Strategic Planning for the Next President, Part Two: Recommendations for the NSC Process

On January 20, 2017, the next American president will inherit a powerful array of international challenges, capabilities, and opportunities. Apart from the naturally current focus on the election season itself, the various presidential campaigns and their leading foreign policy advisers would benefit from thinking through how they plan to tackle these international security challenges, not only country by country, but overall.

One might assume that given the resources and expertise available to the federal government, this kind of planning is already done. Yet all too often it isn’t, at least not in a coordinated and impactful manner. As Friedberg notes, the consequences in such cases have frequently been misallocated resources, suboptimal policies, duplication of effort, lost opportunities, costly improvisation, and even catastrophic failure. Significant improvements to the National Security Council (NSC) decision-making process are possible. Here are six specific recommendations: develop and execute a meaningful national security strategy early on, restore a proper balance of responsibilities between the NSC and line departments and agencies, appoint a strong national security advisor to play the role of genuine honest broker, policy entrepreneur, and presidential agent, appoint and empower a strategic planning directorate on the NSC staff, create an effective strategic planning board, and learn from private sector experience.

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