U.S. Intelligence Has Failed

When President Harry S. Truman authorized the creation of the Central Intelligence Agency, he did so because he wanted to prevent another Pearl Harbor from occurring. Truman’s presidency coincided with the start of the Cold War and the nuclear arms race between the Soviet Union and the United States. America’s leaders feared that without adequate intelligence to provide strategic warning America might endure yet another devastating Pearl Harbor-type attack. 

Today, 18 different agencies comprise the U.S. intelligence community (IC), funded at roughly $80 billion per year. Despite these resources, America’s intelligence experts have categorically failed to provide timely, strategic warnings to American policymakers and the public. 

China’s Nuclear Surprise


Over the summer, commercial satellites passing over China took photos of massive nuclear weapons silos being constructed in the Chinese hinterland. To make up for their embarrassing negligence about China’s nuclear weapons capability, the IC has made a prediction that China will acquire 1,000 nuclear weapons by the year 2027. 

But how can any policymaker in Washington trust that such a prediction is accurate? 

As far back as 2009, there were some analysts, such as Georgetown professor Philip Karber, who had become convinced that China had secretly expanded its nuclear weapons arsenal and hidden those weapons underground, out of sight from passing Western satellites. Those analysts were lampooned by the same IC that today has been caught with its britches down. Perhaps the nuclear silos that China is building are not the start of a renewed push to expand their nuclear weapons arsenal by 2027 but, in fact, are a continuation of a program begun far earlier than most members of the IC are willing to admit—which would mean that China’s nuclear weapons threat to the United States is a lot closer than 2027. 

Unlike the United States and Russia, China is not restrained by the existing spate of nuclear weapons treaties meant to limit nuclear stockpiles and reduce the risk of nuclear war. Those treaties were forged during the Cold War when there were but two nuclear superpowers. Today there are at least eight. The United States should take China’s nuclear weapons threat more seriously—and we should address the threat with greater alacrity.

A Quantum of Control

Quantum computing, meanwhile, is a game-changing technology that offers faster computational speeds and greater levels of encryption than traditional silicon-based computers. Whichever company or country pioneers quantum computing will enjoy significant first-mover advantages. Like the computers of the last century, quantum computers will offer great strategic advantages for the country that develops them first. As David P. Goldman postulates in his recent book, quantum computing could effectively negate America’s signals intelligence  advantage. 

With its newfound quantum supremacy, China will be able to attract investment and talent from around the world to conduct cutting-edge quantum computing research and development in ways that previously were available only in the United States. In turn, China will be able to create an entire quantum computing ecosystem that will inevitably erase America’s technological dominance in the computer industry. 

Do our well-paid “experts” in the IC even understand the technology? The answer is likely “no.”

Hypersonic Power

Rocketing around the Earth at speeds faster than 3,800 mph, China’s hypersonic glide vehicle circled the Earth twice and then landed within 20 miles of its target. The Chinese demonstration was a signal to the world that Beijing possesses technology to circumvent existing forms of air defense. The Americans, meanwhile, are struggling in their own efforts to build similar hypersonic weapons. A strategic gap now gives China a true advantage over the United States: It can possibly strike the American homeland with near-impunity (and without much warning).

China is late to the hypersonic game. Yet, Beijing has enjoyed the greatest success in its efforts to pioneer this next-generation offensive weapons platform. U.S. intelligence has known about the strategic potential—and threat—that hypersonic weapons pose; they have been researching hypersonic weapons longer than the Chinese have. So how was America bested? 

China’s Satellite Crusher

Taking an old Soviet concept and making it their own, China has deployed the Shijian-21 satellite crushing satellite into geosynchronous orbit. Shijian-21 can tailgate sensitive American satellites, latch onto them with grappling arms, and either crush them or push those vital U.S. systems off orbit, rendering U.S. military forces on Earth deaf, dumb, and blind. Whereas U.S. intelligence has known America’s satellite constellations are dangerously susceptible to attack and disruption from rivals like China or Russia, very little has been done to defend these satellites.

Thanks to the Chinese anti-satellite capability, Beijing could conduct a Space Pearl Harbor attack on the United States, rendering U.S. military forces charged with defending the homeland or Taiwan inoperable. 

The United States Space Force was created in 2019, in part, to better protect U.S. satellites. Yet, the organization has failed to do much of anything other than create slick ads displaying Space Force’s commitment to diversity and greater levels of bureaucracy. As China makes bold moves to dominate the strategic high ground of space, America’s elephantine national security establishment lumbers along the same well-trodden paths.

A Deep Cleaning of the Deep State, Please

In light of the IC’s repeated failures, Republican lawmakers should demand a complete audit of IC practices and personnel. Unless a serious shakeup is done now, before the attacks begin, the United States may be defeated in the opening phases of a war—against China or some other adversary. The Democrats won’t dare go against the IC and America cannot afford for its IC to continue operating as it has. To avoid a “Space Pearl Harbor” or losing a war, the IC must change the way it operates now. 

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About Brandon J. Weichert

A 19FortyFive Senior Editor, Brandon J. Weichert is a former Congressional staffer and geopolitical analyst who is a contributor at The Washington Times, as well as at American Greatness and the Asia Times. He is the author of Winning Space: How America Remains a Superpower (Republic Book Publishers), Biohacked: China’s Race to Control Life (May 16), and The Shadow War: Iran’s Quest for Supremacy (July 23). Weichert can be followed via Twitter @WeTheBrandon.href="https://twitter.com/WeTheBrandon">@WeTheBrandon.

Photo: Li Jieyi/VCG via Getty Images