To date, the Biden administration appears to be prioritizing work to address the greatest threats to international security and stability, including biological risks, the security implications of climate change, dramatic ecological disruption, and nuclear threats. Analyzing, anticipating, and addressing these issues—and how they intersect and exacerbate one another—are at the core of the mission of the Council on Strategic Risks (CSR).
In anticipation of the administration releasing its first full budget request on May 27th, the CSR team offers the following insights and hopes for what it will contain.
On Biological Threats
“It will take several years to restore and then expand critical programs for addressing biological threats whose budgets were declining for the past decade before the pandemic. It is important that this budget request begin this process with some concerted investments in key areas such as early detection of emerging biological threats and the nation’s infrastructure for developing and manufacturing vaccines rapidly. Ideally, the budget will also balance these investments across several key agencies including health and human services and defense, along with encouragement to continue positive advancements in collaboration across these agencies.” – Christine Parthemore, CEO of CSR
“The U.S. needs to leverage its best and brightest assets to deal with the challenges of the present and the future. Such assets exist at the Department of Energy’s National Laboratories, which contain the expertise, facilities, and connections necessary to provide the U.S. with the knowledge, tools, and innovations necessary to address complex, interwoven threats at the intersection of geopolitics, biology, ecology, and climate change. Ideally, the budget will invest heavily in these DOE assets as the Biden administration develops the best and most effective early detection systems for emerging biological threats, cements the U.S. position as a key global driver of the bioeconomy, and ensures the security and prosperity of the U.S. in areas like energy and environmental remediation.” – Dr. Yong-Bee Lim, Fellow, Janne E. Nolan Center on Strategic Weapons, CSR
“How many hospital beds a nation has available at any given time is now indisputably a matter of national security. I hope this significant re-think of the security risk landscape is reflected in the Biden budget.” – Francesco Femia, Co-Founder and Research Director, The Council on Strategic Risks/ The Center for Climate and Security
On Climate Security
“In the Administration’s first year, some of the most important changes will be increases to staff, development of plans and guidance, vulnerability assessments and exercises – many of which could occur below the level of detail shared in the budget. If you want a visible signal that the administration is putting its money where its mouth is, look at infrastructure and resilience programs in the Defense Department and Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Individual construction projects may also include climate resilience justifications, but nascent planning efforts are essential to identifying the most impactful resilience projects, and the larger budget impacts may not show up until next year.” – John Conger, Director, Center for Climate and Security
“U.S. allies and partners around the globe face amplified risks of instability and conflict due to rising temperatures and extreme weather events. Helping them manage these climate risks is one of the smartest security investments the Biden administration could make in its FY22 budget. In the Indo-Pacific, for example, polling shows greater concern about the security risks of climate change than the risk of military conflict. There’s no better way to cement U.S. alliances in the region than to assist these countries with their biggest security worry. The Biden Administration has already pledged to increase funding for The Green Climate Fund–a good start. A budget that truly puts climate change at the center of U.S. foreign policy will include additional bilateral and multilateral funds for climate adaptation assistance as well.” – Erin Sikorsky, Director, International Military Council on Climate and Security; Deputy Director, Center for Climate and Security
“Science has long been central to U.S. national security. As the Biden Administration further positions climate change as a major pillar of its domestic and foreign policy, it must also significantly bolster relevant scientific capacity in the national security agencies. In particular, the intelligence community could attain a deeper understanding of how a changing climate affects security interests through allocations directed towards more physical and social science research into climate events, related biophysical ecological phenomena, and climate-linked vulnerabilities of people and systems. Scientific investments across U.S. agencies will help leaders government-wide better understand and navigate our era of climate and ecological discontinuities.” – Dr. Rod Schoonover, Fellow and Member of the CSR and Center for Climate and Security’s Advisory Board, CSR
“Unprecedented security threats such as climate change require unprecedented responses. The Biden Administration is in a unique position to enact just such an unprecedented response. My hope is that the scale and scope of U.S. resources committed to combating the climate crisis is commensurate to the threat. Under President Biden, the Responsibility to Prepare and Prevent systemic risks to global security has been so far embraced in rhetoric and action. Now is the time to take that action to the next level in order to prepare for a very difficult future, and to prevent a catastrophic one.” – Francesco Femia, Co-Founder and Research Director, The Council on Strategic Risks/The Center for Climate and Security
On Ecological Security
“Adverse effects to security are poised to erupt from biosphere instability, habitat loss and fragmentation, collapse of ecosystems and their benefits to people, and other elements of global ecological disruption. The Biden administration could lay the ground for better understanding and addressing domestic and international ecological security risks through robust investments in ecological forecasting, monitoring and surveillance of environmental crime, early warning capabilities for ecological regime shifts, and pandemic prevention at the source. A boost to international conservation budgets—for land, freshwater, and ocean systems—would almost certainly pay significant national security dividends in the near future.” – Dr. Rod Schoonover, Member of the CSR and Center for Climate and Security Advisory Board
“Budgets are a litmus test for administration priorities. Biological threats are not going to go away. Rather, trends at the intersection of biosecurity, ecological security, and climate change indicate that biological threats from natural, accidental, and deliberate sources are inclined to increase as biotechnology and life sciences knowledge increase and become distributed, ecological systems erode, and climate change continues unfettered. Hopefully, the budget reflects not only budgetary increases to address these challenges in the present,, but contains language that reflects sustaining these initiatives in the years to come.” – Dr. Yong-Bee Lim, Fellow, Janne E. Nolan Center on Strategic Weapons, CSR
On Nuclear Threats
“The Biden administration’s first budget may not reflect major changes yet in the U.S. nuclear weapons modernization plans. Behind the scenes, we hope the President has provided guidance to use the next Nuclear Posture Review to walk the country away from so-called low-yield nuclear weapons and new, destabilizing nuclear capabilities. There are many ways to smartly reshape U.S. plans, maintain a strong deterrent, lower nuclear risks, and pursue an ambitious arms control agenda with other nations.” – Christine Parthemore, CEO of CSR
“The global community finds itself inching closer and closer to two existential threats — climate change and nuclear detonation. What is less understood is how these issues are increasingly intersecting around the world. From nuclear armed nations in geopolitical hotspots experiencing extreme climate change impacts to nuclear facilities grappling with extreme weather events, to climate vulnerable newcomers exploring nuclear power in unstable political environments; climate, nuclear, and security trends will continue to manifest and combine in key regions. The FY2022 budget should include tangible steps to address and elevate the climate, nuclear, and security nexus. Two of those steps could be 1) incorporating this nexus into broader security forecasting and harnessing technological capabilities and AI to map out where these issues are likely to intertwine and 2) cap and eliminate tactical and low yield nuclear weapons to lead in bolstering nuclear cooperation and minimize global risks.” – Andrea Rezzonico, Deputy to the CEO and Deputy Director of the Converging Risks Lab, CSR
Important stuff, thanks for the update. I hope these CSR folks know where their towels truly are….