18 Feb: US Joint Forces Command: Joint Operating Environment 2010

* 18 Feb 2010: US Joint Forces Command: Joint Operating Environment 2010 [PDF; Copy PDF]

The JOE 2010: Joint Operating Environment

US Joint Forces Command, 18 Feb 2010



The JOE 2010: Joint Operating Environment US Joint Forces Command, 18 Feb 2010

While U.S. Joint Forces Command’s Joint Operating Environment (JOE) in no way constitutes U.S. Government policy and must necessarily be speculative in nature, it seeks to provide the Joint Force an intellectual foundation upon which we will construct the concepts to guide our future force development. We will likely not call the future exactly right, but we must think through the nature of continuity and change in strategic trends to discern their military implications to avoid being completely wrong. These implications serve to influence the concepts that drive our services’ adaptations to the environments within which they will operate, adaptations that are essential if our leaders are to have the fewest regrets when future crises strike.

In our guardian role for our nation, it is natural that we in the military focus more on possible security challenges and threats than we do on emerging opportunities. From economic trends to climate change and vulnerability to cyber attack, we outline those trends that remind us we must stay alert to what is changing in the world if we intend to create a military as relevant and capable as we possess today. There is a strong note of urgency in our efforts to balance the force for the uncertainties that lie ahead. The JOE gives focus to those efforts which must also embrace the opportunities that are inherent in the world we imperfectly foresee.

Every military force in history that has successfully adapted to the changing character of war and the evolving threats it faced did so by sharply defining the operational problems it had to solve. With the JOE helping to frame future security problems and highlighting their military implications, the Chairman’s companion document, Capstone Concept for Joint Operations (CCJO), answers the problems we have defined, stating how the Joint Force will operate. Taken together, these documents will drive the concept development and experimentation that will, in turn, drive our evolutionary adaptation, while guarding against any single preclusive view of future war. None of us have a sufficiently clear crystal ball to predict fully the changing kaleidoscope of future conflicts that hover over the horizon, even as current fights, possible adversaries’ nascent capabilities, and other factors intersect.

We will update the JOE in a year or two, once we have a sufficiently different understanding to make a new edition worthwhile. If you have ideas for improving our assessment of the future security environment and the problems our military must solve to provide relevant defense for our country and like-minded nations, please forward them to J-5 (Strategy), Joint Forces Command.

J.N. Mattis

General, U.S. Marines

Commander, U.S. Joint Forces Command



A good place to begin the discussion of trends is demographics because what is happening
demographically today, unless altered by some catastrophe, has predictable consequences for the populations of regions and states. Equally important, it possesses implications for future strategic postures and attitudes. In total, the world will add approximately 60 million people each year and reach a total of 8 billion by the 2030s. Ninety-five percent of that increase will occur in developing countries.

The more important point is that the world’s troubles will occur not only in the areas of abject poverty but also, to an even greater extent, in developing countries where the combination of demographics and economy permits populations to grow, but makes meeting rising expectations difficult. Here, the performance of the global economy will be key in either dampening down or inflaming ethnically or religiously based violent movements.

World Population Pyramids

The developed world faces the opposite problem. During the next 25 years population growth in the developed world will likely slow or in some cases decline. Russia in particular exemplifies this trend. Russia’s population is currently declining by 0.5% annually, and given Russian health and welfare profiles, there is every prospect that decline will continue, barring a drastic shift in social attitudes or public policy. As a recent Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) report suggested, “Russia needs to cope with a rate of population decline that literally has no historical precedent in the absence of pandemic.”13 To Russia’s west, a similar, albeit less disastrous, situation exists. Over all, European nations stopped replacing their losses to deaths in 2007, and despite considerable efforts to reverse those trends, there is little likelihood their populations will significantly increase by the 2030s. This raises serious concerns about the sustainability of economic growth in that region. It also has serious implications for the willingness of European societies to bear the costs involved in lives and treasure that the use of military force inevitably carries with it.

Likewise, Japan’s population will fall from 128 million to approximately 117 million in the 2030s, but unlike the case of Russia this will result not from any inadequacy of Japanese medical services, which are among the world’s best, but from the collapse of Japan’s birth rate. The Japanese are taking serious steps to address their demographic decline, a fact which explains their major research and development efforts in the field of robotics as well as their shift to a capital-intensive economy.

Population to 2050: Developed and Developing World

Over the next quarter century, China’s population will grow by 170 million, but its population will age significantly because of strict enforcement of the government’s edict of one child per family. An additional demographic factor, which may influence Chinese behavior, is the choice of many families to satisfy that limitation with a male child. How the resulting imbalance between young males and females will play out in China’s external and internal politics is impossible to predict because there are few historical analogues. Already we have seen exuberant displays of nationalistic feeling among the youth in response to criticisms of China’s behavior in Tibet.

By the 2030s, the U.S. population will climb by more than 50 million to a total of approximately 355 million, in contrast to many of its peers. This growing population may be a significant advantage in international economic competition. This growth will result not only from births in current American families, but also from continued immigration, especially from Mexico and the Caribbean, which will lead to major increases in America’s Hispanic population. By 2030 at least 15% of the population of every state will be Hispanic in origin, in some states reaching upwards of 50%. How effective Americans prove in assimilating these new immigrants into the nation’s politics and culture will play a major role in America’s prospects. In this regard, the historical ability of the United States to assimilate immigrants into its society and culture gives it a distinct advantage over most other nations, which display little willingness to incorporate immigrant populations into the mainstreams of their societies.

India will grow by 320 million during the next quarter of a century. The tensions that arise from a growing divide between rich and poor could seriously impact its potential for further economic growth. Exacerbating tensions will be the divide between the sub-continent’s huge middle class and those in the villages mired in poverty, as well as the divide between Muslims and Hindus. Nevertheless, India’s democratic system gives the country wide latitude for political changes to accommodate the society’s poor.

