In a report released to the public on March 15th, the United States Joint Operating Command released its outlook on future trends.
The The Joint Operating Environment 2010 is speculative, states the US Joint Operating Command (JOC) in the introduction. The purpose of the report is to prepare for likely future events. General J.N. Mattis, U.S. Marines Commander, U.S. Joint Forces Command wrote "... We will likely not call the future exactly right, but we must think through the nature of continuity and change in strategic trends to discern their military implications to avoid being completely wrong. These implications serve to influence the concepts that drive our services’ adaptations to the environments within which they will operate, adaptations that are essential if our leaders are to have the fewest regrets when future crises strike."
The Joint Operating Environment examines ten top global trends in an attempt to forecast what they mean for the United States. The top ten trends are: demographics, globalization, economics, energy, food, water, climate change, pandemics, cyber (technology), and space. "... These individual trends, whether they adhere to predictions or not, will combine in ways that form broader and more robust contexts that will define the world in which the Joint Force will operate in the future."
The report authors tempered their 2010 offering by concluding the only certainty about the future is that change exists and people will continue to fight with each other. That said, the forecasters felt confident in predicting an oil-based energy crisis for the world as early as 2012. Without any mitigation, demand for energy will double by 2030 the report said. Fossil fuels are anticipated to provide 80% of that energy, and the crisis will not be due to a lack of oil, but a lack of capacity in accessing crude oil. "... By 2012, surplus oil production capacity could entirely disappear, and as early as 2015, the shortfall in output could reach nearly 10 MBD."
China will be a key country in terms of demand. The country is constructing approximately 1,000 kilometers of 4-lane highway each year, said the report. According to the Center for American Progress, China has been positioning itself to secure future supplies of crude.
The JOC anticipates the energy crisis will spur another recession, and warn that the energy crisis and ensuing economic crisis could put the US military in a precarious situation. The report authors said "... A severe energy crunch is inevitable without a massive expansion of production and refining capacity. While it is difficult to predict precisely what economic, political, and strategic effects such a shortfall might produce, it surely would reduce the prospects for growth in both the developing and developed worlds. Such an economic slowdown would exacerbate other unresolved tensions, push fragile and failing states further down the path toward collapse, and perhaps have serious economic impact on both China and India. At best, it would lead to periods of harsh economic adjustment. To what extent conservation measures, investments in alternative energy production, and efforts to expand petroleum production from tar sands and shale would mitigate such a period of adjustment is difficult to predict. One should not forget that the Great Depression spawned a number of totalitarian regimes that sought economic prosperity for their nations by ruthless conquest. "
The report forecast covers 2010 to 2030. The JOC predicts 2030 will see the rise of transnational organizations to state-like status. Barring the predicted energy crisis, the world will experience steady economic growth into 2030. The balance of power in the near future will shift, with China becoming a global force. Other countries, such as Turkey, Egypt, Nigeria, Vietnam and Brazil will also come into their own.
Nuclear weapons remain a concern, particularly in Asia where unresolved disputes such as between India and Pakistan keep the risks of deployment of nuclear weapons high. The threat of war also remains a high priority concern for the US, with Russia and the Baltic nations seen as terrorism threats. The Middle East keeps its status as a primary source of conflict into the future.
The JOC is urging that work begin now on completing the calculated shortfall of crude oil, but warned that even with substantially increasing drilling and refining capacities, there will still be a gap between demand and production. The JOC is building upon warnings issued from the International Energy Agency, which forecast a gap between production and demand.
Ultimately, the bottom line is the world is, and will remain, an uncertain place. The enemy is human, concluded the JOC.