Shawna Robles

Review DNI WTA’s for 2015 and 2016 (see attached). Compare and contrast all the threat[s] as the DNI saw them last year and what he sees this year? This is more than just a list.

Why the change? [Assume what’s addressed first is first priority and what’s addressed last is last].

CyberCyber and Technology
TerrorismWMD and Proliferation
WMD and ProliferationSpace/Counterspace
Transnational Organized CrimeTransnational Organized Crime
Economics and Natural ResourcesEconomics and Natural Resources
Human SecurityHuman Security















When comparing and contrasting World Threat Assessments from 2015 and 2016, it is easy to see that many of the areas of concern and focus have stayed relatively the same.  Looking at the lists, some of the priorities have changed as far order of merit.  The regional threats have also changed quite a bit as far as who has become a top priority and which countries remain threats or who has been removed as a threat.  Regional threats will change according to which country poses the biggest threat to the U.S. and national security at the time.  Currently, East Asia tops the list for threats due to North Korea’s threats of WMD.  In 2015, The Middle East was at the top due to the gaining momentum ISIS had in Iraq.

Cyber was named the top priority for both 2015 and 2016 with 2016 adding technology into the mix.  In 2015, the DNI stated that “politically motivated cyber-attacks are now a growing reality, and foreign actors are reconnoitering and developing access to US critical infrastructure systems, which might be quickly exploited for disruption if an adversary’s intent became hostile (Clapper, 2015 p. 2).  For 2016, a major focus for the cyber/technology is artificial intelligence decision making process.  Counterintel was higher on the list in 2015 due to the ongoing threats Russia and China provided.  As the time, the U.S. was considered a bigger threat to Iran, prompting them to state that they could continue to monitor the U.S. involvement overseas.  For 2016, counterintel was lower on the list with Russia and China still being major players, however, growing threats and concerns from other areas ended up being higher priority on the list due to the severity of potential attacks.  Terrorism is the second highest priority for 2016 due to the increase of attacks by ISIS/ISIL and the involvement of the U.S. in Iraq and other Middle Eastern countries.  In 2015, ISIL/ISIS was a growing concern but has not become a full-fledged problem until 2016 when they gained momentum and took over cities the U.S. has once liberated.  WMD/Proliferation has become a bigger issue in 2016 due to the continuous threats from North Korea.  In 2015, North Korea was in the process of developing WMD capabilities.  Last year, North Korea started to focus more on testing ballistic missiles and distances.  Syria and Iraq have proven WMDs still remain in their countries.  Space and counterspace was a bigger focus in 2016 than 2016 due to more participation and interest in space operations from countries which could be potentially dangerous to U.S. operations.   The increased interest in satellite imagery, weather operations, communications, etc could be effective at monitoring military operations.  This could also be detrimental to U.S. forces.  The last three areas: transnational organized crime, economics and natural resources and human security remain the same regarding their position on the priority list.


Clapper, J. R., & United States. (2015). Statement for the record on the worldwide threat assessment of    the US intelligence community, Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. Washington, D.C.: Office of the Director of National Intelligence.


tyler stivers

The first threat that the DNI discusses is certainly one of the most concerning. Cyber threats to the private sector and national critical infrastructure are continually increasing.  Callap (2015) states that “Despite ever-improving network defenses, the divers possibilities for remote hacking intrusions, supply chain operations to insert compromised hardware or software, and malevolent  activities by human insiders will hold nearly all ICT systems at risk for years to come” (p1).  Furthermore the DNI discusses the threats to personal data and data systems by a wide variety of potential actors.  Including state supported organizations and states themselves.  In 2016 the DNI discussed this threat in very much the same way, but included the threat to personal technology such as cars, phones, and other electronic devices.  The DNI believes that these devices and sensitive databases are higher priority target than infrastructure systems. Comparatively the cyber threat has not changed much from 2015 to 2016.  There were simply more vulnerabilities discussed in the 2016 report. Specifically, Internet of things, Foreign data science Augmented reality and Virtual reality.

The next threat the DNI discusses is counterintelligence.  Similar to the cyber threat, counter intelligence involves the covert access of national security information. Clapper (2015) identifies that “propriety information form US companies and research institution dealing with defense, energy, finance, dual-use technology” (p.4) will also be targets or foreign intelligence entities. In 2016 there was a distinct shift in his interpretation of the counterintelligence threat.  Rather than simply accessing information as discussed in 2015, the 2016 analysis include the goal of “influencing the US national decision-making apparatus”(p.10) This was evident by report of attempted or actual access of US election systems by Russia. The DNI also included the threat of foreign intelligence services recruitment of “insiders” to obtain US government information without authorization.  In my opinion the tone of counterintelligence threat analysis in the DNI 2016 report sounds very similar to counterintelligence threats faced in the cold war.

The DNIs analysis of the terrorism threat was mainly the same in 2015 and 2016.  However in 2016, the DNI further discusses al-Qai’ida’s advancements in Yemen specifically.  Additionally, the 2016 report identifies the success of terrorist organizations recruitment of individuals proficient in information technology, social media, and online research.  Furthermore, the exploitation of social media by these organizations was covered in the 2016 report.  The terrorism threat has not changes to a great degree in the past decade aside from the rise of ISIL.

The only difference in the DNIs analysis of WMD threat was the including of Genome Editing in the 2016 report. The analysis was fairly vague however Clapper (2016) stated that this type of research by “countries with different regulatory or ethical standards than those of Western Countries probably increases the risk of the creation of potentially harmful biological agents or products” (p. 9) Both the 2015 and 2016 reports include the threats from WMD countries (Russia, China, Iran, North Korea).  Generally, these countries specifically North Korea continue to develop their WMD programs and increasing the threat.

The DNIs analysis of the  remaining threats; Space and counterspace, traditional organized crime, economics and natural resources, and human security remained mostly consistent form the 2015 and 2016 reports. In summary, humans will continue to face epidemic, pandemic and natural disaster. The DNI identified in the 2016 reports that abnormal weather patterns severe weather situations will become more common. As space systems advance they will become targets of disruption by

competitive nations. Drug trafficking remains a major threat and “undermines US interest abroad”(clapper, 2015)


Clapper, J. (2015) “Worldwide Threat Assessment of the US Intelligence Community”. Senate Armed Services Committee. Retrieved from


Clapper, J (2016) “Worldwide Threat Assessment of the US Intelligence Community”. Senate Armed Services Committee. Retrieved from