The 21st century is marked by blurring borders, contested spaces, fragile and failing states, the proliferation of dangerous technologies, increasingly capable non-state actors and proxy forces, and the aspirations of resurgent and rising states. Some states seek to remake the international order in their image and to their exclusive benefit. Meanwhile, indiscriminate trans-national phenomena like pandemic disease and climate change challenge even the strongest countries and further weaken those that are most vulnerable. These challenges cannot be addressed with a military force alone, nor can they be kept at arm’s length by a withdrawal from the world. In the face of these challenges, America must develop integrated approaches, build and renew partnerships, and modernize the global security institutions that have made the past 70 years of American global leadership some of the most peaceful and prosperous in human history.
Countering Sub-State Violence
While vulnerability to threats against the homeland has been significantly reduced since 9/11, violent extremism has fragmented and spread in several regions of the world and currently threatens U.S. allies, partners, and interests. This threat is directly related to state failure in countries like Yemen, Syria, Mali, and Somalia. Such places become hubs for violent extremist networks plotting insurgency and terrorism abroad, and from criminal networks engaged in everything from cybercrime to the trafficking of drugs, arms, and people. In such places, government institutions are so degraded that they lack the capacity to challenge these networks and may even become entangled in them, sometimes necessitating direct U.S. action.
Countering violent extremism requires a whole-of-government and whole-of-society approach adapted for complex, evolving local environments. The U.S. has a range of tools to bring to bear against the threat, ranging from prevention to military action, with a wide range of hard and soft security tools in between. As the threat from Al Qaeda continues and that from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) grows, we need to reconsider our strategy and the different tools at our disposal, shifting emphasis where necessary. In particular, the threat from foreign fighters traveling to conflicts in Iraq, Syria, Libya, and others and returning home or moving into additional countries to commit violence is of paramount significance to our security at home and to that of our allies and partners around the world. Meanwhile, the next generation of potential extremists are separated from classrooms and communities and lured onto battlefields. The pace and scope of their recruitment and radicalization to violence has spiraled out of control in this new era of viral content on social media.
Unilateral military endeavors in the Middle East contributed to the growing foreign fighter problem, and containing and defeating this threat will require multilateral cooperation. We must shift toward a partnership-based approach, building stronger relationships and facilitating greater cooperation with foreign governments to leverage collective impact for our common security. This partnership-based approach should include intelligence sharing, law enforcement cooperation, and partnered global special operations capabilities.
Beyond violent extremism and insurgency, brutality associated with human rights abuses, the plight of vulnerable populations, and scourge of criminal networks are all tremendous challenges. Vulnerable populations, including women and girls, LGBT individuals, the poor, and economic and political refugees are often subjected to discrimination, excluded from opportunities for advancement, and exposed to elevated risks of violence. Internally displaced persons and refugees fleeing violence are particularly subject to abuse and exploitation. Security forces in some countries continue to be complicit in gross human rights violations, with most such actions going unpunished. Gender-based violence is a particular challenge in many regions and is often cited by asylum-seekers a main reason for requesting status in the United States.
Today, the Unites States and its global partners need a coordinated response to comprehensively tackle the lure of violent extremist groups, mobilize action against the root causes and societal conditions that fuel their growth, and better counter hate-filled extremist propaganda. In this effort, we need new approaches to help youth in at-risk communities make healthy transitions to adulthood, and new ways to identify and disseminate what works in countering the drivers of recruitment and radicalization to violence at the community level. Building communities that are strong and resilient is more humane, efficient, and effective than dealing with the fallout when such communities are subject to cruelty, privation, and ideology-driven bloodshed. This will mean building integrated strategies that address the challenges of resource scarcity, internally displaced persons, and weak infrastructures that can be implemented by regional actors to prevent sub-state violence before it begins, and furthering strategies for halting it when it has already begun.
1. Maintain America’s unique capabilities to track, target, disrupt, and destroy extremist networks. Since 9/11, the United States has developed unprecedented intelligence, military, and law enforcement capabilities to combat global extremist networks. Direct U.S. action has had a devastating effect on a number of our adversaries, but such direct action alone cannot end the threat that these networks pose. Instead it must take place in the context of a broader strategy to counter violent extremism.
