"This year's threat assessment illustrates how dramatically the world and our threat environment are changing. Threats are growing more interconnected and viral. Events that at first seem local and irrelevant can quickly set off transnational disruptions that affect U.S. national interests. It's a world in which our definition of "war" now includes a "soft" version. We can add cyber and financial to the list of weapons being used against us. And such attacks can be deniable and non-attributable.
So when it comes to the distinct threat areas, our statement this year leads with cyber.
And it's hard to overemphasize its significance. Increasingly, state and non-state actors are gaining and using cyber expertise. They apply cyber techniques and capabilities to achieve strategic objectives by gathering sensitive information from public- and private-sector entities, controlling the content and flow of information, and challenging perceived adversaries in cyberspace.
These capabilities put all sectors of our county at risk, from government and private networks to critical infrastructures. We see indications that some terrorist organizations are interested in developing offensive cyber capabilities and those cyber criminals are using a growing black market to sell cyber tools that fall into the hands of both state and non-state actors.
This year we include natural resources as a factor affecting national security, because shifts in human geography, climate, disease, and competition for natural resources have national security implications.
Many countries that are extremely important to U.S. interests, which sit in already volatile areas of the world, are living with extreme water and food stress that can destabilize governments. This include s Afghanistan and Pakistan in South Asia, Egypt, Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Libya in the Arab world, and many other nation-states across Africa and in our own hemisphere. Water challenges include not only problems with quality and quantity but with flooding. Some countries will almost certainly exert leverage over their neighbors to preserve their own water interests. And water infrastructure can be considered a viable target for terrorists.
In the United States, Germany and Japan, less than 15 percent of hous ehold expenditures
are for food. In India and China, that figure climbs to more than 20 percent. In Egypt, Vietnam and Nigeria, it rises to greater than 35 percent. And in Algeria, Pakistan and Azerbaijan, more than 45 percent of household expenses are just for food.
Terrorists, militants and international crime groups are certain to use declining local food security to gain legitimacy and undermine government authority. Intentional introduction of a livestock or plant disease could be a greater threat to the United States and the global food system than a direct attack on food supplies intended to kill humans. So there will almost assuredly be security concerns with respect to health and pandemics, energy and climate change. Environmental stresses are not just humanitarian issues. They legitimately threaten regional stability.
On the issue of terrorism, the threat from core al-Qa'ida and the potential for a massive coordinated attack on the United States is diminished, but the global jihadist movement is a more diversified, decentralized and persistent threat. Lone wolves, domestic extremists and jihadist-inspired groups remain determined to attack western interests, as they have done most recently in Libya and Algeria.
The turmoil in the Arab world has brought a spike in threats to U.S. interests. The rise of new governments in Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen and Libya, along with ongoing unrest in Syria and Mali, provide openings for opportunistic individuals and groups. In these and other regions of the world, extremists can take advantage of diminished counterterrorism capabilities, porous borders and internal stresses, most especially a high proportion of unemployed young males.
Weapons of mass destruction development and proliferation are another major threat to U.S. interests. North Korea has already demonstrated capabilities that threaten the United States and the security environment in East Asia. It announced last month that it concluded its third nuclear test, and last April it displayed what appears to be a rogue mobile intercontinental ballistic missile.
We believe North Korea has already taken initial steps towards fielding this system, although it remains untested. It also used its Taepodong-2 launch vehicle to put a satellite in orbit in December, thus demonstrating its long-range missile technology. These developments have been accompanied with extremely aggressive public rhetoric toward the United States and the Republic of Korea.
Iran continues to develop technical expertise in a number of areas, including uranium enrichment, nuclear reactors and ballistic missiles, from which it could draw if it decided to build missile-deliverable nuclear weapons.
These technical advancements strengthen our assessment that Tehran has the scientific,
technical and industrial capacity to produce nuclear weapons. This makes the central issue its political will to do so. Such a decision will reside with the supreme leader, and at this point we don't know if he'll eventually decide to build nuclear weapons.
The United States and our allies are tracking Syria's munitions stockpiles, particularly its chemical and biological warfare agents, which are all part of a large, complex and geographically dispersed program. Its advanced chemical weapons program has the potential to inflict mass casualties.
It adds to our concern that the increasingly beleaguered regime, having found its escalation of violence through conventional means inadequate, might be preparing to use chemical weapons against the Syrian people. Besides regimes' use, nongovernmental groups or individuals in Syria could also gain access to such materials."