The continued population growth across the Middle East and in Sub-Saharan Africa has only recently begun abating, but not fast enough to forestall a demographic crisis in which economic growth fails to keep pace with population growth. In areas of abject poverty, continued growth of youthful populations has significance for the employment of U.S. forces called upon to feed the starving and mitigate the suffering. Where economic growth fuels but does not satisfy expectations, the potential for revolution or war, including civil war, will be significant.

Even as the developing world copes with its youth bulge, the developed world will confront an acute aging problem. By the 2030s the number of elderly people in developed countries will double. In Japan there will be 63 elderly for every 100 workers, with Europe not far behind with 59 per 100. The United States will be slightly better off with 44 elderly per 100 workers. Even China will see its ratio of elderly to working population double (from 12 to 23 per 100 workers) as a result of better diet and improved medical care. Such demographic trends will make it less likely that nations in the developed world will sacrifice their youth in military adventures, unless extraordinary threats appear. Regions such as the Middle East and Sub-Saharan Africa, where the youth bulge will reach over 50% of the population, will  possess fewer inhibitions about engaging in conflict.

Around the world, humanity is on the move, with Muslims and Africans moving to Europe, ethnic Chinese moving into Siberia, Mexicans and other Latin Americans moving north to the United States and Canada, and citizens of the Philippines and India providing the labor and small commercial backbones of the economies of the Gulf States. Equally important are the migrations occurring in war torn areas in Africa in areas like the Sudan, Somalia, Darfur, and Rwanda. Such migrations disrupt patterns of culture, politics, and economics and in most cases carry with them the potential of further dislocations and troubles.

Everywhere, people are moving to cities. Skilled workers, doctors, and engineers are leaving the undeveloped world as fast as they can to make a living in the developed world. Increasingly, these global diasporas connect through the Internet and telephone to their home countries. Often, the money they send back to their families forms major portions of the local economies back in their home communities.


For the most part, the developed world recognizes that it has a major stake in the continuing progress of globalization. The same can be said for those moving into the developed world. Nevertheless, one should not ignore the histories and passions of popular opinion in these states as they make their appearance. One should not confuse developed world trappings for underlying stability and maturity of civil societies. A more peaceful, cooperative world is possible only if the pace of globalization continues. In particular, this means engaging China and other nations politically and culturally as they enter into the developed world.

Lessons From the History Of Globalization

How can one best define globalization? Some might delineate it in terms of increased international trade, limited restrictions on the movement of peoples, and light regulation on the flow of capital. At least that was how politicians and pundits defined it at the start of the Twentieth Century. At that time, Europeans did not require passports to travel from one country to another on the continent, a situation altered only in the late 1990s. By 1913 the value of international trade as a percentage of world GDP had reached a level the global economy would not replicate until the last decade of the Twentieth Century. The economies of the United States and the German Reich were expanding at unheard of rates. Western merchants were queuing up to supply China’s teeming masses, as that country opened its markets for the first time in centuries. Furthermore, the largest migration – and a peaceful one at that – in history was taking place, as 25 million Europeans left home, most immigrating to the United States.

The world also saw technological and scientific revolutions unequaled in history, which in turn spawned revolutions in travel and communications. Travel across the Atlantic was now a matter of days rather than weeks or months. Telegraph cables linked the continents for near instantaneous communications. Railroads allowed travelers to cross continents in days rather than months. The internal combustion engine was already having an impact on travel by land, while the appearance of the aircraft in 1903 suggested even greater possibilities. A complex web of international agreements, such as the International Postal Union and the International Telegraph Conventions, welded these changes together. Again, as with today, many were not content to leave the direction of the new world order to governments. Activists formed 119 international organizations in the first decade and 112 in the second decade.

For much of humanity, this was a time of hope and optimism. As early as the mid-19th century, John Bright, a British industrialist, argued that “nothing could be so foolish as a policy of war for a trading nation. Any peace was better than the most successful war.” In 1911 a British journalist, Norman Angell, published a work titled The Great Illusion, which became an international best seller. In it, he argued the expansion of global commerce had changed the nature of wealth, which no longer would depend on control of territory or resources. For Angell, the belief that military strength was the basis for
security represented a dangerous illusion. As for war itself, it represented a futile endeavor incapable of creating material wealth, while putting much at risk. His arguments boiled down to a belief that the interlocking networks of global trade made war impossible. In 1913, he published an improved edition to even greater acclaim. Within a year the First World War had broken out. The result of that conflict in political and economic terms was to smash globalization for the next seventy years. Angell had been right about the absolutely destructive effects of modern war. He had been wrong about human nature and its passions.

Today’s interlocking trading and communications networks may tempt leaders to consider once again that war is, if not impossible, then at least obsolete. Accordingly, any future war would cost so much in lives and treasure that no “rational” political leader would pursue it. The problem is that rationality is often a matter of perspective – in the cultural, political, and ideological eye of the beholder. For what must have seemed perfectly rational reasons, Saddam Hussein invaded two of Iraq’s six neighbors in the space of less than ten years and sparked three wars during the period he ruled. The first of his wars against Iran resulted in approximately 250 thousand Iraqi deaths and half a million Iranian deaths, while his wars against his own people killed upwards of 100 thousand.

The critics of globalization often portray its dark side in the inequality of rich and poor. In some worstcase scenarios, they portray the rise of resentment and violence throughout the world as a direct result of globalization. Not surprisingly, the future is likely to contain both good and bad as globalization accelerates the pace of human interaction and extends its reach.

