Top 8 threats to National Security in 2024

Tessa Robinson
Feb 29, 2024 11:26 AM PST
5 minute read
Protestors in Iran burn an American flag.

Iranian protesters shout anti-U.S. and anti-Israel slogans while burning the U.S. flag during an anti-Israel rally in downtown of Tehran, Iran, on October 18, 2023. (Photo by Morteza Nikoubazl/NurPhoto via Getty Images)


Every year, the Council on Foreign Relations publishes the greatest threats to the American experiment. For the first time, the biggest one is already on U.S. soil.

Every year, the Council on Foreign Relations pulls together a comprehensive report surrounding the biggest threats to our American experiment called the "Preventative Priorities Survey." I like to call it "Top 8 reasons to have anxiety." According to the PPS, the survey evaluates "ongoing and potential conflicts based on their likelihood of occurring in the coming year and their impact on U.S. interests."

The PPS aims to "help the U.S. policymaking community prioritize competing conflict prevention and mitigation demands." While the survey acknowledges there are countless threats to the nation, they're really focused on the top 30, which they place in three categories - Tiers I, II, and III. Eight threats made it into Tier I for 2024, and this year, for the first time in the report's 16-year history, the report doesn't list a foreign entity as the biggest threat, rather, we, as Americans, are the biggest danger to ourselves.

A few notes from the PPS before we discuss this no good, terrible, awful, terrifying news: "The survey did not ask experts to assess broad trends like global warming, demographic change, or technological developments because it is inherently difficult to gauge how such trends could trigger conflict in a specific area over the next twelve months. Nor does the PPS attempt to evaluate the risk associated with more discrete events such as earthquakes, severe weather events, public health crises, or the death of a specific leader, all of which can undermine political stability. Such random events are inherently unpredictable within a short time frame. The results reflect expert opinion at the time the survey was conducted in November 2023. The world is a dynamic place and geopolitical risk assessments need to be regularly updated to refect changing circumstances. For this reason, CPA monitors ongoing and emerging conflicts with its award-winning “Global Conflict Tracker” interactive, accessible at"

Now that THAT's out of the way, let's dive into the Top 8 threats to our very way of life.

Map courtesy of Council on Foreign Relations. Numbers courtesy of my just-above-mediocre Photoshop skills.

1. Politics ruin everything

That's right. Politics don't just ruin Thanksgiving dinner or your regular Taco Tuesday or your cousin's wedding or your sister's baby shower. They also ruin democracy as a whole. In the immortal words of Alanis Morrissette, isn't it ironic? The very reason our country was born - independence and freedom to select our leaders - is the largest threat to our existence. According to CFR, growing political polarization in the United States, particularly around the 2024 presidential election, leading to acts of domestic terrorism and political violence, is the number one threat in 2024. Welp, %$#!.

Likelihood: High. Impact: High.

2. Hamas & Israel

SANA'A, YEMEN - FEBRUARY 29: Yemen's Houthi followers carry weapons while taking part in a parade staged in solidarity with Palestinians and against Israel's war on the people of the Gaza Strip and other Palestinian territories, on February 29, 2024, in Sana'a, Yemen. Yemen's Houthi movement vowed to retaliate against Israel and its allies by sustaining its maritime attacks until Israel stops the war on Palestinians. (Photo by Mohammed Hamoud/Getty Images)

As the death toll exceeds 30,000 since Hamas attacked Israel in October 2023, according to the PPS the threat of a protracted war igniting a wider regional conflict, specifically involving other Palestinian territories and further clashes between Israel and Islamist militant groups in Lebanon and Syria, is very real. The United States was the first nation to recognize the provisional government of the state of Israel in 1948 and has always rallied support and aid. The region is steeped in conflict; understanding the likelihood of it spilling over and the U.S. being involved is imperative.

Likelihood: High. Impact: High.

3. Narcos isn't just a Netflix show

SAN SALVADOR, EL SALVADOR - NOVEMBER 25: A feminist woman from Mexico walks holding up a cardboard sign with the legend "Not one more assassinated" during a demonstration to mark International Day For The Elimination Of Violence Against Women on November 25, 2023 in San Salvador, El Salvador. (Photo by APHOTOGRAFIA/Getty Images)

We love a good crime and corruption show. Less thrilling when it's real life - in fact, absolutely harrowing. The third-leading threat to the United States surrounds the rising corruption and violence in Central America and Mexico. According to the PPS, a surge in migration to the southwest border of the United States driven by criminal violence, corruption, and economic hardship in Central America and Mexico presents a strong threat to the United States.

Likelihood: High. Impact: High.

4. Damn Ruskies

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Let's be honest, we've been worried about what the invasion of Ukraine would mean for American Forces and families since the Russians invaded in February 2022. According to the PPS, an escalation of the war in Ukraine resulting from intensified military operations in Crimea, the Black Sea, and/or neighboring states, including Russia, potentially leading to direct NATO involvement, is worth losing sleep over.

Likelihood: Moderate. Impact: High.

5. Taiwan

We're not the only ones with a big election coming up. According to the PPS, intensified economic and military pressure by China toward Taiwan, especially around the 2024 Taiwanese presidential election, precipitates a severe cross-strait crisis involving the United States and other countries in the region. Gross.

Likelihood: Moderate. Impact: High.

6. Iran. Of course.

Those $%*#@# guys. Why can't we all unite around this common enemy instead of fighting each other politically at home? Iranian protesters burn the U.S. flag during an anti-Israel rally protesting the Israeli air strike on Al-Ahli hospital, in northern Tehran, October 20, 2023. Israel's military denied responsibility for the Gaza hospital attack, attributing it to a failed rocket launch by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad group. MORTEZA NIKOUBAZL/NurPhoto (Photo by Morteza Nikoubazl/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

When was the last time we ever heard anything nice about Iran? Exactly. Never. Direct military confrontation between Iran and Israel triggered by Iran’s support for militant groups in the region and continued nuclear weapons development remains a threat to the United States and likely will in perpetuity.

Likelihood: Moderate. Impact: High.

7. Cyber attacks

If you, like hundreds of thousands of other Americans, use UnitedHealth, you got a nice little preview of this one this week when prescriptions were disrupted following supposed ransomware at UH systems. Beyond pills, a highly disruptive cyberattack on U.S. critical infrastructure, including electoral systems, by a state or nonstate entity is a very real and present danger in 2024. Time to go off the grid.

Likelihood: Moderate. Impact: High.

8. North Korea. Of Course.

You can just hear the evil. In this pool photo distributed by Sputnik agency, Russia's President Vladimir Putin (Centre L) shakes hands with North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un (2nd R) during their meeting at the Vostochny Cosmodrome in Amur region on September 13, 2023. Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un both arrived at the Vostochny Cosmodrome in Russia's Far East, Russian news agencies reported on September 13, ahead of planned talks that could lead to a weapons deal. (Photo by Vladimir SMIRNOV / POOL / AFP) (Photo by VLADIMIR SMIRNOV/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Finally, it wouldn't be a list of threats to the United States if it didn't include everyone's favorite, unhinged, propaganda-loving non-state actor: North Korea. The PPS put them on the list for the possibility of an acute security crisis in Northeast Asia triggered by North Korea’s further development and testing of nuclear weapons and long-range ballistic missiles.

Likelihood: Moderate. Impact: High.

Just in case you don't have enough things to keep you up at night, you can read all of the Tier II and Tier III threats and learn more about the PPS here.

Editor's note: We know the geopolitical situations around the globe are serious and cause for concern. If you need someone to talk to, help is always available at the veteran's crisis line. Dial 988 for support.



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