Donilon Outlines National Security Challenges

Tom Donilon, former National Security Advisor to President Obama, outlined a series of national security challenges and economic opportunities facing the United States at GovSec and FOSE at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C. GovSec is the Government Security Conference and Expo, which also features TREXPO, the Law Enforcement Expo. FOSE is the most comprehensive government IT event serving as at the intersection of people, technology and knowledge.

Donilon, who served as National Security Advisor from January 2009 to June 2013, addressed a wide range of national security topics, including:

Crisis in the Ukraine – Donilon said, “the post-war order is at stake” in Ukraine and that balance of power is a very real concept to President Putin. Donilon believes that the United States has an obligation to its NATO allies and noted that allies, who share a border with Ukraine, particularly Poland, have serious security concerns. He also stated that the Ukrainian crisis is prompting European countries to reconsider their energy dependence on Russia and to explore ways to build out their own energy infrastructure.

Cyber Security – Donilon said threats are becoming “more sophisticated and pervasive” as people and companies increasingly conduct their lives and business online. He encouraged the audience to practice good “cyber hygiene” by taking responsibility for their property online. Donilon also warned that cyber-enabled economic theft, such as theft of intellectual property by nations or groups, is becoming a critical threat, with China serving a principle home base for these threats. “You can’t have a $500 billion economic relationship without addressing that threat,” Donilon said of the U.S.-China relationship.

War on Terror – Donilon noted several successes in the war on terror, including homeland defense and disaster resiliency. He also cited the government’s aggressive efforts to dismantle terrorist networks, stating that the core of Al Qaida – the network responsible for the attacks of September 11, 2001 – has been “dramatically weakened and put on the road to defeat.” However, Donilon warned that threats continue to evolve, ranging from Al Qaida on the Arabian Peninsula and threats in Africa to the large number of Jihadi fighters gathering in Syria.

Edward Snowden’s National Security Revelations – Donilon acknowledged that Edward Snowden’s leaks of classified documents were “tremendously damaging to our bilateral relations with other countries, such as Russia and Brazil.” He also expressed concern for the impact the revelations would have on U.S. technology companies, which need to establish trust with foreign governments in order to expand business overseas.

Asia “Pivot” – Donilon said the Obama Administration determined in its first term that the U.S. was substantially underinvested in Asia and needed to rebalance. The Trans Pacific Trade Partnership, currently under negotiation, is the U.S.’s most important economic priority in the region, he noted. He also said that the U.S.-China relationship is defined both by areas of partnership and competition. The relationship is anchored by a $500 billion in economic ties and that both countries must work cooperatively within that framework.

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