Remittances sent home by emigrant workers are often overlooked as a facet of globalization, but represent the single biggest income source for developing nations. The total amount sent home by foreign workers exceeds the amount that the whole world spends on foreign aid and capital investments combined. For 2007, world-wide remittances were estimated by the World Bank at $318 billion, of which $240 billion went to developing countries. This estimate includes only remittances sent through formal banking channels; the actual amount is certainly much greater. Remittances are strategically important to developing countries for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that they provide a source of foreign exchange in addition to a stabilizing force for economies in turbulent times.

The top three recipients of emigrant remittances in 2007 were: India, $27 billion; China, $25.7 billion; and Mexico, $25 billion. In the case of Mexico, remittances were the second largest source of hard currency after the sale of oil. These flows of money are generally resilient in economic downturns and add a measure of stability to families that would otherwise be at or near thresholds of poverty. Furthermore, remittances are spent in the local economy, providing business for shop owners and other parts of the local middle classes. However, as a prolonged economic downturn reduces work opportunities for emigrants, the reduction of this key source of income may also stunt the growth of the middle classes in developing countries, which are the driving force for the development and support of democratization
and the rule of law, all of which are central to the evolution of stable and orderly states around the world.

Global Remittance Flows

The processes propelling globalization over the next two decades could improve the lives of most of the world’s population, particularly for hundreds of millions of the poorest. Serious violence resulting from economic trends has almost invariably arisen where economic and political systems have failed to meet rising expectations. A failure of globalization would equate to a failure to meet those rising expectations.

Thus, the real danger in a globalized world, where even the poorest have access to pictures and media portrayals of the developed world, lies in a reversal or halt to global prosperity. Such a possibility would lead individuals and nations to scramble for a greater share of shrinking wealth and resources, as they did in the 1930s with the rise of Nazi Germany in Europe and Japan’s “co-prosperity sphere” in Asia. Admittedly, some will also be left behind by globalization, either through the misfortunes of geography, culture, or design. Many
of these nations will be weak and failing states and will require an international array of economic, diplomatic, and military resources to establish or sustain stability.

In a globalized world of great nations, the United States may not always have to take the lead in handling the regional troubles that will arise. By the 2030s, every region of the world will likely contain local economic powers or regional organizations capable of leadership. In any case, the United States will often find it prudent to play a cooperative or supporting role in military operations around the world and will almost certainly provide support in organizing or convening global coalitions for some time to come. In most cases the assisting of, or intervention in, failing states will require a cooperative engagement between the United States and regional powers. Again, the skills of a diplomat in working with other people and military organizations from different cultures must be in the tool kit of commanders, staffs, and personnel throughout the Joint Force.


The country faces a fundamental disconnect between the services people expect the government to provide…and the tax revenues that people are willing to send to the government … The fundamental disconnect will have to be addressed in some way if the
budget is to be placed on a sustainable course. -Douglas W. Elmendorf, Director of CBO, November 24, 200914

JOE 2008 reported that the emerging economic downturn and financial crises were likely to be
significant events. From our vantage point in 2010 the scope and implications of the downturn are clarifying, though the perturbations both in mid and longer terms are yet unclear. Projected revenues from taxation in most plausible economic scenarios are far below that which is necessary to meet current and assumed commitments by the federal government. Furthermore, chronic trade and currency exchange imbalances in the global economic system (see graphic below) have exacerbated both U.S. current account deficits and overall government indebtedness such that the amount of U.S. government debt held by foreigners has grown from 1.3 trillion to 3.5 trillion dollars representing some 40% of total U.S. debt. Large exporting nations accept U.S. dollars for their goods and use them both to build foreign exchange reserves and to purchase U.S. treasuries (which then finance ongoing U.S. federal operations). The dollar’s “extraordinary privilege” as the primary unit of international trade allows the U.S. to borrow at relatively low rates of interest. However, the emerging scale of U.S. Government borrowing creates uncertainty about both our ability to repay the ever growing debt and the future value of the dollar. Moreover, “any sudden stop in lending…would drive the dollar down, push inflation and interest rates up, and perhaps bring on a hard landing for the United States…”15

Global Trade and Finance Imbalances
Federal Spending and Revenue

The precise nature of a “hard landing” of this sort is difficult to predict should creditor nations such as China demand higher interest rates, increasing the perception that the U.S. no longer controls its own financial fate.16 This dynamic could encourage the establishment of new reserve currencies as global economic actors search for alternatives to the dollar. Changing conditions in the global economy could likewise have important implications for global security also, including a decreased ability of the United States to allocate resources for defense purposes, less purchasing power for available dollars, and shifting power relationships around the world in ways unfavorable to global stability.

Domestically, the future of the U.S. financial picture in both the short and long term is one of chronic budget deficits and compounding debt. The federal deficit for the 2009 fiscal year was about $1.42 trillion or one tenth of U.S. economic production in that year. For the first two months of the 2010 fiscal year, the cumulative deficit was already higher than any previous total yearly deficit run by the federal government and even the most optimistic economic projections suggest that the U.S. will add $9 trillion to the debt over the next decade, outstripping even the most optimistic predictions for economic growth upon which the federal government relies for increased tax revenue. The graph above illustrates the
scale of this shortfall between government spending and available revenue – a shortfall unprecedented since the end of the Second World War.

The Squeeze on Discretionary Spending

Although these fiscal imbalances have been severely aggravated by the recent financial crisis and attendant global economic downturn, the financial picture has long term components which indicate that even a return to relatively high levels of economic growth will not be enough to right the financial picture. The near collapse of financial markets and slow or negative economic activity has seen U.S. Government outlays grow in order to support troubled banks and financial institutions, and to cushion the wider population from the worst effects of the slowdown. These unfunded liabilities are a reflection of an aging U.S. Baby-Boom population increasing the number of those receiving social program benefits, primarily Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, versus the underlying working population
that pays to support these programs.17

Rising debt and deficit financing of government operations will require ever-larger portions of government outlays for interest payments to service the debt. Indeed, if current trends continue, the U.S. will be transferring approximately seven percent of its total economic output abroad simply to service its foreign debt.18 As the graph above illustrates, interest payments are projected to grow dramatically, further exacerbated by recent efforts to stabilize and stimulate the economy, far outstripping the current tax base shown by the black line. Interest payments, when combined with the growth of Social Security and health care, will crowd out spending for everything else the government does, including National Defense.

