National Military Strategy (United States)

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The National Military Strategy (NMS) is issued by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff as a deliverable to the Secretary of Defense briefly outlining the strategic aims of the armed services. The NMS's chief source of guidance is the National Security Strategy document.

The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (CJCS), in consultation with the other members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS), the Commanders of the Unified Combatant Commands (CCMDs), the Joint Staff and the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD), prepares the National Military Strategy in accordance with 10 U.S.C., Section 153. Title 10 requires that not later than February 15 of each even-numbered year, the Chairman submit to the Senate Committee on Armed Services and the House Committee on Armed Services a comprehensive examination of the national military strategy. This report must delineate a national military strategy consistent with the most recent National Security Strategy prescribed by the President; the most recent annual report of the Secretary of Defense submitted to the President and Congress; and the most recent Quadrennial Defense Review conducted by the Secretary of Defense.

The NMS Report must provide a description of the strategic environment and the opportunities and challenges that affect United States national interests and United States national security. The Report must describe the most significant regional threats to US national interests and security as well as the international threats posed by terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, and asymmetric challenges.

After describing the security environment in which military forces will operate, the NMS Report must specify the “ends”, “ways”, and “means” of the strategy. US national military objectives are the “ends”, describing what the Armed Forces are expected to accomplish. The NMS report describes the relationship of those objectives to the strategic environment, regional, and international threats. Strategic and operational concepts are the “ways” of the strategy and describe how the Armed Forces conduct military operations to accomplish the specified military objectives. Finally, the NMS report must describe the adequacy of capabilities—the “means”—required to achieve objectives within an acceptable level of military and strategic risk.

Military action, by itself, cannot fully accomplish the objectives specified in the President’s National Security Strategy. The NMS must account for the contribution of allies and other partners. Military capabilities are always employed as part of an integrated national approach that employs all instruments of national power—military, information, diplomatic, legal, intelligence, finance, and economic. The NMS Report must assess the capabilities, adequacy, and interoperability of regional allies of the United States and or other friendly nations to support US forces in combat operations and other operations for extended periods of time.

The NMS Report also includes an assessment of the nature and magnitude of the strategic and military risks associated with successfully executing the missions called for under the strategy. In preparing the assessment of risk, CJCS examines assumptions pertaining to the readiness of forces (in both the active and reserve components), the length of conflict and the level of intensity of combat operations, and the levels of support from allies and other friendly nations.

Before submitting the report to Congress, the Chairman provides a copy to the Secretary of Defense. The Secretary provides an assessment and comments on the report and submits these comments to Congress when the report is formally transmitted. Specifically, the Secretary of Defense must examine areas of risk considered “significant” by the Chairman and provide a plan for mitigating those risks.

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