2. Establish a robust legal framework for targeted strikes. Targeted killings can be effective, but the civilian deaths they often cause also drive terrorist recruitment. Moreover, targeted strikes might be used against the United States at some point, as Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) technology proliferates and evolves. Therefore, we need strengthened congressional oversight of these programs, expanded to include all committees with appropriate jurisdiction. This is particularly true in situations where American citizens may have joined extremist organizations. Guided by a strong system of checks and balances, targeted strikes by UAVs should be nested in a larger regional strategy for countering violent extremism that also incorporates diplomacy, development, and security cooperation.
3. Build the capacity of partner nation security forces. Security cooperation must be integrated into a comprehensive approach to countering violent extremism that incorporates diplomatic and development efforts. To deter violent extremists, the United States must continue to support partner militaries with training and equipment by investing in partner nation capacity across a spectrum that includes intelligence, special operations, and conventional forces. Promoting respect for human rights must remain a cornerstone of all activities and programs aimed at countering violent extremism.
4. Help improve our partners’ civilian security sectors and criminal justice capacities. In many partner states, U.S. assistance to ministries of justice and law enforcement bodies is essential to bolster capacity for effective governance. The United States should expand criminal justice programming in technical areas for law enforcement, as well as for investigators, prosecutors, defense attorneys, and judges. Security sector assistance should reinforce human rights protections and equal application of rule of law, since the unfair application of justice has damaging effects for the relationship between citizens and their governments and can serve as a driver of extremism.
Fund programs dedicated to countering violent extremism (CVE). Establish a government-wide, dedicated funding system for countering violent extremism. A U.S. CVE Community Engagement Fund would fill a critical gap to counter the message of violent extremism, engage communities, facilitate alternative livelihoods for at-risk populations, and build local capacity for communities to sustainably lead their own efforts. An interagency and cross-functional fund, complementing existing mechanisms, would leverage common objectives and disparate tools. It is imperative that this be achieved through new resources rather than by redirecting existing funds away from other necessary and related priorities, such as promoting democracy, human rights, and good governance.
5. Improve intelligence sharing. Increase the sharing of information on known and suspected terrorists and legitimacy of its use. The next administration should continue efforts to share criminal and lead information to better screen travelers with bilateral watchlist exchange agreements and the use of INTERPOL to broaden partner capacity to identify suspect travelers.
6. Help partner nations establish lawful, effective counterterrorism regimes. We must broaden whole-of-government and rule of law-based counterterrorism regimes among foreign partners. Counterterrorism regimes tend to be the most advanced in countries that have experienced terrorism-related tragedies. With foreign fighters in Iraq and Syria from over 100 countries, foreign partners should urgently establish lawful counterterrorism regimes through legislative reform and criminal justice processes. The United States should continue to leverage expertise from the Department of Justice and foreign assistance from the Department of State to incentivize broader adherence to internationally accepted responses to terrorism. These responses must include legal reforms to criminalize terrorist activities and inchoate offenses. This should extend to designations and sanctions of terrorist organizations, as well as other efforts by the Department of the Treasury and others to cut off resources that may benefit terrorist objectives.
7. Leverage American pluralism as a strategic asset. The United States should continue leading efforts to construct a global ecosystem to counter violent extremism, facilitating partnerships between diaspora communities and home countries—from Boston, Morocco, and Belgium to Minneapolis, Sweden, and Somalia—to build a sense of community and belonging. The United States must also create cooperative partnerships to share the burden of CVE efforts, not only to reduce the burden on U.S. taxpayers, but to put non-U.S. faces at the forefront of CVE efforts.
8. Uphold our values and human rights. The United States must speak out, privately pressure, and when necessary take action when security partners undermine their own constitutions, international human rights obligations, and the tenets of free societies. If the U.S. government decides to suspend or limit foreign assistance to a country, security assistance too must be an option. When the benefits of U.S. security assistance to a government are outweighed by the public perception of U.S. support for blatant and systemic violation of basic human rights, we must consider ceasing or significantly curtailing that security assistance.
