18 FAM 301.2


(CT:PPP-18;   05-29-2019)
(Office of Origin: F)

18 FAM 301.2-1  PURPOSE

(CT:PPP-18;   05-29-2019)

a. The Department of State is committed to using strategic planning to achieve the most effective U.S. foreign policy outcomes, and provide greater accountability to its primary stakeholders and the American people.  Robust, coordinated strategic planning processes are essential to make informed decisions; develop innovative ways to cope with tight budgets; prioritize resources; ensure alignment with key policies and improve the way we do business.  It is also creates a framework for monitoring progress and measuring results; shaping resource decisions; and ensuring accountability. 

b. The Department's strategic planning takes place at several levels. At the agency level the State Department and USAID Joint Strategic Plan (JSP) outlines overarching goals and objectives, and guides bureau and mission planning.  Joint Regional and Functional Bureau Strategies (JRS, FBS) guide priority setting and resource allocation at the regional and functional bureau level. Country-specific strategies, known as Integrated Country Strategies (ICS), guide whole-of-government priorities within a given country with input from all members of a mission's country team.   The objectives from these strategies are used for a range of purposes, including Congressional Budget Justifications, Annual Performance Plans and Reports, Foreign Assistance Operational Plans, to ensure alignment with other relevant strategies, to link bureaus/missions objectives to U.S. foreign policy priorities, and to inform internal Bureau and Mission Resource Requests. 


(CT:PPP-18;   05-29-2019)

Joint Strategic Plan (JSP): Four-year strategic plan that outlines Department of State and USAID overarching goals and objectives, and guides bureau and mission planning.

Joint Regional Strategy (JRS): Four-year strategic plan for each region that sets joint State and USAID priorities and guides key partner bureau and mission-level planning.

Functional Bureau Strategy (FBS): Four-year strategic plan that sets priorities for each State functional bureau and guides key partner bureau and mission-level planning.

Integrated Country Strategy (ICS): Four-year strategic plan that articulates whole-of-government priorities in a given country and incorporates higher level planning priorities.


(CT:PPP-18;   05-29-2019)

The authorities and policies related to Strategic Planning include:

·         Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA) Modernization Act of 2010

·         OMB Circular A-11

·         1 FAM 622.3, Office of Performance and Planning

·         Foreign Aid Transparency and Accountability Act of 2016 (FATAA)

·         Quadrennial Security Sector Assistance (SSA) Review


(CT:PPP-18;   05-29-2019)

a. In accordance with the GPRA Modernization Act of 2010, the JSP is developed every four years following each presidential election, and must be submitted no later than one year after the new administration is in office.  USAID and the Department of State leadership collaborate and define a joint strategic framework of priorities as the foundation from which the JSP is developed.  The JSP directly supports U.S. foreign policy priorities and is written to ensure alignment with top level strategic documents (e.g., National Security Strategy and Presidential policy statements).  The JSP is developed in accordance with OMB Circular A-11 guidance and goes through an extensive review and coordination process with interagency partners. 

b. Once the JSP is published, bureaus and missions support JSP and/or other higher level strategic priorities by developing their supporting strategies in accordance with the "Bureau Strategy Guidance and Instructions, " "Integrated Country Strategy Guidance and Instructions," and a schedule managed by the Office of U.S. Foreign Assistance Resources (F) and the Bureau of Budget and Planning (BP) on behalf of the Secretary. 

c.  USAID and State regional bureaus are required to jointly develop their JRS.  As bureau and mission leaders are ultimately responsible for the strategies, clearance by partner bureaus and interagency stakeholders is not required, but collaboration and input from partners is expected and should be carefully considered and incorporated as appropriate.  Whether incorporated or not, bureaus should maintain a record of substantive feedback and stakeholder participation.

d. Bureaus and missions must address the content and follow the timeline as established in the "Integrated Country Strategy Guidance and Instructions" and the "Bureau Strategy Guidance and Instructions," as strategic plans are foundational documents for the Department's resource-planning and performance-management efforts.  BP and F will review submitted plans for consistency with this guidance.   Elements of the draft plans not in compliance with the guidance and identified by F and BP during the feedback process as critical must be addressed before the final document is submitted.  Plans that are consistent with the guidance will be accepted as the final document for the planning period. 

