Every year the US intelligence community produces a succinct report designed to provide a high level overview of threats (see The 2022 Annual Threat Assessment). This is issued to coincide with testimony by the Director of National Intelligence and the biggest agencies of the IC (CIA, DIA, NSA and FBI).
This year’s report follows a theme that the world is growing in complexity and uncertainty. This complexity and uncertainty occurs in an interconnected world where great power competition is clearly underway.
At a high level, threats are seen as:
- Threats from nations, especially China, Russia, Iran, DPRK
- Threats from criminal actors including some supported by nations, as well as terror groups
- Factors that exacerbate other threats, like the continued impact of COVID, the fast moving state of technology, and the impact of shifts in the environment including climate change.
In each of these categories the issue is not what the threats are, there is widespread agreement on that. The issue is what can be said about the capabilities and intentions of human adversaries, and what can be projected about the impact of the non-human forces. Perhaps of even more significance is what these threats mean for business and government decision-makers.
Key Excerpts From The 2022 Annual Threat Assessment:
“These challenges will play out amidst the continued global disruption resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, contention over global efforts to deal with a changing climate, increasingly powerful non-state actors, and rapidly evolving technology, all within the context of an evolving world order where the continued diffusion of power is leading actors to reassess their place and capabilities in an increasingly multipolar world.”
“China increasingly is a near-peer competitor, challenging the United States in multiple arenas—especially economically, militarily, and technologically—and is pushing to change global norms and potentially threatening its neighbors. Russia is pushing back against Washington where it can—locally and globally—employing techniques up to and including the use of force. In Ukraine, we can see the results of Russia’s increased willingness to use military threats and force to impose its will on neighbors. Iran will remain a regional menace with broader malign influence activities, and North Korea will expand its WMD capabilities while being a disruptive player on the regional and world stages.”
“Ecological degradation and a changing climate will continue to fuel disease outbreaks, threaten food and water security, and exacerbate political instability and humanitarian crises. Great power competition and disputes between wealthy and low-income nations will threaten progress on the collective action that will be needed to meet global goals for reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.”
“Regional instability and conflicts continue to threaten U.S. persons and interests. Some have direct implications for U.S. security. For example, the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan threatens U.S. interests, including the possibility of terrorist safe havens re-emerging and a humanitarian disaster. The continued fighting in Syria has a direct bearing on U.S. forces, whereas tensions between nuclear-armed India and Pakistan remain a global concern. The iterative violence between Israel and Iran, and conflicts in other areas—including Africa, Asia, and the Middle East—have the potential to escalate or spread, fueling humanitarian crises and threatening U.S. persons”
Recommendations For C-Suite Action:
- Now more than ever, enterprises need to ensure decisions are informed by a deep understanding of reality. We use the term “Intelligent Enterprise” as the objective state, and provide an extensive array of resources and best practices to help move enterprises along on their journey to optimizing information for informed decisions. Our primary recommendation for the C-Suite is that leadership understand the principles of an intelligent enterprise and ensure the organization is taking the right strategic approach to improvement. Review more at: Decision Intelligence and Establishing The Intelligent Enterprise.
- Threats to organizations can manifest themselves in many ways, including attacks against raw material supply, sub-component supply, reputation, physical attack and threats to executives. Understanding that threats exist is only the first step. Threat understanding must lead to appropriate action in defense.
- An intelligent enterprise is looking for far more than just actionable intelligence on threats. Actionable intelligence on opportunities is also critical. Ensure this is part of your objective.
- Understand your own personal cognitive strengths and weaknesses, including the very human mental thought patterns that lead to Cognitive Bias. Now more than ever we all need to operate as trained analysts. Dive deeper into this topic at: An Executive’s Guide To Cognitive Bias in Decision Making
- Improve the pace and professionalism of your organization’s scenario planning, red teaming and exercise program. This will broaden awareness of the need for continual action in identifying and mitigating risks while identifying and capturing opportunities.