The foregoing issues of trade imbalance and government debt have historic precedents that bode ill for future force planners. Habsburg Spain defaulted on its debt some 14 times in 150 years and was staggered by high inflation until its overseas empire collapsed. Bourbon France became so beset by debt due to its many wars and extravagances that by 1788 the contributing social stresses resulted in its overthrow by revolution. Interest ate up 44% of the British Government budget during the interwar years 1919-1939, inhibiting its ability to rearm against a resurgent Germany.19 Unless current trends are reversed, the U.S. will face similar challenges, anticipating an ever-growing percentage of the U.S. government budget going to pay interest on the money borrowed to finance our deficit spending.

A more immediate implication of these twin deficits will likely mean far fewer dollars available to spend on defense. In 1962 defense spending accounted for some 49% of total government expenditures, but by 2008 had dropped to 20% of total government spending.20 Following current trend lines, by 2028 the defense budget will likely consume between 2.6 percent and 3.1 percent of GDP – significantly lower than the 1990s average of 3.8%.21 Indeed, the Department of Defense may shrink to less than ten percent of the total Federal budget. The graph at right illustrates the main components of the defense budget: operations and maintenance, personnel, procurement, research and development, military construction, and family housing. Much like the overall U.S. budget, personnel costs could continue to grow faster than other components, crowding out investments in future capabilities as well as resources for current operations and the maintenance of systems and capabilities already in the inventory. These costs deserve close scrutiny for efficiencies. Moreover, if the U.S. enters a financial regime in which defense is to be cut by a third or more, Joint Force planners must carefully explore new areas of risk as force posture and procurement budgets shrink.

This report describes a future in which the Joint Force will be continually engaged, yet the larger economic outlook is one of increasing pressure on discretionary spending of which the DOD budget is a part. The Department must always search for more efficient ways of attending to the Nation’s defense, to reduce both cost and our vulnerability to deliberate disruption, while maintaining our quest for greater effectiveness across all future security environments. We must be prepared to make hard decisions about the trade-off between performance and price in our capabilities, while recognizing that a push for “one-size-fits-all” solutions may result in a greater risk of reduced flexibility during operations. If we are to maintain a shock absorber in our forces to fight different forms of war across a range of conflicts, the joint community must introduce multi-purpose, multi-role, and flexible systems that can provide adequate performance against a broad array of challenges.

Defense as a Percent of the Total Federal Budget

The graph above shows the scale and relationships of DOD’s major budget categories from 1962 to present. If we are to find efficiencies in future budgets we should consider ways to decrease these costs while maintaining effectiveness. Over the last two decades competitive commercial enterprises have resized organizations and decreased mid-level leaders through the smart use of information technologies and by pushing responsibilities and authorities ever downward. The Joint Force should further adapt its own organizations in similar ways where appropriate, reengineering military staffs from their Industrial Age origins, innovating more agile, adaptable, and perhaps smaller structures. Personnel and training costs (part of O&M) are a major portion of the defense budget, yet we too frequently allow or even encourage personnel to leave the military at the height of their experience, losing highly trained and expensively acquired skills in the process. There are significant opportunities to retain these vital, hard-won skills of our military personnel beyond the current expected 20 year retirement timeline. Furthermore, the current balance of capabilities and force structure between the Regular, Reserve, and Guard forces might be reexamined in light of future national security challenges involving surprise and uncertainty described throughout the JOE. The joint community must bring critical judgment to bear on the question of future
basing, recommending rationalization and downsizing to match our smaller 21st Century force structures. Finally, the Joint Force should seek change in weapons procurement and acquisition processes to ensure that our procurement budget achieves maximum military power for each dollar spent. Further, the imposition of cost-imposing strategies against potential foes and expanding strategic and operational partnerships are called for in our adaptation to the emerging realities.

The fundamental issues for the Joint Force are the long term sustainability of our current allocation of the federal budget and how we can contribute to continued security while operating within the fiscal constraints that are unfolding. For over six decades the U.S. has underwritten the “hidden export” of global security for the great trading nations of the world, yet global and domestic pressures will dramatically impact the defense budget in the face of rising debt and trade imbalances. This may diminish this service which is of great benefit to the international community. In this world, new security exporters may rise, each having opinions and objectives that differ from the global norms and conventions that we have encouraged since our own emergence as a great power a century ago. Moreover, they will increasingly have the power to underwrite their own not-so-hidden export of military power. Unless we address these new fiscal realities we will be unable to engage in this contest
on terms favorable to our nation.


To meet even the conservative growth rates posited in the economics section, global energy
production would need to rise by 1.3% per year. By the 2030s, demand is estimated to be nearly 50% greater than today. To meet that demand, even assuming more effective conservation measures, the world would need to add roughly the equivalent of Saudi Arabia’s current energy production every seven years.

Absent a major increase in the relative reliance on alternative energy sources (which would require vast insertions of capital, dramatic changes in technology, and altered political attitudes toward nuclear energy), oil and coal will continue to drive the energy train. By the 2030s, oil requirements could go from 86 to 118 million barrels a day (MBD). Although the use of coal may decline in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries, it will more than double in developing nations. Fossil fuels will still make up 80% of the energy mix in the 2030s, with oil and gas comprising upwards of 60%. The central problem for the coming decade will not be a lack of petroleum reserves, but rather a shortage of drilling platforms, engineers and refining capacity. Even were a concerted effort begun today to repair that shortage, it would be ten years before production could catch up with expected demand. The key determinant here would be the degree of commitment the United States
and others display in addressing the dangerous vulnerabilities the growing energy crisis presents.