18 FAM 301.2-4(A)  Strategic Planning Standards

(CT:PPP-18;   05-29-2019)

Specific standards for the content of bureau and mission level strategic plans are described in the "Integrated Country Strategy Guidance and Instructions" and the "Bureau Strategy Guidance and Instructions."  In general the content of strategic plans is grounded in evidence and analysis, developed collaboratively with relevant stakeholders, sufficiently focused and realistic to facilitate decision-making and align with higher level strategy (i.e., National Security Strategy, Joint Strategic Plan, etc.).

(1)  Bureau and Mission Goals. Goals represent the long-term, ambitious vision of the bureau or mission and should be linked to priorities in higher-level strategies.  Goals likely will not be accomplished within the four-year life of the strategy and will be used as tools for communicating and framing priorities to stakeholders. Goal statements must be Unclassified and accompanied by all required narratives according to the guidance documents.

(2)  Bureau and Mission Objectives. Objectives are the realistic, specific, and measurable end-states that bureaus/missions seek to achieve, or make significant progress on, in the life of the strategy.  Objectives should be change-oriented statements that highlight only the top strategic priorities and not every activity the bureau or mission performs.  Objective statements must be Unclassified and accompanied by all required narratives, to include discussions of risks associated with each objective, according to the guidance documents.

      Management Objectives must follow the same standards and requirements as outlined in the guidance documents for Bureau and Mission Objectives.

(3)  Sub-objectives. Sub-objectives operationalize objectives by directly connecting them to the day-to-day work of the bureau or mission.  Sub-objectives must be specific, measurable, and shorter-term (ideally 12-24 months) than the Objectives they are nested under.  Sub-objectives and any associated action plans or performance measures must be marked Sensitive but Unclassified (SBU) as they are the living portion of the strategy that can, and should, be regularly reviewed and updated.

(4)  Strategy Implementation.  Strategic plans are, by nature, broad and general.  Sub-objectives provide a starting point for connecting the strategy to concrete work activities but an additional level of detail is often necessary to provide effective guidance for strategy implementation.  In such cases, bureau and missions are encouraged, and may at times be required, to develop supplementary annexes or appendices to their strategies.  These should build on existing bureau/mission objectives or sub-objectives.  Best practices for design, monitoring, evaluation, and data analysis, as well as specific bureau level requirements, can be found in 18 FAM 301.4.  

(5)  Sector-Specific Focus Areas: Security Sector Assistance.  Posts are encouraged to incorporate strategic sector guidance into their ICS.  One common example is the need for additional planning details to support a coordinated approach to Security Sector Assistance (SSA).  State works diligently to ensure that all SSA – including programs managed by other U.S. government departments and agencies and likeminded international partners – strategically advances our foreign policy objectives in a coherent and balanced fashion.  Department cables from 2018, 18 STATE 38294 and 18 STATE 39780, provide SSA-specific strategic planning guidance. 

(a)  The Quadrennial SSA Review found that the overarching goals for SSA in line with the U.S. National Security Strategy, the State-USAID Joint Strategic Plan, and the National Defense Strategy, are:

·         Facilitating U.S. Operational Access and Influence

·         Building Partner Capacity to Counter Shared Threats

·         Promoting Stable and Secure Sovereign Partners

·         Fostering Support for America’s Political, Economic, and Security Interests   

(b)  The Quadrennial SSA Review further identified eight principles for positive SSA outcomes:

·         Strategic clarity;

·         Selective engagement;

·         Reinforcement of host nation ownership and shared interests;

·         Factor in conflict and stability dynamics;

·         Multi-year, persistent engagement;

·         Focus on security sector governance and institutions;

·         Mutually-reinforcing programs; and

·         Evaluation, learning, and iterative adaptation.

(c)  In line with the approved guidelines and established best practices outlined in the Quadrennial SSA Review, Posts with significant SSA programming should within their ICS:

·         Ensure the Country Context includes analysis of risks and opportunities based on security governance and institutions, partner nation interests and political will, and efforts undertaken by other international donors. Prior-year resource levels, limitations, and lessons learned should also be considered.

·         Determine if SSA should be highlighted with a Mission Goal or incorporated as Mission Objectives and/or Sub-objectives. 

