Competition for energy, water and food will drive conflicts between nations to a degree not seen in decades, and climate change and global economic upheaval will amplify the effects, Mike McConnell, the Director of National Intelligence, said in a speech here on Thursday, Oct 30. McConnell, who has given security briefings to both major presidential candidates, said the list of worries would soon drown out the euphoria as the next occupant of the White House settles into the job.
"After the new president-elect's excitement subsides after winning the election, it is going to be dampened somewhat when he begins to focus on the realities of the myriad of changes and challenges," he said.
McConnell added that, besides the predictable conflicts and threats, 'there is always surprise.'
McConnell said that the first months of a new presidency are a 'period of most vulnerability,' noting that major terrorist attacks occurred during the first year of the administrations of President George W Bush and President Bill Clinton.
The sobering assessment was in part a reflection of a months-long analysis McConnell's agency is preparing for the next administration, highlighting security challenges the country will face in the next two decades.
In the near-term, the focus remains largely on al-Qaeda and its global network, which remains 'very lethal' despite dramatic setbacks in Iraq and elsewhere, the Washington Post quoted McConnell, as saying.
But in spite of progress against Osama bin Laden and his followers, the terrorist threat is not likely to disappear in the next 20 years.
Meanwhile, population growth will create instability by increasing the strain on natural resources -- not only energy but fresh water and food supplies, he said.
At the same time, large swaths of the planet will struggle to find reliable supplies of fresh water, due to urbanization and climate change. By 2025, 1.4 billion people in 36 countries will face water shortages, McConnell said.
The scarcity of basic necessities will "create significant tensions on the globe," he said.