US Intelligence Community Sees Crypto As a Threat to the Greenback

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The United States intelligence community is seeking a researcher to model risk scenarios for how and why the dollar could lose its global supremacy, and how best to respond.

The role was advertised on Feb. 14 by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI). 

The successful candidate will be tasked with evaluating threats to the dollar’s status as world reserve currency —  most notably cryptocurrencies and the rise of major new economies such as China and India. 

Candidates have until Feb. 28 to apply for the role, which forms part of an intelligence community (IC) postdoctoral research fellowship program funded by the ODNI. The Director of National Intelligence, currently Joseph Maguire, reports to the U.S. president, the National Security Council and Homeland Security Council on all intelligence matters related to national security. He or she directs the National Intelligence Program and heads the U.S. intelligence community.

Is the greenback’s dominance evergreen?

The topic description for the fellowship opens with the bald statement that “the U.S. maintains international dominance in no small part due to its financial power.” 

It outlines that the dollar’s role as the global reserve currency ensures that the U.S. can effectively level sanctions against its perceived adversaries — whether to discourage nuclear proliferation, or to weaken what it deems to be objectionable domestic regimes. 

Control over the supply and distribution of the dollar — which is used to denominate foreign debt and to settle the lion’s share of global transactions — thus exerts pressure on nations to fall into line on the U.S.’ geopolitical, strategic and economic interests. Yet, as ODNI notes:

“There are many threats to the U.S. dollar maintaining its status as the world reserve currency. Countries such as China and India have large growing economies that could compete with U.S. economic growth. Many cryptocurrency enthusiasts predict that either a global cryptocurrency or a national digital currency could undermine the U.S. dollar.”

The researcher will thus be tasked with studying and modelling these scenarios — as well as other, unpredictable or “black swan” events, which could usurp the dollar’s strategic supremacy.

ODNI seeks someone able to apply “new statistical and artificial intelligence approaches to historical examples as well as possible future scenarios” — someone fluent in economics, finance, and emerging “alternative banking mechanisms.”

Such research is expected to yield new insights into how best to protect the United States’ status in the world economy, helping the national intelligence community to anticipate destabilizing developments and to implement strategies that would undermine their success:

“If the U.S. dollar loses its status […] national security advantages disappear, leaving the U.S. vulnerable. This project could allow the national security community to prepare for and […] prevent this economic crisis.”

A multipolar world?

Analysts have long debated what could replace the greenback as a global reserve asset, pointing to trends such as the gradual de-dollarization of Eurasia, or to China’s deepening economic ties with Europe.

In both the public and private sectors, new digital currency projects such as Facebook’s Libra have been interpreted differently by global stakeholders

In 2019, the former People’s Bank of China (PBoC) governor, for example, claimed that  “valuing Libra is inseparable from the global dollarization trend.” 

Within the U.S., Libra, as well as the PBoC’s own forthcoming digital yuan, have, conversely, been taken as a potential threat to the dollar’s dominance.

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