Policy development is the process that establishes broad strategic guidance or statutory mandates on what national security interests to pursue or how to respond to a national security issue. Policy development can be proactive or reactive.
National security policy can be developed by the President or his staff members, Congress, the interagency coordination process, or individual agencies. There are many influences on the policy development process, including private interest groups, foreign governments, international organizations, and even government personnel responsible for executing policy (e.g., ambassadors, combatant commanders).
The policy development process involves analyzing U.S. interests, risks and opportunities; developing policy; making decisions on U.S. objectives, strategic approaches, and/or executive department responsibilities; and ideally, establishing priorities. Whether or not the President is the decisionmaker, policy development requires interagency coordination to analyze the effect on other U.S. policies. At times, the President or Congress may establish policies unilaterally that do not involve the outlined steps.
National security policies are communicated in the form of national strategies, policy directives, executive orders, Presidential determinations, summaries of conclusions, statements from the President or cabinet officials, memos, and legislation.