9. Use data-driven approaches to be effective. The U.S. government, working collaboratively with academia and civil society, should leverage its technological advantage to analyze, map, and mitigate radicalizing forces in foreign countries with data-driven approaches. This means using advanced analytics and performance measurement to guide programming, but also making serious investments in evaluation to ensure that we invest in what works. CVE approaches are most effective when they target societal or systemic drivers of radicalization, the understanding of which necessitates information gathering and analysis far above what is currently in place.
Strengthening Fragile States
Weak and failing states pose a direct threat to U.S. national security and economic interests. When states collapse, they become breeding grounds and safe havens for brutally violent extremist groups, like the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), which often move on to threaten neighboring states and the world at large. States key to U.S. security, including Egypt, Somalia, and Yemen, suffered political breakdowns in recent years, and several more are at risk of destabilization. Some regional powers are meddling in internal conflicts in neighboring states, using political manipulation and even proxy military forces to expand their own influence. Key examples of this include Russia’s annexation of Crimea and Iranian and Saudi support for competing factions in Iraq and Syria.
The United States has been a guarantor of security around the world in a way that Europe, Russia, and China cannot. Yet there is greater space for collaboration and burden-sharing in continuing to preserve regional security, particularly with European allies and through international institutions. State failure has the potential to destabilize entire regions, and by leading the development of effective regional institutions the United States can help nations find regional solutions that also support American interests. Global competition can be another driver of regional conflict, as evidenced by Russian support for Iran and Syria; conversely, when the global community is united around a common policy goal—such as with the United States, U.K., France, Germany, Russia, and China (the P5+1) negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program—regional stability can be strengthened.
In order to guarantee security and stability, and prevent bad actors from leveraging discord to their advantage, the United States needs strong and flexible military tools to discourage and disrupt other countries’ attempts at internationalizing local conflicts. This includes robust and globally integrated conventional and special operations forces capable of providing security sector capacity building in states at risk of collapse.
Fragile states face a litany of interconnected challenges that include weak central institutions with limited capacity, politicized military and security apparatuses, resource scarcity, dependence on neighbors for energy supplies, demographic challenges, food insecurity, and in some cases criminal or ideological insurgencies.
Some states suffer from internal conflicts tied to religion or ethnicity but also based on regional, tribal, or other power dynamics that are best dealt with (on an individual basis but in a systematic way). These conflicts have led to state collapse and the rise of ungoverned spaces in countries such as Libya and Syria, while in other nations, the result is security apparatuses that at times maintain order through undemocratic measures. This in turn risks the repression of minorities and citizens with legitimate concerns regarding the conduct of the state. Repression also breeds insurgencies and contributes to the extremist ideologies that fuel them. Weak states and security states represent two different types of fragile states, but both are vulnerable in different ways to internal conflict.
These fragile states create fertile ground for extremism, contagious diseases, and escalating conflicts. The costs of inaction are too high—not just for partner states, but for the U.S. as well. Today, a new approach is needed by the United States and our allies because military action alone will not create a safer world. This approach must include a strong focus on the promotion of both democracy and good governance. Countries in which trust in government is low, or abuses by law enforcement, the military, or other government forces are commonplace, inevitably become unstable. The resentment, hopelessness, and fear that come to characterize life under authoritarian rule threaten not only the regimes involved but regional stability and, in many cases, global security. Without democratic outlets and representative institutions, violent and extremist organizations often step in to fill the void.
But superficial democracy that extends only to elections cannot create strong, stable societies. Economic growth is critical to giving people hope and ensuring they are invested in the success and stability of their country and society. Robust economic growth cannot occur in an environment of corruption or government appropriation of private property.
Economic growth, stability, and security also require efficient borders. Freedom of travel is an essential human right, critical to the global economy, and at times a matter of life and death. At the same time, an unimpeded flow can make borders targets for exploitation. If not properly channeled and protected, refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) can be deeply destabilizing to both their home country and the countries to which they flee. Such migrations present both humanitarian crises that must be addressed and real security challenges, and American leadership is often necessary to prevent catastrophe.
