Wednesday, August 4, 2010

DNI Nominee Clapper on Climate and Energy Security

Via Marc Ambinder, I see that General James Clapper, the nominee to be the new Director of National Intelligence (DNI), had some interesting things to say about the intelligence community's responses to climate change and energy security.  Clapper's hearing before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence was held on July 20. The nomination is still pending, and there are reports that Senator McCain has placed a hold on the nomination, preventing a vote on the Senate floor.

In the section on national security threats, Clapper was asked to "discuss your view of the appropriate IC [Intelligence Community] roles and responsibilities with respect to the issues of climate change and energy security, and how well the IC has performed in these areas"

I will quote in full the answer he gave in writing to that question.
Global climate change could have wide-ranging implications for US national security interests over the next 20 years because it would aggravate existing world problems—such as poverty, social tensions, environmental degradation, ineffectual leadership and weak political institutions—that threaten state stability. Since the 2008 publication of the National Intelligence Assessment (NIA) on the national security implications of climate change, the IC has stepped up analysis and collection to look more in depth at climate change implications in individual countries and regions important to U.S. long term interests. The CIA has also created a center to provide all-source analysis on the impact of climate change on political, economic, military and social stability. It is also responsible for the MEDEA program which reviews and declassifies imagery for sharing with the climate scientific community. 
Energy security has also been an important topic for Intelligence Community analysis and collection. To meet demand growth in next three to 10 years and reduce the risk of future price spikes, international and national oil companies will need to re-engage on major projects that were shelved when prices fell in late 2008. Within OPEC, Iraq is a bright spot for oil capacity expansion. Recent developments in the U.S. gas sector, primarily shale gas, have made the U.S. essentially gas independent for at least a decade or two, if not longer. The IC has for some time closely followed energy security developments, warning of longer term trends and  highlighting potential opportunities for mitigating negative implications for U.S. national security. 
After the hearing, General Clapper had more to say in his response to post-hearing questions, saying that "the CIA could serve as the DNI's Executive Agent on Climate Change."  To me, it is unclear if this means that the re-organization of the intelligence community's response to climate change, which I wrote about in May, will mean that all climate issues will be concentrated at the CIA's "Center for Climate Change and National Security". It would be a shame if it meant that they closed the National Intelligence Council's office of Climate Change and State Stability, which has done some excellent work.

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