The Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper provides a description of the factors he considered to be potential global and regional threats to national security. From the reports prepared in 2015 and 2016, the perception of the DNI changes, albeit slightly with regards to the potential threats. Most of the observed change is on the priorities accorded to each of the threats in the rating. In 2015, the highest rated threat from the DNI’s perspective was cyber attack. In 2016, the first rated threat was also cyber and technology. The DNI explains that this threat occupies the highest rating as a result of factors such as availability of many attack options including possibility of remote hacking. The DNI further explains that in spite of the advanced defenses against cyber attacks, the vice continues to constitute a great threat to the society, especially due to its potential use by countries such as China, Syria and Russia against the U.S. In 2016, the emergence of the internet of things is one of the factors mentioned to be potential accelerators of terrorism. Brito and Watkins (2011) also offer a similar view on the rise of cyber threats across the world.
The second threat as at 2015 was identified to be counterintelligence, conducted by countries such as China and Russia due to their advanced capabilities to conduct espionage (Clapper, 2015). In the 2016 report, the second threat is reported to be terrorism. According to the report, terrorism is on the rise due to the increased resilience of terror groups such as ISIL and regrouping of major terror communities including actors. In the first report from 2015, terrorism was placed at position three and was mainly blamed on the Sunni extremists, while counter intelligence comes in at the fifth ranking in the 2016 report. This could probably be due to the reduction in the level of participation of different countries. Weapons of mass destruction come in third and fifth in the 2016 and 2015 reports respectively. This rise in rating can be attributed to increasing participation of countries in the development of weapons of mass destruction. As technology advances, countries such as North Korea, China and Russia are increasingly becoming involved in the production of such weapons. In some of these countries like in China, the government as well as the anti- government forces is involved in weapon development resulting in greater potential for weapon advancement.
In the 2015 report, space and counter-space threat follows the threat of weapons of mass destruction to the country. This makes it rated at number five, relative to the fourth position in the 2016 report. The DNI clearly indicates through the 2016 report that such advancements can be attributed to technological advancements, ubiquitous innovation and the growing private sector investment. The emergence of electronic warfare and tactics such as destruction, denial and disruption has contributed significantly to the growth of space and counter- space threats in the country (Clapper, 2016). The last three threats in 2015 and 2016 include transnational organized crime, natural resource and economic security and human security in that order. Transnational crime is one of the threats that have continued to grow probably due to the emergence of new tactics applicable in activities such as drug and human trafficking as well as in various other forms of crime. The fact that these three last threats maintain their position for the two years indicates either stagnation or growth that is matched across board.
The regional threats also show slight discrepancies, especially in terms of prioritization. This only portrays the threats as less dynamic yet more prone to being affected by different technological advancements.
Brito, J. and Watkins, T. (2011). Loving the cyber bomb? The dangers of threat inflation in cyber-security policy. Harvard National Security Journal, vol. 3, pp. 39- 84.
Clapper, J. (2015). Worldwide threat assessment of the US intelligence community, Senate Armed Services Committee. Statement for the Record. Office of the Director of National Intelligence, United States of America.
Clapper, J. (2016). Worldwide threat assessment of the US intelligence community, Senate Armed Services Committee. Statement for the Record. Office of the Director of National Intelligence, United States of America.