1. Formally establish a national strategy to counter unconventional warfare and the use of proxy forces by regional actors against fragile states. This strategy must integrate all the tools of national power and will require renewed investment in core special operations capabilities, regionally competent conventional forces, forward presence, and sustained military-to-military contact.
2. The United States must remain committed to its leadership role in the NATO alliance. We must recognize our long term strategic interest in a Europe that is whole, free, and at peace. In a time of instability and uncertainty on many of the alliance’s borders, the U.S. should make substantial contributions to NATO’s rapid reaction force, among other efforts to bolster capacity across the alliance. At the same time, the U.S. should support enlargement for countries that qualify, as well as continue assistance for ongoing democratic transitions in Eastern Europe.
3. Encourage sustainable economic growth and security through regional integration. The United States should find and support initiatives that allow regional integration across countries to thrive in a sustainable way. These initiatives should encourage socio-economic security alongside sustainable development initiatives, and include strategic support for infrastructure in key sectors and corridors. Providing direct technical and financial assistance on project preparation through existing donor channels will strengthen localized energy projects, such as mid-sized water and wind programs, and make ports more efficient and well resourced.
4. Support distributed energy development and climate change adaptation efforts in fragile states. Distributed energy generation that places infrastructure in the hands of local actors has shown to be more effective in governance than centrally-run power plants. Since fragile states are at increased risk in a changing climate, it is essential for the United States and partners to support adaptation efforts.
5. Support fragile states and encourage good governance with every tool available. All of the various U.S. government resources must admit to address specific drivers of fragility with the goal of preventing crises. Targeted assistance cannot succeed without an integrated and whole-of-government foundation on which to build. Fragile states need broad and robust support, and we need to look past political hesitancy to send resources abroad. Our investment in good governance helps build the necessary foundation for security in the future, including funding for U.S. agencies at the frontlines of addressing the political, economic, and social drivers of fragile states. Those investments should also place a much greater priority on strengthening the key elements of strong democratic governance- including strong legitimate systems of justice.
6. Fight corruption—including that among American companies. Fighting corruption provides dividends in the form of greater opportunities for American businesses and more secure and stable countries that require less help in the future. The United States. should expand anti-corruption efforts by more closely monitoring the end use of U.S. foreign assistance, canceling agreements engendering significant corruption, and enforcing visa bans and asset freezes on officials perpetuating corruption. U.S. companies must ensure that they are not part of the problem by operating transparently in foreign countries. The SEC should fully enforce Section 1504 of the Dodd–Frank Act, requiring oil, mining, and gas companies to disclose the payments they make to U.S. and foreign governments.
7. Tie foreign aid to advancing democratic values. The U.S. government should more closely tie foreign aid to a state’s demonstrated liberal democratic advances. When states renege on meeting agreed-to international norms, we should curtail foreign aid to reinforce our insistence that all global players must meet their commitments. Furthermore, the United States should consider halting the expansion of military relations with some partners until these countries demonstrate more complete civilian control of their armed forces. Assistance should be guided by American strategic goals, but military assistance that neglects civilian oversight and good governance can make states more fragile.
8. Engage youth to address root causes of violent extremism. Young people are among the likeliest to be targeted by violent extremists. We should incentivize partners, regional organizations, and regional economic communities to engage their young citizens as a core constituency and to provide the political space for them to participate constructively in the civic affairs of their country. This will provide youth, who represent the majority of many such societies, with political empowerment and a space to address grievances, thereby reducing the appeal of extremist ideologies.
9. Address the challenge posed by returning foreign fighters. While governments should prosecute dangerous returnees based on legitimate evidence, it will not be possible for some partner nations to prosecute all foreign fighters returning home from places like Syria and Libya. Evidence will be sparse and, moreover, prisons could become breeding grounds for radical ideologies. Instead, those who cannot be tried or who pose no danger to society should be separated from those dangerous returnees and offered social and psychological services to reintegrate into their home societies.