That production bottleneck apart, the potential sources of future energy supplies nearly all present their own difficulties and vulnerabilities. None of these provide much reason for optimism. At present, the United States possesses approximately 250 million cars, while China with its immensely larger population possesses only 40 million.

Peak Oil

As the figure at right shows, petroleum must continue to satisfy most of the demand for energy out to 2030. Assuming the most optimistic scenario for improved petroleum production through enhanced recovery means, the development of non-conventional oils (such as oil shales or tar sands) and new discoveries, petroleum production will be hard pressed to meet the expected future demand of 118 million barrels per day.

Projected Energy Resources
Future World Oil Production

Possible Future Energy Resources

Non-Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) oil: New sources (Caspian Sea, Brazil, Colombia, and new portions of Alaska and the Continental shelf) could offset declining production in mature fields over the course of the next quarter century. However, without drilling in currently excluded areas, they will add little additional capacity.

Oil Sands and Shale: Recently, shale gas has been the primary source of growth in technicallyrecoverable natural gas resources in the U.S. Production of liquid fuels from oil sands could increase from 1MBD to over 4 MBD, but legal constraints may discourage investment. Additionally, the diversion of already scarce water resources needed to extract energy from these formations will further limit supplies for agriculture and other human purposes.

Natural Gas: Europe relies on Russia for one third of its natural gas imports. Uncertainty about Russia as a reliable supplier will encourage Europe to diversify sources of supply and support the construction of pipelines to access Central Asian gas reserves. Russia, meanwhile will seek to ensure that Central Asian gas flows across its own pipeline network. Furthermore, Russia will diversify its own network to bypass Central Europe and provide gas more directly to Western Europe – allowing it greater freedom to decouple the interests of its rich customers from its close neighbors.

Biofuels: Production could increase to approximately 3 MBD– equivalent, but starting from a small base, biofuels are unlikely to contribute more than 1% of global energy requirements by the 2030s. Moreover, even that modest achievement could curtail the supply of foodstuffs to the world’s growing population, which would add another National Security challenge to an already full menu.

Renewable: Wind and Solar combined are unlikely to account for more than 1% of global energy by 2030. That figure assumes the energy from such sources will more than triple, which alone would require major investments.

Nuclear: Nuclear energy offers one of the more promising technological possibilities, given significant advances in safety since the 1970s. In particular, it could play a major role in replacing coal-fired plants, and a greater supply of cheap electricity could encourage electric–powered transportation. Nevertheless, the expansion of nuclear plants faces considerable opposition because of public fears, while the disposal of nuclear waste remains politically controversial. Although the U.S. seems to be committing to the development of new nuclear plants, their construction in substantial numbers will take decades.

OPEC: To meet climbing global requirements, OPEC will have to increase its output from 30 MBD to at least 50 MBD. Significantly, no OPEC nation, except perhaps Saudi Arabia, is investing sufficient sums in new technologies and recovery methods to achieve such growth. Some, like Venezuela and Russia, are actually exhausting their fields to cash in on the bonanza created by rapidly rising oil prices.

The Chinese are laying down approximately 1,000 kilometers of four-lane highway every year, a figure suggestive of how many more vehicles they expect to possess, with the concomitant rise in their demand for oil. The presence of Chinese “civilians” in the Sudan to guard oil pipelines underlines China’s concern for protecting its oil supplies and could portend a future in which other states intervene in Africa to protect scarce resources. The implications for future conflict are ominous, if energy supplies cannot keep up with demand and should states see the need to militarily secure dwindling energy resources.

Another potential effect of an energy crunch could be a prolonged U.S. recession which could lead to deep cuts in defense spending (as happened during the Great Depression). Joint Force commanders could then find their capabilities diminished at the moment they may have to undertake increasingly dangerous missions. Should that happen, adaptability would require more than preparations to fight the enemies of the United States, but also the willingness to recognize and acknowledge the limitations of America’s military forces. The pooling of U.S. resources and capabilities with allies would then become even more critical. Coalition operations would become essential to protecting national interests.

OPEC and Energy Resources

OPEC nations will remain a focal point of great-power interest. These nations may have a vested interest in inhibiting production increases, both to conserve finite supplies and to keep prices high.

Should one of the consumer nations choose to intervene forcefully, the “arc of instability” running from North Africa through to Southeast Asia easily could become an “arc of chaos,” involving the military forces of several nations.

OPEC nations will find it difficult to invest much of the cash inflows that oil exports bring. While they will invest substantial portions of such assets globally through sovereign wealth funds – investments that come with their own political and strategic difficulties – past track records, coupled with their appraisal of their own military weaknesses, suggest the possibility of a military buildup. With the cost of precision weapons expected to decrease and their availability increasing, Joint Force commanders could find themselves operating in environments where even small, energy-rich opponents have military forces with advanced technological capabilities. These could include advanced cyber, robotic, and even anti-space systems.

Finally, presuming the forces propelling radical extremism at present do not dissipate, a portion of OPEC’s windfall might well find its way into terrorist coffers, or into the hands of movements with deeply anti-modern, anti-Western goals – movements which have at their disposal increasing numbers of unemployed young men eager to attack their perceived enemies.

World Oil Chokepoints

A severe energy crunch is inevitable without a massive expansion of production and refining capacity. While it is difficult to predict precisely what economic, political, and strategic effects such a shortfall might produce, it surely would reduce the prospects for growth in both the developing and developed worlds. Such an economic slowdown would exacerbate other unresolved tensions, push fragile and failing states further down the path toward collapse, and perhaps have serious economic impact on both China and India. At best, it would lead to periods of harsh economic adjustment. To what extent conservation measures, investments in alternative energy production, and efforts to expand petroleum production from tar sands and shale would mitigate such a period of adjustment is difficult to predict.
One should not forget that the Great Depression spawned a number of totalitarian regimes that sought economic prosperity for their nations by ruthless conquest.

