The United States, our allies, and our partners face a spectrum of challenges, including violent transnational extremist networks, hostile states armed with weapons of mass destruction, rising regional powers, emerging space and cyber threats, natural and pandemic disasters, and a growing competition for resources. The Department of Defense must respond to these challenges while anticipating and preparing for those of tomorrow. We must balance strategic risk across our responses, making the best use of the tools at hand within the U.S. Government and among our international partners. To succeed, we must harness and integrate all aspects of national power and work closely with a wide range of allies, friends and partners. We cannot prevail if we act alone.
As noted in the 2006 QDR, state actors no longer have a monopoly over the catastrophic use of violence. Small groups or individuals can harness chemical, biological, or even crude radiological or nuclear devices to cause extensive damage and harm. Similarly, they can attack vulnerable points in cyberspace and disrupt commerce and daily life in the United States, causing economic damage, compromising sensitive information and materials, and interrupting critical services such as power and information networks. National security and domestic resources may be at risk, and the Department must help respond to protect lives and national assets. The Department will continue to be both bulwark and active protector in these areas. Yet, in the long run the Department of Defense is neither the best source of resources and capabilities nor the appropriate authority to shoulder these tasks. The comparative advantage, and applicable authorities, for action reside elsewhere in the U.S. Government, at other levels of government, in the private sector, and with partner nations. DoD should expect and plan to play a key supporting role in an interagency effort to combat these threats, and to help develop new capacities and capabilities, while protecting its own vulnerabilities.
In the contemporary strategic environment, the challenge is one of deterring or dissuading a range of potential adversaries from taking a variety of actions against the U.S. and our allies and interests. These adversaries could be states or non-state actors; they could use nuclear, conventional, or unconventional weapons; and they could exploit terrorism, electronic, cyber and other forms of warfare. Economic interdependence and the growth of global communications further complicate the situation. Not only do they blur the types of threats, they also exacerbate sensitivity to the effects of attacks and in some cases make it more difficult to attribute or trace them. Finally, the number of potential adversaries, the breadth of their capabilities, and the need to design approaches to deterrence for each, create new challenges.
An underlying assumption in our understanding of the strategic environment is that the predominant near-term challenges to the United States will come from state and non-state actors using irregular and catastrophic capabilities. Although our advanced space and cyber-space assets give us unparalleled advantages on the traditional battlefield, they also entail vulnerabilities.
China is developing technologies to disrupt our traditional advantages. Examples include development of anti-satellite capabilities and cyber warfare. Other actors, particularly non-state actors, are developing asymmetric tactics, techniques, and procedures that seek to avoid situations where our advantages come into play.