Term of Award

Spring 2012

Degree Name

Master of Arts in History (M.A.)

Document Type and Release Option

Thesis (open access)

Copyright Statement / License for Reuse

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.


Department of History

Committee Chair

William T. Allison

Committee Member 1

Donald A. Rakestraw

Committee Member 2

John W. Steinberg


The Second World War forced American politicians to reevaluate the nation's security preparedness. This resulted in the National Security Act of 1947, which, among many things, created the National Security Council and an ad hoc system for American strategy-making. The Cold War revealed many of the deficiencies in this strategy-making system. The Goldwater-Nichols Department of Defense Reorganization Act of 1986 sought to reform the nation's defense establishment to meet the evolving needs of the Cold War; part of this included revision of strategic development. Section 603 of Goldwater-Nichols required the president to annually submit to Congress a national security strategy report and it established guidelines for how to construct proper strategy. This thesis analyzes the National Security Strategies of Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, William J. Clinton, and George W. Bush to determine whether or not Section 603 effectively provided guidance to these presidents in creating strategic plans and if it led to a coherent method of strategic development. To accomplish this, strategic theory is discussed and a rubric, titled "Tenets of Strategic Planning," is created to evaluate each National Security Strategy. This thesis contends that presidents have been successful in following the rudimentary principles established by Section 603 of the Goldwater-Nichols Act as well as the 2 more stringent guidelines of the Tenets of Strategic Planning to regularly produce proper strategic plans.

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