Energy Summary

To generate the energy required worldwide by the 2030s would require us to find an additional 1.4 MBD every year until then.

During the next twenty-five years, coal, oil, and natural gas will remain indispensable to meet energy requirements. The discovery rate for new petroleum and gas fields over the past two decades (with the possible exception of Brazil) provides little reason for optimism that future efforts will find major new fields.

At present, investment in oil production is only beginning to pick up, with the result that production could reach a prolonged plateau. By 2030, the world will require production of 118 MBD, but energy producers may only be producing 100 MBD unless there are major changes in current investment and drilling capacity.

By 2012, surplus oil production capacity could entirely disappear, and as early as 2015, the shortfall in output could reach nearly 10 MBD.

Energy production and distribution infrastructure must see significant new investment if energy demand is to be satisfied at a cost compatible with economic growth and prosperity. Efficient hybrid, electric, and flex-fuel vehicles will likely dominate light-duty vehicle sales by 2035 and much of the growth in gasoline demand may be met through increases in biofuels production. Renewed interest in nuclear power and green energy sources such as solar power, wind, or geothermal may blunt rising prices for fossil fuels should business interest become actual investment. However, capital costs in some power-generation and distribution sectors are also rising, reflecting global demand for alternative energy sources and hindering their ability to compete effectively with relatively cheap fossil fuels. Fossil fuels will very likely remain the predominant energy source going forward.


Two major factors drive food requirements: a growing global population and prosperity that expands dietary preferences. While food shortages occur today, they are more likely to reflect politically-inflicted, rather than natural causes. Several mitigating trends could diminish the possibility of major food shortages.

Any slowdown in the world’s population growth may reduce overall growth in demand for food, thus easing pressure to expand and intensify agriculture. On the other hand, increased animal protein use in countries with rapidly rising income levels will place considerable pressure on the world’s food supply because animal production requires much greater input for calories produced. At the same time, opposition to genetically modified foods is dissipating. As a result, there is a reasonable chance of sparking a new “green revolution” that would expand crop and protein production sufficiently to meet world requirements. The main pressures on sufficient food supplies will remain in countries with persistently high population growth and a lack of arable land, in most cases exacerbated by desertification and shortages in rainfall.

Grain Use and Projected Demand

In a world with adequate global supply, but localized food shortages, the real problems will stem from food distribution. How quickly the world reacts to temporary food shortages inflicted by natural disasters will also pose challenges. In such cases, the Joint Force may find itself involved in providing lift, logistics, and occasionally security to those charged with relief operations.

Natural disease also has an impact on the world’s food supply. The Irish Potato Famine was not an exceptional historical event. As recently as 1954, 40% of America’s wheat crop failed as a result of black-stem disease. There are reports of a new aggressive strain of this disease (Ug99) spreading across Africa and possibly reaching Pakistan. Blights threatening basic food crops such as potatoes and corn would have destabilizing effects on nations close to the subsistence level. Food crises have led in the past to famine, internal and external conflicts, the collapse of governing authority, migrations, and social disorder. In such cases, many people in the crisis zone may be well-armed and dangerous, making the task of the Joint Force in providing relief that much more difficult. In a society confronted with starvation, food becomes a weapon every bit as important as ammunition.

Access to fish stocks has been an important natural resource for the prosperity of nations with significant fishing fleets. Competition for access to these resources has often resulted in naval conflict.

Conflicts have erupted as recently as the Cod War (1975) between Britain and Iceland and the Turbot War (1995) between Canada and Spain. In 1996, Japan and Korea engaged in a naval standoff over rocky outcroppings that would establish extended fishing rights in the Sea of Japan. These conflicts saw open hostilities between the naval forces of these states, and the use of warships and coastal protection vessels to ram and board vessels. Over-fishing and depletion of fisheries and competition over those that remain have the potential for causing serious confrontations in the future.


As we approach the 2030s, the world’s clean water supply will be increasingly at risk. Growing populations and increasing pollution, especially in developing nations, are likely to make water shortages more acute. Most estimates indicate nearly 3 billion (40%) of the world’s population will experience water stress or scarcity. Absent new technology, water scarcity and contamination have human and economic costs that are likely to prevent developing nations from making significant progress in economic growth and poverty reduction.

Agriculture will likely remain the source of greatest demand for water worldwide, accounting for 70% of total water usage. In comparison, industry will account for only 20%, while domestic usage will likely remain steady at 10%. Per unit harvest yield, developed nations are more efficient than developing nations in using available water supplies for agricultural irrigation and use far less than the 70% average. Improved agricultural techniques could further increase the amount of land under irrigation and increase yields per unit of water used.

In short, from a global perspective, there should be more than sufficient water to support the world’s population during the next quarter century. However, in some regions the story is quite different. The Near East and North Africa use far more than the global average of 70% of available water dedicated to irrigation.

By the 2030s, at least 30 developing nations could use even more of their water for irrigation.
The unreliability of an assured supply of rainwater has forced farmers to turn more to groundwater in many areas. As a result, aquifer levels are declining at rates between one and three meters per year. The impact of such declines on agricultural production could be profound, especially since aquifers, once drained, may not refill for centuries. Glacial runoff is also an important source of water for many countries. The great rivers of Southeast Asia, for example, flow through India, Pakistan, China, Nepal, Thailand, and Burma, and are
fed largely from glacial meltwaters in the Himalaya Range. Construction of dams at the headwaters of these rivers may constrict the flow of water downstream, increasing the risk of water-related population stresses, cross-border tension, migration and agricultural failures for perhaps a billion people who rely on them.