10. Strengthen traveler screening to identify potential threats. Encourage risk- and pattern-based suspicionless searches to bolster traveler screening. The United States and our partners should strengthen traveler screening, leveraging tools such as Advanced Passenger Information (API) and Passenger Name Record (PNR) information to screen travelers based on legally derived data and patterns of behavior. Efforts to reveal suspicious travel should be paramount, including measures to inhibit “broken travel,” or efforts to obscure one’s intended destination.
11. Increase support for refugee assistance programs. The plight of refugees is not only a human tragedy, but is also an economic burden to states that absorb massive influxes of displaced people, usually from a conflict in a neighboring country. The U.S. should recognize both the humanitarian needs of refugees and but also work with the host country to ensure increased demand for services is not a destabilizing force. This can be accomplished via close work with international institutions.
12. Help fragile states prepare for a changing climate. The United States should increase the amount of civilian government and military resources devoted to international humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations throughout vulnerable regions. This means continuing to employ the resources of the Department of Defense, Coast Guard, United States Agency for International Development and the Department of State, and coordinating support with non-governmental organizations working at the local level.
Security Across Shared Spaces
Since our earliest days, America has relied upon and championed a free and open world. This includes the freedom of individuals to travel and communicate, the freedom of investors to move capital across borders, and the freedom of merchants to trade goods and services around the world. All of these freedoms are predicated upon open access to the global commons. Freedom of navigation across the world’s seaways undergirds the global and American economies. Modern telecommunications, navigation, ecological and environmental assessments, military operations, and trade are all reliant upon satellites. Our economy, infrastructure, and livelihoods, as well as those of a growing percentage of the world, increasingly depend upon open Internet access, which is why cybersecurity may be the defining frontline of the 21st century.
However, some countries have demonstrated their willingness to undermine established international norms concerning the global commons. Revisionist views of the maritime commons, anti-satellite tests, the “nationalization” of cyberspace, cyber espionage by
governments against private companies, and pollution exacerbating climate change are major global threats that can only be resolved cooperatively, and it is imperative that these global commons remain open, free, and above all, safe if we are all to prosper.
The bipolar world of the Cold War is gone. The multipolar world of the 21st century offers great possibilities and challenges as the nation-states of the world can either cooperate to solve global challenges or engage in competition that heightens the prospect of interstate war and intensifies sub-state conflicts. The United States must continue to lead the community of nations while promoting burden sharing and supporting regional solutions for regional problems.
The rise of China may be one of the most fundamental changes to the global system in modern times. Three decades of rapid economic growth in China have lifted hundreds of millions out of poverty, benefitting the United States, China, and the world. Much of China’s remarkable success is due to the open global system championed by the United States. However, China’s growing national power has also unfortunately corresponded in recent years with a more assertive push by Beijing for parochial interests—at times to China’s detriment. Provocative actions to reinforce its disputed maritime claims, attempts to reshape long-held international norms and laws, economic practices that weaken the competitiveness of non-Chinese companies and workers, and a disconcerting military modernization effort are just some examples. While containing China is neither desired nor feasible, ensuring that it evolves into a status quo power—one that abides by and upholds international laws and norms—is a key challenge confronting the United States in Asia.
China and other nations have invested in tools and technologies designed to deny open access to shared physical and virtual spaces. For example, China has tested rockets designed to shoot down satellites, and both Iran and China continue to develop specific military tools and doctrine to deny access to critical air and seaways. The United States must focus on establishing rules governing these shared spaces and ensuring that we maintain the tools and institutions, military and otherwise, to enforce those rules and defend the global commons.
This is especially true when it comes to cybersecurity because the issues are so new. America must lead the way in establishing common international criteria for dealing with cyber warfare and cyber espionage and for identifying and holding malicious actors responsible in the cyber realm. With so much left to define in cybersecurity, we have the opportunity and responsibility to establish the right international norms. The inevitable degree of mistrust between nations is especially present in the cybersecurity realm where even attributing actions to actors can be difficult. This makes international cooperation all the more essential. Accordingly, we must establish common criteria for dealing internationally with cyber warfare, attribution, and cyber espionage.
