The national intelligence community’s consensus on global trends for the next 20 years asserts that no rival power will rise to challenge U.S. supremacy, but the era of an “American-dominated world stage” has passed, according to a report released Monday.
The quadrennial effort by the National Intelligence Council, part of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, combines the reporting of 16 federal intelligence agencies with insights from business, academia and foreign sources in such areas as war, economics, education, demographics and technology.
“Global Trends 2030: Alternative Worlds” projects that by 2030 the United States “most likely will remain ‘first among equals’ among the other great powers due to the legacy of its leadership role in the world and the dominant role it has played in international politics across the board in both hard and soft power,” the ODNI summary noted. “The replacement of the U.S. by another global power and construction of a new international order is an unlikely outcome in this time period.”
But given the sheer size of Asian nations, notably China, the region “will surpass North America and Europe combined” in terms of gross domestic product, population, military spending and technological investment, the report said.
The report highlights six “tectonic shifts” underpinning the megatrends that will affect how the world works. On a positive note is the projection of U.S. energy independence in 10 to 20 years because of abundant shale gas. A more ominous shift discussed is the likelihood of wider access by individuals and nonstate groups to lethal and disruptive technologies such as bioterror and cyber weapons.
Two other megatrends the report emphasizes are demographic patterns including aging populations and growing demands on resources such as food and water.
Domestically, “income distribution in the U.S. is considerably more unequal than in other advanced countries and is becoming more so,” the report noted. It also asserts that defense spending on the order of past increases may no longer be feasible. “With an aging population and the prospect of higher interest rates in the future,” the study said, “the rising entitlement costs will consume an increasing proportion of the federal budget without major reform of the programs or substantially increased tax revenues.”