At OODA loop we use this information to ensure our assessments are on a firm foundation, it is one of the many sources we leverage along with our own deep experience in business risk, to produce more focused assessments for business leaders who need actionable insights on the threat. We provide links to these more focused assessments here:
Russia Threat Brief: Russia should be considered a kleptocracy, where the rule of law exists as long as it supports the objectives of the state and the ruling oligarchs. All U.S. businesses should exercise extreme caution before doing business in or with Russia. Our special report on The Russian Threat captures insights on the full spectrum of Russian capabilities and intention, including their actions in cyber conflict. For more read the continuously updated Russia Threat Brief.
China Threat Brief: Several countries have the capability to inflict harm on U.S. interests. However, China is the only one who has declared an intent to challenge the U.S. for global supremacy. China remains a closed society where challenges to party rule are met with harsh, sole crushing response. China is a powerhouse, but one with weaknesses. The same statement carries over to military and intelligence domains. For more read the continuously updated China Threat Brief.
Iran Threat Brief: Iran has been investing heavily in cyber operations and is experienced in conducting both espionage and attack. Iran is undemocratic, with power centered in a Supreme Leader (Ali Khamenei). A President exists but has little power compared to the Supreme Leader. But below them is a vibrant and powerful country of over 81 million. Iranian education systems and scientific pursuits make them a technologically empowered nation that can mount surprisingly sophisticated cyber operations. Iran Threat Brief.
North Korea Threat Brief: North Korea describes itself as a “self-reliant socialist state” but it is really best described as a Stalinist dictatorship. Leader Kim Jong-un holds power and dominates all functions through a mix of violence, rewards and intense propaganda. A common misperception about the DPRK is that they are so backwards and poor that they cannot mount a modern cyber war. But reality is that their policy of “Songun” (military first) means there are resources for capabilities considered strategic, and that includes cyber war. North Korea Threat Brief
The OODA C-Suite Report: Operational Intelligence for Business Leaders: What is the value of an informed decision? At OODA Loop, we seek to surface decision intelligence that provides meaningful perspective for leaders and analysts looking to make the most informed decisions possible. This list below represents developments that fit the category of operating in a VUCA world, identifying and responding to Gray Rhino risks, or opportunities from advancements in emerging technology domains. These are issues we think our members should be tracking and map to collection requirements for our team to keep you as informed as possible. We categorize and summarize these big trends into Geopolitical Issues, Technology Trends, Cyber Risk Issues, and Recommendations for Action.
Health Security Including Continual Impact of COVID-19: This page serves as a dynamic resource for OODA Network members looking for Coronavirus/COVID-19 information to drive their decision-making process.
Global Risk and Geopolitical Sensemaking page: Focused reporting on geopolitical topics including what the C-Suite needs to know about Russia, China, Iran, DPRK.
Cybersecurity Sensemaking: Security and resiliency topics include geopolitical and cyber risk, cyber conflict, cyber diplomacy, cybersecurity, nation state conflict, non-nation state conflict, global health, international crime, supply chain and terrorism.
C-Suite Considerations Regarding Current Geopolitical Tensions: Something is different in the geopolitical situation today. The reasons are probably a combination of factors that include the pandemic, the rise of the global grid of cyberspace, plus the payoff of years of planning and strategic moves by our adversaries. But whatever the reasons, the world today is more complicated and more dangerous than the world of just a year ago, and in many cases the risks being faced by open societies have never been seen before. The changes are so significant, OODA recommends all business leaders take stock of the geopolitical situation and assess how the nature of these changes should impact your business strategy.
Advanced Technology Sensemaking: This page serves as a dynamic resource for OODA Network members looking for insights into the current and future technologies. We focus on the technology developments you need to track to inform your decision-making. This collection of resources includes content produced exclusively for OODA members as well as a continually updated list of insights from our daily pulse report.
Security In Space: The last decade has seen an incredible increase in the commercial use of space. Businesses and individual consumers now leverage space solutions that are so integrated into our systems that they seem invisible. Some of these services include: Communications, including very high-speed low latency communications to distant and mobile users. Learn more at: OODA Research Report: What Business Needs To Know About Security In Space