I’m sure we all have heard this questions posed lately and it will likely be asked of the candidates for the 2016 Presidential election as that progresses: “What is the greatest threat to our national security?”
Lately, we have heard a number of answers.
Do a little googling or listen to some analysts and they’ll name Russia as the greatest threat. General Joe Dunford, who has been nominated to be the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said, “If you look at their behavior, it’s nothing short of alarming.” Mr. Putin’s actions have been a cause of concern and the United States public policies regarding Russia haven’t done much of note with regards to the situation. I’ll leave the details to the reader as GorT thinks Russia is number 2 or 3 on the list.
James Clapper, Director of National Intelligence, believes that cyber attacks are the number one threat. “Cyber threats to U.S. national and economic security are increasing in frequency, scale, sophistication and severity of impact; [and] the ranges of cyber threat actors, methods of attack, targeted systems and victims are also expanding”, said Clapper in Congressional testimony earlier this year. All true and concerning but there are steps we can take at the government and private sectors can take to mitigate this so while a threat, GorT might rephrase this to be cyber attacks against the inept bureaucracy that is our federal government. For example, our government has not met its own goals of moving to IPv6 which could help address some of the security weaknesses of our systems.* Again, though, this might be a number 3 or 4 on the list.
Any honest analysis of the recent Obama administration’s nuclear deal with Iran says that at best it is a bad deal and at worst disastrous. It is a haven of ISIS and when you mix the two, it won’t be good. The current administration, again, hasn’t done much (at least publicly) to deal with the situation and is – in some people’s eyes – reversing course on military action with regards to ISIS and Iran seeing little progress otherwise. By no means is GorT downplaying the threat here – I would rank this as the number 2 threat to national security largely due to scope of the impact and the timeline.
And specifically the Chinese economy. That is the number one threat to our national security. But China’s economy is the 2nd largest in the world. True. But look at the recent numbers and you’ll see how it is imploding. Chinese leaders are in-fighting and trying to deal with their failing economy. Now to their credit, many have named China (as a whole) as a threat – for instance, General Dunford said that it and ISIS are right behind Russia in his list. A collapse of the Chinese economy will have more than ripples around the world impacting stock markets and other economies in the global market. However, what is more concerning is how the Chinese leadership will react when this is imminent or occurs. It is likely that they will work to divert the world’s attention (and blame) from their economic collapse. Prognosticators, including GorT, think that they might lash out – maybe at their nearby neighbors (Taiwan, anyone? Maybe Korea?). This is supported by the increasing anti-American rhetoric that is coming from China. Hopefully, if the media does their job, we will hear more about this as the Chinese state visit nears.
* IPv6 isn’t the panacea for the cyber weaknesses of our systems. Laziness and bureaucracy are the largest threat followed by a lack of effort (both in funding and work) are what impedes us improving our national security posture. For example, having a system that holds highly sensitive information such as the information found on SF-86 forms (click to see how and what they are, if interested), probably shouldn’t be on a system exposed to the internet – even with firewalls interposed. Instead, a programmatic gap to ensure proper and limited access and function should be the minimum requirement.