World Water Scarcity

One should not minimize the prospect of wars over water. In 1967, Jordanian and Syrian efforts to dam the Jordan river were a contributing cause of the Six-Day War between Israel and its neighbors. Today Turkish dams on the upper Euphrates and Tigris Rivers, the source of water for the Mesopotamian basin pose similar problems for Syria and Iraq. Turkish diversion of water to irrigate mountain valleys in eastern Turkey already reduces water downstream. Even though localized, conflicts sparked by water scarcity easily could destabilize whole regions. Continuing crisis in Sudan’s Darfur region is an example of what could happen on a wider scale between now and the 2030s. Indeed, it is precisely along other potential conflict fault lines that potential crises involving water scarcity are most likely.

Whether the United States would find itself drawn into such conflicts is uncertain, but what is certain is that future Joint Force commanders will find conflict over water endemic to their world, whether as the spark or the underlying cause of conflicts among various racial, tribal, or political groups. Were they called on to intervene in a catastrophic water crisis, they might well confront chaos, with collapsing or impotent social networks and governmental services. Anarchy could prevail, with armed groups controlling or warring over remaining water, while the specter of disease resulting from unsanitary conditions would hover in the background.

The latter is only one potential manifestation of a larger problem. Beyond the problems of water scarcity will be those associated with water pollution, whether from uncontrolled industrialization, as in China, or from the human sewage expelled by the mega-cities and slums of the world. The dumping of vast amounts of waste into the world’s rivers and oceans threatens the health and welfare of large portions of the human race, to say nothing of the affected ecosystems. While joint forces rarely will have to address pollution problems directly, any operations in polluted urban areas will carry considerable risk of disease. Indeed, it is precisely in such areas that new and deadly pathogens are most likely to arise. Hence, commanders may be unable to avoid dealing with the consequences of chronic water pollution.

Technology could mitigate the effects of water pollution. By the year 2030, advances in technology may provide many nations with more efficient, sustainable, and affordable means of purifying and desalinating water, providing billions of people with access to clean water and improved sanitation. The ability of the United States and its partners to purify scarce water resources could serve to reduce the potential for interstate friction or state collapse directly related to water scarcity. The development of a rapidly deployable, lightweight and easily maintainable purification system that requires little infrastructure and only modest power generation could likewise increase the effectiveness of humanitarian relief operations.
In addition to reducing both the number of forces and the time required to rebuild or improve water infrastructure, leave-behind water-purification technology could contribute to positive views of the U.S.

Climate Change and Natural Disasters

The impact of climate change, specifically global warming and its potential to cause natural disasters and other harmful phenomena such as rising sea levels, has become a concern. Scientific conclusions about the potential effects of climate change are contradictory, with some arguing that there will be more and greater storms and natural disasters: others, that there will be fewer.22

Climate change is included as one of the ten trends most likely to impact the Joint Force. For example, sea ice has been shrinking dramatically in Arctic regions each summer, and in the future this could open new shipping routes across archipelagic Canada and Northern Russia that could dramatically shorten transit times between Europe and Northeast Asia. Furthermore, shrinking sea ice opens new areas for natural resource exploitation, and may raise tensions between Arctic nations over the demarcation of exclusive economic zones and between Arctic nations and maritime states over the designation of important new waterways
as international straits or internal waters. As an early move in this new competition, in 2007 two Russian submersibles made an unprecedented dive 2.5 miles to the arctic sea floor, where one ship dropped a titanium capsule containing a Russian flag. Retreating ice creating access to previously unavailable natural resources is but one example of potential security challenges that did not exist in the past.

Global sea levels have been on the rise for the past 100 years. Some one-fifth of the world’s population as well as one-sixth of the land area of the world’s largest urban areas are located in coastal zones less than ten meters above sea level. Furthermore, populations in these coastal areas are growing faster than national averages. In places such as China and Bangladesh, this growth is twice that of the national average.23 Should global sea levels continue to rise at current rates, these areas will see more extensive flooding and increased saltwater intrusion into coastal aquifers upon which coastal populations rely, compounding the impact of increasing shortages of fresh water. Additionally, local population pressures
will increase as people move away from inundated areas and settle farther up-country.

In this regard, tsunamis, typhoons, hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes and other natural catastrophes have been and will continue to be a concern of Joint Force commanders. In particular, where natural disasters collide with growing urban sprawl, widespread human misery could be the final straw that breaks the back of a weak state. Furthermore, if such a catastrophe occurs within the United States itself – particularly when the nation’s economy is in a fragile state or where U.S. military bases or key civilian infrastructure are broadly affected – the damage to U.S. security could be considerable. Areas of the U.S. where the potential is great to suffer large-scale effects from these natural disasters are the hurricane prone areas of the Gulf and Atlantic coasts, and the earthquake zones on the west coast and along the New Madrid fault. In the 2030s, as in the past, the ability of U.S. military forces to relieve the victims of natural disasters will impact the reputation of the United States in the world. For example, the contribution of U.S. and partner forces to relieve the distress caused by the catastrophic Pacific tsunami of December 2004 reversed the perceptions of America held by many Indonesians. Perhaps no other mission performed by the Joint Force provides so much benefit to the interests of the United States at so little cost.


Weak and Failing States

Weak and failing states will remain a condition of the global environment over the next quarter of a century. Such countries will continue to present strategic and operational planners serious challenges, with human suffering on a scale so large that it almost invariably spreads throughout the region, and in some cases possesses the potential to project trouble throughout the globalized world.

