Analysis / Strategy

Formulating National Security Strategy

Photo Credit: Air Force Tech. Sgt. Brigitte N. Brantley

Strategies are shaped by the processes that produce them. If designed well, a strategy formulation process enables decisionmakers to evaluate the political, security, and budgetary environments, identify choices for an organization, weigh risks, opportunities, and tradeoffs, and determine the best way forward. A strategy formulation process determines which issues will be raised for decision, how issues are elevated to senior levels, what options are presented, who participates in the decisionmaking, and how the results are communicated both internally and externally.

Formulating National Security Strategy: Past Experiences and Future Choices is released as the Trump Administration is developing a new defense and national security strategy. However, the strategy formulation process and the resulting documents have been heavily criticized in the past. This report, prepared for DOD and mandated by the Congress, identifies key choices for policymakers in constructing a strategy formulation process and makes recommendations on best practices based on analysis of previous processes.


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Photo Credit: Air Force Tech. Sgt. Brigitte N. Brantley

Cite this Page

Mark Cancian, Melissa Dalton, John Schaus, Colin McElhinny, Andrew Metrick, Hijab Shah and Richard McPeak, "Formulating National Security Strategy," Center for Strategic and International Studies, October 6, 2017, last modified October 6, 2017,