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How Nation-States Craft National Security Strategy Documents

How Nation-States Craft National Security Strategy Documents

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This monograph compares and contrasts how different countries craft their national security strategy documents. It highlights similarities as well as differences, and provides lessons learned that all national strategy makers can apply.

This monograph compares and contrasts how different countries craft their national security strategy documents. It highlights similarities as well as differences, and provides lessons learned that all national strategy makers can apply.

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Recent years have witnessed the emergence of a

spectrum of comprehensive national security strate-

gy-related documents that have been created, in part,
to institutionalize the existence of national-level direc-
tion for a variety of national security issues and to do

this at the unclassifed level for the public audience of

those democratic nations, as well as in some cases, for

external audiences. The intent of this monograph is to

explore the actual processes that nation states employ
to craft their national security strategy-related docu-
ments. The focus is specifcally oriented on how to

perform such analysis for the development of national

security strategies (NSS).
For each of the case studies in question, this mono-
graph will address the oversight, strategic context, na-
tional interests and domestic political considerations,
facts, and assumptions used to frame strategy devel-
opment, objectives and measures of effectiveness,
ways and means, risk assessment, the identifcation
of a formal feedback mechanism, and who within the
government had the fnal approval authority for the
document. Five countries and their national strategy
documents were selected for assessment: Australia,
Brazil, South Africa, the United Kingdom (UK), and
the United States. For each case, at least one national
strategy document was evaluated per country and
more than one department or ministry from the gov-
ernment’s executive branch participated in each na-
tion’s document drafting process.
The Australian approach to national strategy
formulation as demonstrated by the developmen-
tal processes utilized for the 2008 National Security
and the 2009 White Paper (WP) indicates a


clear focus on crafting whole of government coordi-
nated documents. Participating actors would be found
to be negligent if they did not coordinate. The formu-
lation process emphasizes inclusion of the managers
who control the fscal means at every step of decision-
making for these efforts. In addition, the risk analysis
concept is becoming fully institutionalized. Finally, a

wide spectrum of Australian civil society was formally
solicited for its thinking on the major issues confront-
ing the 2008 WP drafters.
The Brazilian 2008 National Strategy of Defense
(NSD) represents the frst national strategy of its
kind in Latin America. In combination with the 2005
National Defense Policy
and the forthcoming WP, Brazil
is developing a systematic approach to the crafting of
national strategy. Of particular note is the Implemen-
tation Measures component of the NSD and the asso-
ciated degree of fdelity with the strategy’s ways and
means. With the publication of the strategy, this ap-
proach provides the ministries and agencies respon-
sible for strategy implementation with the planning
information necessary to begin detailed execution.
Both the South African White Paper and Defence
assisted the nation in moving beyond the
apartheid era. The documents provided a national-
level strategy for the defense establishment on its role
in the society writ large, as well as the approach in
the form of ways and means to execute that strategy
with the nation’s armed forces in the near to midterm.
These documents were guided in detail by the state’s
legislative body and uniquely supported by the signif-
icant inclusion of civil society throughout the course
of their development processes.
The evolution of the UK national strategy develop-
ment process since 2007 has been signifcant, especially


with the inclusion and alignment of the means (fscal
resources in the budgeting process) and the utiliza-
tion of the National Security Risk Assessment (NSRA)
in analysis of risks and related national interests. This
is especially true in the linkage between the NSS and
the Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR), along
with the connectivity between the ends, ways, and
means contained in the two documents. While an ex-
cellent tool, one potential drawback of the formalized
risk analysis process contained in the NSRA is that
the strategy’s ultimate objectives may be framed more
than they should be in terms of risks and challenges,
rather than opportunities. Thus, the focus could be on
problem solving as opposed to “goal seeking,” having
the ultimate effect of inhibiting strategic thinking.
The U.S. NSS is the only complete whole of govern-
ment national security document that the U.S. Govern-
ment publishes. The NSS is best developed through
coordination and collaboration with all government
departments and agencies that have responsibility for
both foreign and domestic national security concerns.

This analysis reviews the development of three differ-
ent NSSs: 2002, 2006, and 2010. These three were se-
lected because they required the consideration of the
many complex issues of the post-September 11, 2001
(9/11) world and because they were developed at the
direction of two different Presidents representing two

different political parties, and with the detailed sup-
port of three different national security advisors and

associated National Security Council (NSC) staffs.



The word “strategy” is used in a variety of contexts.
There are business strategies, coaching strategies, f-
nancial strategies, and research strategies. . . . An or-
ganization develops a strategy based upon its mission
or goal, its vision of the future, an understanding of
the organization’s place in the future, and an assess-
ment of the alternatives available to it, given scarce
resources. . . . Development of a coherent strategy is
absolutely essential to national security in times of
both war and peace.1

—Mackubin Thomas Owens

The basic principles of strategy are so simple that a
child may understand them. But to determine their
proper application to a given situation requires the
hardest kind of work.2

—Dwight D. Eisenhower

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