January 03, 2011

Second Annual Natural Security Wish List: Our Policy Hopes for 2011

We got mixed results for our 2010 wish list – much improvement but with a long road still ahead. Will the natural security bloggers fare better for our policy goals for 2011? Here are 10 items to keep an eye out for through the coming year.

  1. We wish for DOD to set a goal of managing a smooth transition beyond petroleum over the next 30 years. Sound familiar?
  2. DOD should also designate a single COCOM as lead for the Arctic, as we recommended in April. Because the strategic importance of the Artic is only growing.
  3. The Senate needs to ratify UNCLOS, and quickly. It is standing in the way of the U.S. government protecting U.S. interests everywhere from the South China Sea to the Arctic.
  4. Building on 2010’s expansion of natural security into key national security documents, we hope to see more useful guidance for integrating these concerns into the work of the Combatant Commands. After all, they will be on the front lines in confronting the effects of climate change, managing the sticky side effects of energy competition, and other resource-related challenges. We expected greater analytical focus on the COCOMs after our April 2010 climate change report, but have been disappointed to date with the lack thereof.
  5. A smart approach to “green alliances” from Obama administration. Incorporating resources and environmental issues into our international partnerships and formal alliance relationships is necessary and a positive step for a modern U.S. approach to security. It is also going to be difficult, with decent potential to back other countries into inefficient policies and tough political quandaries. For an example, see the natural security section to our 2010 Indonesia report.
  6. Improved awareness among civil servants and political appointees about natural security issues. This is a slow process but we saw significant gains in the past year, like several professors at military academies and war colleges incorporating energy, climate change, environmental change, and resource competition into their lesson plans. We’ll be watching through 2011 for further signs of progress.
  7. Higher prioritization of reducing supplier leverage in policies and analysis regarding U.S. mineral issues. Import dependence is generally fine and the need for efficiency is a positive force for the market. But lack of competition and blind trust in a small number of actors for some minerals, like rare earths, is where resources can really affect our foreign and security policy interests.
  8. Building on last year’s wish list…a reduction in U.S. greenhouse gas emissions over 2010 levels. Hopefully a notable reduction.
  9. What the heck: let’s go ahead and call for Congress to further examine the Mina Corp. and Red Star operational energy madness, and publicly, so that hopefully we can supply fuel for our efforts in Afghanistan without so much waste and such extreme negative side effects for U.S. interests. Equally important: we all need to better understand what’s happened in order to mitigate future operational energy challenges (and much wasted taxpayer money) of this nature.
  10. Did you think we’d let ourselves off easy this year? Not a chance. We’re going to examine what our readers read and commented on the most on the blog last year, better align our blogging with our research plans for 2011 so you know exactly what we’re up to here at CNAS, and aim to further expand our natural security community even further.