November 06, 2020

Make Good Choices! National Security Transitions and the Policy and Process Decisions

By Loren DeJonge Schulman and Alex Tippett

What’s the likely “second term Trump foreign policy” or “Biden foreign policy agenda”? Think pieces and Twitter threads abound, and dozens are willing to share their predictions on background. The re-elected president or the president-elect will have to make a series of critical choices on process and personnel during the next few months. These decisions, typically made during the transition period and not always as intentionally as they should be, will serve as the foundation for policy outcomes for the next four years.

Who leads, how agencies implement policy, and the role of the National Security Council process draw less attention than strategy and policies, but they shape the impact of a presidency.

Who leads, how agencies implement policy, and the role of the National Security Council process draw less attention than strategy and policies, but they shape the impact of a presidency. Habits set early in an administration will drive foreign policy outcomes during the next four years. While some personnel and process questions lend themselves to soundbite solutions — like adopting the Brent Scowcroft model, holding over leaders of the opposing party, or shrinking the National Security Council staff — they are not always realistic in practice for a particular administration and may not be best for a president’s policy agenda, or for the country.

Read the full article in War on the Rocks.

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