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Strauss Center Distinguished Scholar William Inboden is co-author, along with Peter Feaver, of "A Strategic Planning Cell on National Security at the White House" in the book Avoiding Trivia: The Role of Strategic Planning in American Foreign Policy. In this chapter, Inboden and Feaver discuss the challenges of strategic planning as well as the Bush administration's creation of a new strategic planning advisory cell on the National Security Council (NSC).

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Strauss Center Distinguished Scholar William Inboden is co-author, along with Peter Feaver, of “A Strategic Planning Cell on National Security at the White House” in the book Avoiding Trivia: The Role of Strategic Planning in American Foreign Policy. In this chapter, Inboden and Feaver discuss the challenges of strategic planning as well as the Bush administration’s creation of a new strategic planning advisory cell on the National Security Council (NSC). Both Inboden and Feaver helped establish the strategic planning cell, and they describe what they did, what they learned, and what they recommend for the future.

Inboden and Feaver begin by outlining the Strategic Planning and Institutional Reform (SPIR) cell’s activities, which fall into five broad categories: cross-cutting, top-level strategy; longer-range analysis; internal critique; policy incubator; and outreach. SPIR’s primary activity involved top-level strategies that covered multiple issue areas and NSC directorates, an example of which is the drafting of the 2006 National Security Strategy. Next, Inboden and Feaver write that SPIR designed and commissioned special analyses on longer-range topics of presidential interest. SPIR also focused on assessing problems with existing policies and finding opportunities for implementing change. SPIR played a role in developing new policy initiatives, more effectively utilizing the intellectual resources in the private sector, and conducting outreach across the political spectrum.

Inboden and Feaver share the lessons they learned from their experience with the strategic planning cell, including the primacy of personality in dealing with line directorates and the importance of being able to navigate interagency communication. They highlight the necessity of short-term relevance as well as long-term perspective for effective strategic planning. Inboden and Feaver believe that their efforts in building a strategic planning cell within the NSC yielded progress worth continuing to pursue and improve upon. In a parting reflection, Inboden and Feaver express the hope that their work will inspire the efforts of their successors.