U.S. intelligence agencies forecast beyond the next five years any possible threats to US interests. Robert Gates, serving as U.S. secretary of defense, noted two months into NATO’s intervention in Libya, “If you’d asked me four months ago if we’d be in Libya today, I would have asked, ‘What were you smoking?'”
The U.S Preventive Action’s annual report for 2012 is designed to overcome the lack of forecasting ability in the intelligence community by developing a list of plausible human-generated contingencies of relative importance to U.S. national interests, grouped according to levels or categories of risk associated with various types of instability or conflict into three tiers:
The 30 contingencies were sent to a wide selection of more than 300 government officials, policy analysts, academics and journalists for their confidential feedback.
These are the top 10 that directly threaten the U.S. homeland and are likely to trigger U.S. military involvement:
- A mass casualty attack on the U.S. homeland or on a treaty ally.
- A severe North Korean crisis (e.g., armed provocations, internal political instability, advances in nuclear weaponry).
- A major military incident with China involving U.S. or allied forces.
- An Iranian nuclear crisis (e.g., surprise advances in nuclear weapons/delivery capability, Israeli response).
- A highly disruptive cyber-attack on U.S. critical infrastructure (e.g., telecommunications, electrical power, pipeline output, transportation and emergency services.
- A significant increase in drug trafficking violence in Mexico that spills over into the United States.
- Severe internal instability in Pakistan triggered by a civil-military crisis or terror attacks.
- Political instability in Saudi Arabia that endangers global oil supplies.
- A U.S.-Pakistan military confrontation, triggered by a terror attack or U.S. counter-terror.
- Intensification of the European sovereign debt crisis that leads to the collapse of the euro, triggering a double-edged transatlantic crisis.