Forecasting Major Threats to U.S. Security in 2012

The Preventive Priorities Survey (PPS), an annual report intended to help inform the U.S. policy community about the relative urgency and importance of competing conflict prevention demands, was published today by the Center for Preventive Action. Funded by Carnegie Corporation of New York, the survey reports the confidential responses of a targeted group of government officials, academics, and experts to a list of contingencies that could plausibly occur in 2012.  

The list of preventive priorities for the United States is grouped according to three tiers of relative importance to U.S. national interests, based on different levels or categories of risk associated with various types of instability and conflict. The preventive priorities within each tier are not listed in any order of priority or probability. 

Tier I are preventive priorities that directly threaten the U.S. homeland, are likely to trigger U.S. military involvement because of treaty commitments, or threaten the supplies of critical U.S. strategic resources. They include:

  •  a mass casualty attack on the U.S. homeland or on a treaty ally
  •  a severe North Korean crisis (e.g., armed provocations, internal political instability, advances in nuclear weapons/ICBM capability)
  •  a major military incident with China involving U.S. or allied forces 

Tier II are contingencies that affect countries of strategic importance to the United States but that do not involve a mutual-defense treaty commitment. They include:

  •  political instability in Egypt with wider regional implications
  •  a severe Indo-Pak crisis that carries risk of military escalation, triggered by major terror attack
  •  rising tension/naval incident in the eastern Mediterranean Sea between Turkey and Israel 

Tier III are contingencies that could have severe/widespread humanitarian consequences but in countries of limited strategic importance to the United States.  They include:

  •  military conflict between Sudan and South Sudan
  •  heightened political instability and sectarian violence in Nigeria
  •  increased conflict in Somalia, with continued outside intervention

About the Center

The Center for Preventive Action (CPA) seeks to help prevent, defuse, or resolve deadly conflicts around the world and to expand the body of knowledge on conflict prevention. It does so by creating a forum in which representatives of governments, international organizations, nongovernmental organizations, corporations, and civil society can gather to develop operational and timely strategies for promoting peace in specific conflict situations. The center focuses on conflicts in countries or regions that affect U.S. interests, but may be otherwise overlooked; where prevention appears possible; and when the resources of the Council on Foreign Relations can make a difference.