Yet there is no clear pattern for the economic and political troubles that beset these states. In some cases, disastrous leadership has wrecked political and economic stability. In others, wars among tribal groups with few cultural, linguistic, or even racial ties have imploded states. This was the case in Africa and the Middle East, where in the Nineteenth Century the European powers divided frontiers between their colonies on the basis of economic, political, or strategic necessity and paid scant attention to existing linguistic, racial, or cultural
patterns of the tribal societies. These dysfunctional borders have exacerbated nearly every conflict in which our forces have been involved in these regions.

Many, if not the majority, of weak and failing states will be in Sub-Saharan Africa, Central Asia, the Middle East, and North Africa. A current list of such states much resembles the lists of such states drawn up a generation ago, suggesting a chronic condition, which, despite considerable aid, provides little hope for solution. There have been a number of nations that have escaped poverty, their successes resulting from intelligent leadership and a willingness to embrace integration into the global system. To date, the remaining weak and failing nations have chosen other paths.

There is one dynamic in the literature of weak and failing states that has received relatively little attention, namely the phenomenon of “rapid collapse.” For the most part, weak and failing states represent chronic, long-term problems that allow for management over sustained periods. The collapse of a state usually comes as a surprise, has a rapid onset, and poses acute problems. The collapse of Yugoslavia into a chaotic tangle of warring nationalities in 1990 suggests how suddenly and catastrophically state collapse can happen – in this case, a state that had hosted the 1984 Winter Olympics at Sarajevo, then quickly became the epicenter of the ensuing civil war.

The erosion of state authority by extremist Islamist groups bears consideration due to the disastrous consequences for U.S. security such weakness could create. Pakistan is especially under assault, and its collapse would carry with it the likelihood of a sustained violent and bloody civil and sectarian war, an even bigger haven for violent extremists, and the question of what would happen to its nuclear weapons. That “perfect storm” of uncertainty alone might require the employment of U.S. and coalition forces in a situation of immense complexity with the real possibility that control of nuclear weapons might be lost. In such
environments, which include poorly governed tribal spaces and complex border zones, the Joint Force would be required to address a complex set of difficult scenarios and potential adversaries.

Political Instability Index

One of the most troubling and frighteningly common human disasters that occur as states collapse is that of ethnic cleansing and even genocide. This extreme violence, leading to the death and displacement of potentially millions, is usually traced to three interlocking factors. These include the collapse of state authority, severe economic turmoil, and the rise of charismatic leaders proposing the “ultimate solution” to the “problem” of ethnic or religious diversity or the division of economic or political spoils.

The drive to create ethnically or ideologically pure political entities has been a consistent feature of the era of self-determination and decolonization. The retreat of the European empires followed by the contraction of the dangerous, yet relatively stable U.S.-Soviet confrontation has laid bare a world of complex ethnic diversity and violent groups attempting to secure power while keeping ethnic minorities under heel. As sources of legitimate order have crumbled, local elites compete for the benefits of power. The stakes are particularly high in ethnically diverse regions.32

Where might we expect to see a similar toxic mix of mismatched political governance, difficult economic circumstances, and aggressive politicians willing to use human differences to further their pursuit of political power? The ethnic confrontations in Europe have been largely solved through wars, including the Second World War and the Balkan Conflict; however, they may reemerge in new areas where migration, demographic decline, and economic stress take hold. Most problematic is the vast arc of instability between Morocco and Pakistan where Shias, Sunnis, Kurds, Arabs, Persians, Jews, Pashtuns, Baluchs, and other groups compete with one another. Many areas of central Africa are also ripe for severe
ethnic strife as the notion of ethnically pure nation states animate old grievances, with Rwanda and the Congo being examples of where this path might lead.

As Lebanon, Bosnia, Rwanda, and current operations in Iraq and Afghanistan have shown, the Joint Force may be called upon to provide order and security in areas where simmering political, racial, ethnic, religious, and tribal differences create the potential for large scale atrocities.



By the 2030s, five billion of the world’s eight billion people will live in cities. Fully two billion of them will inhabit the great urban slums of the Middle East, Africa, and Asia. Many large urban environments will lie along the coast or in littoral environments. With so much of the world’s population crammed into dense urban areas and their immediate surroundings, future Joint Force commanders will be unable to evade operations in urban terrain. The world’s cities, with their teeming populations and slums, will be places of immense confusion and complexity, physically as well as culturally. They will also provide prime locations for
diseases and the population density for pandemics to spread.

There is no modern precedent for major cities collapsing, even in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries, when the first such cities appeared. Cities under enormous stress, such as Beirut in the 1980s and Sarajevo in the 1990s, nevertheless managed to survive with only brief interruptions of food imports and basic services. As in World War II, unless contested by an organized enemy, urban areas are always easier to control than the countryside. In part, that is because cities offer a pre-existing administrative infrastructure through which forces can manage secured areas while conducting stability operations in contested locations. The effectiveness of that pre-existing infrastructure may be tested as never before under the stress of massive immigration, energy demand, and food and water shortages in the urban sprawl that is likely to emerge. More than ever before, it will demand the cultural and political knowledge to utilize that infrastructure.

Major Urban Environments

Urban operations will inevitably require the balancing of the disruptive and destructive military operations with the requirements of humanitarian, security, and relief and reconstruction operations. What may be militarily effective may also create the potential for large civilian casualties, which in turn would most probably result in a political disaster, especially given the ubiquitous presence of the media. As well, the nature of operations in urban environments places a premium on decentralized command and control, ISR, fire support, and aviation. Combat leaders will need to continue to decentralize decision-making down to the level where tactical leaders can act independently in response to fleeting opportunities.


The current demographic trends and population shifts around the globe underline the increasing importance of cities. The urban landscape is steadily growing in complexity, while its streets and slums are filled with a youthful population that has few connections to their elders. The urban environment is subject to water scarcity, increasing pollution, soaring food and living costs, and labor markets in which workers have little leverage or bargaining power. Such a volatile mixture is a recipe for trouble.