Global Insights: The Many Messages of National Strategy Documents

Global Insights: The Many Messages of National Strategy Documents

Several additional national security strategies have been issued in recent weeks, including the publication earlier this month of both an updated National Military Strategy and the first-ever National Security Space Strategy. Though these texts shed additional light on the priorities and perspectives of the Obama administration's national security team at mid-term, they serve other purposes than just articulating strategy.

The National Military Strategy (.pdf) starts by describing the security environment in which the Pentagon operates, the U.S. military's core objectives and the Defense Department's strategies for pursuing them. It then assesses the adequacy of U.S. military capabilities to achieve these goals. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff reviews the National Military Strategy (NMS) every two years in consultation with other senior military officers and Pentagon civilians. He publishes a revised version of the NMS only when warranted.

Perhaps the most interesting section of the latest NMS identifies the four important ways that the Pentagon believes the U.S. military can exercise international security leadership: as a "facilitator, enabler, convener and guarantor." As a facilitator, the Pentagon will help other U.S. government agencies and international partners pursue shared global interests. As an enabler, the Defense Department will bolster the capacities of other countries so they can perform their international security roles more effectively. As a convener, the Pentagon will organize exercises and other multilateral activities to catalyze cooperation on common regional security challenges. Finally, as a guarantor, the U.S. military will backstop international security by deterring and defeating aggressive actions.

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