identifies.

Among its projections:

  • China’s economy is set to overtake that of the United States in the 2020s, but China will not challenge the United States’ preeminence or the international order;
  • Asia will become more powerful than both North America and Europe combined (based on population, GDP, 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.

 

Alternative Futures – in Brief

But beyond these projections, GT2030 looks at four substantially different “worlds” we may encounter circa 2030. Based upon what we know about the mega-trends and tectonic shifts as well as the possible interactions between the mega-trends, tectonic shifts, and the game-changers, GT2030 has delineated four archetypal futures that represent distinct pathways for the world out to 2030.  At one end of the spectrum is a Stalled Engines world in which the risks of interstate conflict increase and the United States retrenches. At the other extreme is a newly rebalanced and Fused world in which social, economic, technological, and political progress is widespread.  In the middle are two other possibilities: a Gini-out-of-the-Bottle world in which inequalities dominate or a Non-state World in which non-state actors flourish both for good and ill.  None of these alternative worlds is inevitable.  In reality, the future probably will consist of elements from all of these scenarios.

Armed with this brief, “bottom line up front” and a look into potential alternative futures, we can now deep-dive in future posts and see how readers can use GT2030, as well as this additional analysis, as the lens for their organizations in order to best prepare for an uncertain future – as well as make that future far less opaque.

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Captain George Galdorisi is a career naval aviator. He began his writing career in 1978...