What We Hope to See in the National Security Strategy

February 5, 2015 By Zach Silberman

President Obama will release his long-awaited National Security Strategy (NSS) on Friday with a speech by National Security Advisor Susan Rice. Given the challenges the United States faces on the global stage, this raises questions about what we can expect.

Will we see a continued elevation and strengthening of diplomacy and development as part of America’s national security? How will the Administration’s vision respond to today’s world of global crises, from Syria to Ukraine?

Since 9/11, the United States has recognized that what happens in the rest of the world can affect us at home and that we need all the tools of national security to strengthen America’s global leadership. In George W. Bush’s first NSS in 2002, the Administration emphasized the importance of development as one of the “three D’s” (alongside diplomacy and defense) that are critical to protecting America’s national security. In 2006, President Bush’s NSS took this further, saying, “Development reinforces diplomacy and defense, reducing long-term threats to our national security by helping to build stable, prosperous, and peaceful societies.”

We can almost certainly expect President Obama to build on his Administration’s first NSS, which called for “a greater and more deliberate focus on a global development agenda across the United States Government.” In addition to arguing for a whole-of-government approach, President Obama’s strategy highlighted the importance of food security to America’s national interests, focusing on methods that will help developing countries “create the conditions where [aid] is no longer need.”

President Obama’s recent budget suggests that development and diplomacy will be prominent in the Administration’s national security strategy. It includes investments in development and diplomacy to help Ukraine stabilize its economy, as well as funding for Central American countries to address the root causes of mass migration from those countries, such as reducing poverty, countering corruption, and enhancing security.

The last NSS talked about the need to “promote prosperity for all Americans” and “lead the international community to expand the inclusive growth of the integrated, global economy.” Given the potential for economic development to create the conditions that can prevent conflict, this should be a critical part of the next NSS.

Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger recently suggested that, “The United States has not faced a more diverse and complex array of crises since the end of the Second World War.” As the United States responds to these global threats, the need for effective and robust development and diplomacy will be central to our ability to promote economic growth, fight global poverty, and prevent conflict.