Along with presidential campaigns comes an array of what candidates deem the greatest threat to the United States. Senator Ted Cruz said in July, “The single greatest threat to the United States, if Iran acquires a nuclear weapon, is that of an electromagnetic pulse,” while Dr. Ben Carson during September’s presidential debate referred to “global jihadists” as an “existential threat to our nation.”
U.S. officials have a different outlook. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford said in July, “If you want to talk about a nation that could pose an existential threat to the United States, I’d have to point to Russia.” Last October, Vice President Joe Biden said, “We face no existential threat—none—to our way of life or our ultimate security.” Meanwhile, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper listed cyber as the top threat to the United States for the past three years.
Among many, these are several challenges that threaten global security. What is more concerning, as echoed by FBI Director James Comey earlier this year, are developing or unforeseen threats. “If you imagine a nationwide haystack, we are trying to find needles in that haystack”, Comey said. “And knowing there are needles out there that you can’t see is worrisome.” To successfully address threats, U.S. policymakers must first understand which of these potential contingencies they should focus their finite time and resources on most directly.
For the past eight years, to assist policymakers in anticipating and planning for international crises that threaten U.S. national interests, CFR’s Center for Preventive Action have conducted a Preventive Priorities Survey (PPS). The annual PPS evaluates ongoing and potential violent conflicts and sources of instability based on two factors: 1) the impact they would have on U.S. interests and 2) their likelihood of occurring in the coming year.
What threats and conflicts are you worried will emerge or escalate in 2016? Please tell us your suggestions in this survey by Wednesday, October 14. Keep your responses short and to the point, but feel free to explain why the contingency is important. Compelling suggestions will again be included in this year’s survey, which will be published in December.