Courtesy Reuters

Strategic Planning and the Political Process

FOR a decade or more statesmen and scholars have been unhappy about American methods of making decisions on strategic programs--that is, decisions on the over-all size of the military effort, the scope and character of military programs (continental defense, anti-submarine warfare), the composition of the military forces (force levels), and the number and nature of their weapons. The most common criticisms have been:

1. National security policy lacks unity and coherence. Decisions are made on an ad hoc basis, unguided by an over-all purpose.

2. National security policies are stated largely in terms of compromises and generalities. The real issues are not brought to the highest level for decision.

3. Delay and slowness characterize the policy-making process.

4. The principal organs of policy-making, particularly the National Security Council, are ineffective vehicles for the development of new ideas and approaches. They tend to routinize the old rather than stimulate the new.

5. Policy-making procedures tend to magnify the obstacles and difficulties facing any proposed course of action.

6. These deficiencies are primarily the product of government by committee, especially when the committee members must represent the interests of particular departments and services.

Few persons familiar with the processes by which strategic programs are determined would challenge the general accuracy of these allegations. The persistence of the criticism since World War II, moreover, suggests that the defects are not incidental phenomena easily remedied by exhortations to high-mindedness, assertions of executive authority, or changes in personnel or Administration. Instead, it suggests the necessity of viewing the defects in the context of the political system of which they are a part, and of analyzing the functions which they serve in that system and the underlying causes which have brought them into existence.

II

In domestic legislation, it is often said, the Executive proposes and Congress disposes. Except when a presidential veto seems likely to be involved, the political processes of arousing support or opposition for bills are directed toward the Congress. In determining strategic programs, on the other hand, the effective

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