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Visioning for the 21st Century:
A Process for National Security

Dr. Sheila Ronis

page 4 of 6 | previous page


Our military forces will be expected to function well along the entire war-peace spectrum of contingencies and operations other than war. We know that many of tomorrow's challenges and opportunities will be precisely because of the amount of continuous change and uncertainty in the world. We also know that there will be many different venues for conflict from deep space to cyber space, from urban areas to deep underground, and within the U.S. homeland as well as around the world.

There will also be challenges with transnational concerns that involve terrorism, intertwined economies, mass migration, drug trade, organized crime and the environment. The information age will reduce the timelines to react or recover, with instant global communications, information access and advanced technologies. Our fanatical adversaries from rouge states and terrorist groups and non-state actors will attack us in asymmetric ways using their strengths against our weaknesses using whatever is at their disposal from high technology information warfare, to weapons of mass destruction. They will utilize our free society to the full extent and catch us off-guard as they did on September 11, unless we develop better global processes with our allies abroad, and better interagency processes at home.

"Traditional" warlike conflicts will be reduced and replaced with far more difficult to defend conflicts. And, no matter what kind of conflicts we are engaged in, we will rarely be acting alone.

Most of the time, we will be working in concert with additional partners:

  • other government agencies, in an inter-agency mode
  • allies
  • coalitions
  • adhoc partners
  • non-government organizations, such as global corporations, and international organizations, such as the Red Cross.

We will be most effective if we are shaping the future. But, how do we shape? Only through preparedness and shaping can a stable world emerge. This will ultimately rely upon cooperative security arrangements around the world based on mutual trust and collective planning. But, when this fails, we must be able to be ready, capable, and agile enough to fight and win the nations wars, whatever they may look like.

These issues are not only the purview of the military. They are the responsibility of the entire National Security community -- and that community is very broad. Yet, it is that broad community that needs to develop a vision of the future. Once we have a vision, we will need to think about how to shape the future of the world. We will need a global strategy; region by region, country by country, including our own.

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