Military and civilian leaders meet at conference table.

Implementation is the process of translating policy into specific courses of action that can be executed. Implementing policy often involves developing implementation plans, and aligning the necessary resources and legal authorities. Most policy implementation also involves identifying: organizational structures for coordination or execution; subordinate policy goals; necessary funding; personnel; actions to be taken in support of policy goals; and, assignment of responsibilities.

Executive departments are most often responsible for implementing national security policy. Often, policies are captured in agency directives and instructions to provide consistent policy guidance. Interagency coordination is essential to ensure implementation plans and resources are complete and complementary. The Office of Management and Budget also plays a key role in coordinating the President's budget request. Congress uses its budgetary and oversight authority to shape policy implementation. Finally, interagency working groups often develop plans and strategies to implement policy goals.

Planning processes vary widely across the U.S. government, ranging from formal, complex processes to much more flexible and informal methods. Key national security planning processes are covered in detail in Lesson 6.

Whether reallocating funding mid-year or requesting new or additional funding for the next fiscal year, there are formal national security budgeting processes. For example, the Director of US Foreign Assistance at the Department of State leads a fully integrated, strategic budgeting process for State/USAID foreign assistance funds. The Department of Defense, also leads a national security budget process, the "Planning, Programming, Budgeting, and Execution" process (PowerPoint presentation). DOD’s budget process is unique in that it addresses long-range defense capabilities. DOD also has a centrally managed process, "Global Force Management" (PowerPoint presentation) that allocates another resource—military forces.