Like cyberspace, energy markets are highly international and interconnected, and are central to the threats and opportunities that the U.S. and its partners are facing in the 21st century. Climate change is contributing to increasingly frequent severe weather events and resource scarcity, which can be threat multipliers for today’s conflicts and can exacerbate those of the future. Furthermore, the global production of fossil fuels is a driver of instability or conflict, with some of the largest oil producers being weak or failing states or competing for control over resources potentially leading to interstate conflict (as in the South China Sea). Guaranteeing our security in the 21st century will require new thinking about the ways that we use energy at home as well as the manner in which we arm, mobilize, and fuel our forces as they confront global challenges.
The impacts of climate change threaten to destabilize communities, cities, and even entire nations. Asia’s cities are likely to be hardest hit; some will be flooded, while others will face mega-droughts and desertification. Food and water crises caused by climate change could cause additional conflicts. Considering that Asia will be home to over half of the world’s middle class by the next decade—and potentially able to buy more American-made products at the exact time when we are looking to boost our exports—climate change-induced economic setbacks in the region could severely undermine the U.S. and global economies. Helping Asian states confront this challenge head on will ensure our long-term economic and security interests. In particular, rolling back the effects of extreme climate will require cooperation between the United States and China, the world’s two biggest energy users.
Climate change is not the only challenge that we must face together in cooperation with other powers. The rise of globalization allow new and reemerging infectious diseases can travel rapidly across the world, infecting non-discriminately and knowing no borders or boundaries, as we've seen with Ebola in West Africa or Middle East Respiratory Syndrome in the Middle East. By creating and investing in global health infrastructure and policies, from prevention to detection to response, we can create not only a more stable, but also a healthier, happier, and more just world.
1. Protect and secure shared international spaces—physical and virtual. The United States should develop a whole-of-government strategy towards the Asia-Pacific region in order to secure global commons—including– space, climate, sea access, and cyberspace. This strategy must be complemented by a corresponding military operational concept to protect against aggressive regional forces that seek to dictate terms over questions of territorial sovereignty of smaller states, and dominate regional sea lanes, cyberspace, or other shared spaces that are governed by international norms.
2. Develop a China strategy. Our China strategy should be oriented around the notion of friendly competition—rather than accommodation or containment. We should appoint a China Coordinator to direct the government-wide use of political, economic, and military tools to send clear signals to China about what the United States will and will not tolerate. The United States should work with allies and partners in the region to strengthen their capacities to stand up to China if necessary, but we must do so in a way that is not needlessly provocative. Examples include bilaterally and multilaterally strengthening cybersecurity norms, civilian maritime patrol, and international institutions, as well as setting up information sharing mechanisms between like-minded states. Finally, The United States should leverage China’s desire to be a respected member of the international community by actively engaging with China on those issues where it upholds established international norms.
3. Continue to signal a strong U.S. commitment to defend globally shared spaces with our allies. The U.S. military should conduct frequent and public freedom of navigation exercises and overflights throughout Asia’s maritime global commons, including the Northern Pacific. We must take care to avoid singling out any one country for criticism while ignoring another country’s similar actions. Finally, the U.S. government should conduct capacity building for regional partners and allies’ maritime forces, and continue to integrate operations with the Japan Self-Defense Forces to the extent allowed by Japanese law.
4. Set the international rules for space and cyber. The United States must lead an international effort to create to create a globally accepted set of standards for the military use (or non-use) of space and cyberspace. Such an agreement should conform to established international norms as much as possible. More broadly, we should establish a council of key international stakeholders to establish guidelines and governance for state sponsored operations in cyberspace—and for implementation of digital sanctioning as a tool of diplomacy.
5. Develop a national cyber strategy. The United States needs a cyber strategy that unifies efforts among the government’s departments and agencies, the private sector, and the international community. The administration should draft overarching guidance that unifies its existing cyber strategy documents, establishes clear and measurable objectives and goals for the various departments and agencies, ensures that there is public sector buy-in for relevant sections, and creates an empowered agency or organization to oversee its implementation.
6. Ratify the Law of the Seas Treaty. Advocate for the ratification of UNCLOS by arguing that it is in our national security and economic interests. The United States already behaves in a way that conforms to international law; ratification will not in any way change existing U.S. policy. Moreover, doing so will ease our efforts to establish a multi-stakeholder initiative to reach an agreed upon code of conduct for the South and East China Seas. It will also send a strong signal to our longstanding friends—Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan—and other countries in the region that the United States is serious about rebalancing to Asia and remains committed to our partnerships.
