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National Strategies: Security, Defense, and Military

DAU GLOSSARY DEFINITION

A document approved by the President of the United States for developing, applying, and coordinating the instruments of national power to achieve objectives that contribute to national security

Alternate Definition

The National Security Strategy (NSS) is produced yearly by the National Security Council (NSC) and signed by the President. It provides grand strategy and overarching national security goals and objectives for the United States. The National Defense Strategy (NDS) is conducted in January every four years, and intermittently as appropriate, by the Secretary of Defense (SECDEF) and provided to the Military departments other Department of Defense (DoD) components and congressional defense committees. In years the SECDEF does not submit a NDS, an assessment of the current strategy must be submitted to Congress in February. Required content includes: - Priority mission of DoD and force planning scenarios and constructs - Strategic environment, threats imposed, and strategy to counter these threats - Strategic framework that prioritizes threats and missions, how DoD will allocate and mitigate risks, and make resource investments - Roles and missions of the armed forces to carry out missions - Force size and shape, force posture, defense capabilities, force readiness elements of the defense program to support the strategy - Major investments DoD will make in the following five-year period The NDS replaced the Defense Strategy Review (DSR) in 2017. National Military Strategy (NMS) is a Joint Strategic Planning System (JSPS) document developed by the Joint Staff (JS). The NMS states from the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff (CJCS), in consultation with the other members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) and the Combatant Commands (COCOMs), to the President, the National Security Council (NSC), and the SECDEF.

General Information

National and Department of Defense Guidance

The President, SECDEF, and the CJCS provide their orders, intent, strategy, direction, and guidance via strategic direction to the military to pursue national interests within legal and constitutional limitations. Strategic direction is contained in key documents, generally referred to as strategic guidance.

The President, SECDEF, and the CJCS use strategic direction to communicate their broad goals and issue-specific guidance to the DoD. It provides the common thread that integrates and synchronizes the planning activities and operations of the Joint Staff, combatant commanders, Services, joint forces, combat support agencies, and other DoD agencies.

(Source: Joint Publication 5-0, Joint Planning (JP-05))

National Security Strategy

The NSS is required annually by Title 50, US Code, Section 3043. It is prepared by the Executive Branch of the US Government for Congress and outlines the major national security concerns of the US and how the administration plans to address them using all instruments of national power.

The NSS describes the worldwide interests and objectives of the US; the national means necessary to deter aggression and the adequacy of the national resources to pursue national interests. Historically, the NSS does not address specific ways to achieve the stated objectives. The SECDEF and the CJCS develop separate defense and military documents that describe the ways military forces will be used in coordination with the other means to pursue national interests or support policy described in the NSS.

(Source: JP-05)

National Defense Strategy

The NDS is legislatively mandated by Congress per Title 10, US Code, Section 118, and is required every four years. As the DoD’s capstone document, the NDS flows from the NSS, informs the NMS, and provides the foundation for other DoD strategic guidance.

The NDS is used to establish the objectives for military planning regarding force structure, force modernization, business processes, supporting infrastructure, and required resources (funding and manpower). The NDS plays a key role in identifying the capabilities required by the warfighters to support the NSS. 

(Source: JP-05)

Required content includes:

  • Priority mission of DoD and assumed force planning scenarios and constructs
  • Strategic environment, including critical and enduring threats imposed by state or non-state actors, and strategy to counter these threats
  • Strategic framework that guides how DoD will prioritize among threats and missions, and how DoD will allocate and mitigate risks, and make resource investments
  • Roles and missions of the armed forces to carry out missions, and role and capabilities of other US government agencies, allies, and international partners
  • Force size and shape, force posture, defense capabilities, force readiness, infrastructure, organization, personnel, technological innovation, and other elements of the defense program to support the strategy
  • Major investments DoD will make over the following five-year period in accordance with the strategic framework

National Military Strategy

The NMS, derived from the NSS and NDS, is developed by the CJCS and provides the joint force with a framework to protect and advance US national interests. It reflects the collective wisdom of the JCS and the combatant commanders, and represents their best military advice. The NMS defines the national military objectives, how to accomplish these objectives, and addresses the military capabilities required to execute the strategy. Providing for the direction of the Armed Forces, the NMS is the foundation for strategic integration; command and control; strategy and planning; programming and budgeting; and assessments. See JP-05, Figure II-1, Providing for the Direction of the Armed Forces.

The NMS provides focus for military activities by defining a set of interrelated military objectives and joint operating concepts from which the Service Chiefs and combatant commanders identify desired capabilities and against which the CJCS assesses risk.

(Source: JP-05)