What do China, Russia, bubonic plague and global warming have in common? They are among the top threats to U.S. national security, according to the U.S. government.
The Government Accountability Office polled four government agencies on what they saw as the biggest threats to American security. The result was 26 threats identified by the Department of Defense, Department of State, Department of Homeland Security and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
Here are the 26:
Chinese global expansion. “China is marshalling its diplomatic, economic, and military resources to facilitate its rise as a regional and global power,” the report said. “This may challenge U.S. access to air, space, cyberspace, and maritime domains. China's use of cyberspace and electronic warfare could impact various U.S. systems and operations.”
Russian global expansion. “Russia is increasing its capability to challenge the United States across multiple warfare domains, including attempting to launch computer-based directed energy attacks against U.S. military assets. Russia is also increasing its military and political presence in key locations across the world."
Iran. Iran is expanding the size and capabilities of its military and intelligence forces, as well as developing technology that could be used to build ICBMs and cyberwarfare.
North Korea. North Korea is developing ICBMs that can hit North America.
Unstable governments. Terrorism, extremism and political instability in Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean could tax U.S. resources needed for counter-terrorism and humanitarian relief.
Terrorism. “Terrorists could advance their tactics, including building nuclear, biological or chemical weapons, or increase their use of online communications to reach new recruits and disseminate propaganda.”
New adversaries and private corporations. New states could arise that threaten the U.S. Interestingly, the GAO report worries about “private corporations obtaining resources that could grant them more influence than states.”
Information operations. Adversaries such as Russia, China and Iran will take advantage of social media, artificial intelligence and data crunching to wage information warfare.
Artificial intelligence. AI will allow adversaries to design better weapons.
Quantum communications. Quantum technology could result in communications that can’t be intercepted or decoded by U.S. intelligence, while also making U.S. communications more vulnerable to interception.
Internet of Things. Networks that control critical infrastructure, such as the power grid, are vulnerable.
Drones. “Adversaries are developing autonomous capabilities that could recognize faces, understand gestures, and match voices of U.S. personnel, which could compromise U.S. operations,” GAO said. “Unmanned ground, underwater, air, and space vehicles may be used for combat and surveillance.”
Biotechnology. States, terrorists and criminals could use DNA modification to create super-soldiers.
Emerging technologies. New technologies such as 3-D printing, which could allow terrorists to manufacture weapons.
Weapons of mass destruction. More actors are developing them.
Electronic warfare. Other nations are developing technology that can disrupt U.S. communications, computers and satellite networks.
Hypersonic weapons. Russia and China are developing Mach-5-plus weapons that can penetrate U.S. anti-missile defenses. Significantly, the report notes that “there are no existing countermeasures” to these weapons.
Counterspace weapons. In addition to Russian effort, “China is developing capabilities to conduct large-scale anti-satellite strikes using novel physical, cyber, and electronic warfare means.”
Missiles. Not just land- and sea-based missiles, but also “space-based missiles that could orbit the earth.”
Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) platforms. Future advances in AI, sensors, data analytics, and space-based platforms could create an environment of “ubiquitous ISR,” where people and equipment could be tracked throughout the world in near-real time.
Aircraft. China and Russia are developing faster and longer-ranged aircraft, including stealth aircraft.
Undersea weapons. “Russia has made significant advancements in submarine technology and tactics to escape detection by U.S. forces. China is developing underwater acoustic systems that could coordinate swarm attacks—the use of large quantities of simple and expendable assets to overwhelm opponents—among vehicles and provide greater undersea awareness.”
Cyber weapons. In addition to Russia and China, Iran and North Korea are developing cyberattack capabilities that could target a variety of systems, such as air traffic control or health care.
Infectious diseases. Climate change, and increased global travel, could spread drug-resistant pandemics.
Climate change. More extreme weather, such as more frequent hurricanes and droughts, and rising sea levels could disrupt food and energy supplies. Melting Arctic ice is opening new sea routes in the north, “potentially increasing Russian and Chinese access to the region and challenging the freedom of navigation that the United States currently has.”
Mass migration. Disasters, whether natural or man-made, will spur population flows that could strain U.S. military and civilian resources.