7. Support tough diplomacy to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. Keeping Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon is of central importance to American security. Iran was forced to the negotiating table after decades of isolation because the United States imposed and enforced an aggressive global sanctions regime alongside our allies. American-led talks with the U.K., France, Germany, Russia, and China (the P5+1), are the only action that has halted Iran’s nuclear program in years. With military options always on the table, we should support all efforts for a diplomatic outcome that keeps America safe and nuclear weapons out of the hands of Iran.
8. Reduce nuclear stockpiles worldwide. Leading states, including the United States, should actively press those states not yet engaged in the nuclear disarmament effort—especially Pakistan—to freeze the size of their arsenals and their fissile material stockpiles as a first step toward multilateral, verifiable reductions. In order to do this effectively, the United States should strengthen the international organizations that are the key lynchpins in preventing the spread of nuclear weapons—most notably the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
9. Lead global efforts to secure nuclear materials. The United States should increase funding for efforts to improve the security of nuclear and radiological materials worldwide. To do so, we should spearhead the negotiation of the first International Convention on Nuclear Security. Such a convention could establish binding standards based on the IAEA’s currently voluntary guidance, as well as a process for assessing the implementation of those standards. Most important, a convention could create a mechanism—the conference of the parties to the convention—to meet periodically to review and make needed improvements in the regime.
10. Become more technologically adaptable and innovative. The world faces a varied and unpredictable threat landscape, from cyber to hybrid warfare, which tests the ability of traditional approaches to developing strategic technologies and capabilities. The Department of Defense should increase its focus on a broader range of smaller investments, developing capabilities up to the prototyping and demonstration stages. Also, the Department of Defense must prioritize investment in the institutional capacity to adapt to new requirements, including the ability to more rapidly conceive of, prototype, evaluate, and scale-up production of capabilities.
11. Ensure that defense supply chain security is continually improved. The Department of Defense and national security agencies should bolster efforts to secure the supply chain for electronic components critical to national security. "Trusted Foundry" programs that reduce the risk of an adversary tampering with critical electronic components during production should be expanded, and incentives need to be established for superconductor manufacturers to stay in the United States and remain globally competitive.
12. Allow the Department of Defense to continue leading on energy efficiency. Congress must defend and expand efforts by the Department of Defense to procure and deploy fuel efficient military vehicles that use clean fuels. We must also promote the development of strategically located fuel infrastructure by establishing biodiesel plantations in the Pacific that are dedicated to fueling U.S. ships. Making energy efficiency a requirement in all military equipment procurement processes—especially new vehicles and forward operating equipment—will encourage the increased use and energy efficiency of existing tools.
13. Lead the global effort to fight climate change. Working bilaterally with large emitters like China and India, and multilaterally at the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change talks in Paris in December 2015, the United States should negotiate significant and enforceable reductions in emissions that cause climate change.
14. Improve global capacity to fight infectious diseases. The 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa highlighted the security threat posed by infectious disease and the disastrous consequences of weak and ineffective health systems. In order to respond effectively to similar threats in the future, America must fully support and implement the Global Health Security Agenda and work to improve countries' capacities for preventing, detecting, and responding to infectious diseases and outbreaks. We must examine the lessons learned from the Ebola outbreak and find ways to improve international coordination between diverse actors ranging from the Center for Disease Control and the World Bank to the Gates Foundation and Doctors Without Borders.
15. Train and prepare local health workers to respond to outbreaks. The foundation of a rapid response resides in a cadre of trained and compensated health workers equipped with the tools and technology that empower them to effectively do their jobs. U.S. agencies should focus resources on training robust indigenous community and clinical health workforces. Specifically, we should capitalize on the preliminary efforts to strengthen the health systems in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea that began at the height of the Ebola outbreak, and should continue through the last case and into recovery to build resilient public health capacity. One aspect of these efforts should be to focus on the community health worker networks and integrate them into an effective national health system.