·         Use the ICS Action Plans, to coordinate and incorporated all SSA stakeholder efforts.

·         Nest country-specific SSA initiatives within broader regional efforts when appropriate.

(6)  Foreign Assistance Strategic Planning. In addition to the guidance above, all Foreign Assistance strategies should take into account the key elements related to Interagency Coordination, Strategic Integration, and Assessment of Progress Toward Strategic Goals outlined in the U.S. Government Accountability Office’s GAO-18-499 report published July 12, 2018. Bureaus are expected to comply with additional, more specific guidance for Foreign Assistance Strategies as published by F on behalf of the Secretary.

18 FAM 301.2-4(B)  Strategic Plan Revisions

(CT:PPP-18;   05-29-2019)

a. Strategic Plans are living documents. Bureaus and missions should make adjustments to their Sub-objectives as necessary to account for the accomplishment of a sub-objective, strategic reviews and/or external factors that may impact the operating environment.  Goal and objective statements provide critical long- and medium-term guiding principles within the planning period. Given the time required to develop and implement goals and objectives, they should not be changed within the 4-year life of the strategy except in extraordinary circumstances.  Specific to the ICS, changes to Mission Objectives will require a full Department and interagency review and feedback process similar to the initial ICS process.  Changes to Sub-objectives do not require Department and interagency review; however, missions are encouraged to coordinate changes with relevant stakeholders.

b. Specific guidance for strategy revisions are described in the "Integrated Country Strategy Guidance and Instructions" and the "Bureau Strategy Guidance and Instructions."  Bureaus and missions should coordinate with the appropriate strategy support teams and must provide an updated version of any changed strategy (JRS, FBS, or ICS) to the appropriate support team for review and publication prior to the updates taking effect.

18 FAM 301.2-4(C)  Strategy Implementation and Progress Reviews

(CT:PPP-18;   05-29-2019)

a. Circular A-11 outlines strategic review and performance reporting requirements for the JSP. 

b. Bureaus and missions must develop an implementation plan for their strategy within the first quarter of its final approval and submission to the Department.  This is an internal tool to communicate priorities from the strategy, coordinate with relevant stakeholders, and develop a process for regularly reviewing the strategy. At Posts, and for bureaus with significant interagency partnerships, communicating how the strategy will be implement is critical as many interagency actors look to these strategies to provide a framework for aligning their efforts, policies, resources, and programs. 

c.  Senior Department bureau leaders and chiefs of mission must institute regular reviews to assess progress against bureau and mission-level strategic objectives, and ensure alignment of policy, planning, resources, and program decision-making. Reviews are an annual requirement; however, bureaus and missions should conduct them more frequently and incorporate regular discussions about the objectives, progress and challenges, into their regular work routines.  Reviews should incorporate information from monitoring and evaluation processes, and inform bureau and mission strategic plans and budgets. At overseas posts the full country team should participate in these reviews of policies and plans to ensure that all U.S. government efforts are aligned with U.S. foreign policy. 

d. 18 FAM 301.4 outlines best practices for design, monitoring, evaluation, and data analysis as well as describing specific bureau level requirements.   F and BP provide additional guidance on strategy review best practices, and how associated results and findings should be incorporated into part of the continuum of planning, budgeting, monitoring and evaluation.  Current guidance, best practices, tools and other resources are available on the Department’s Managing for Results page on Communities@State.

18 FAM 301.2-4(D)  Strategic Plan Dissemination

(CT:PPP-18;   05-29-2019)

a. The GPRA Modernization Act of 2010 requires agencies to make their JSP available on the external State Department website, and the FATAA requires ForeignAssistance.gov to include links to all regional, country, and sector assistance strategies.  The Department of State's JSP is also referenced in annual budget submission documents, the Annual Performance Plan/Annual Performance Report and the Annual Financial Report.

b. Integrated Country Strategies are inherently interagency documents that are made available to other Executive Branch Departments and Agencies. Regional and Functional Bureau Strategies are internal State/USAID documents and can only be shared with other Executive Branch Departments and Agencies but only at the discretion of the authoring bureau(s). However, bureaus are encouraged to share their finished strategies with interagency stakeholders.  Requests to disseminate strategic plans beyond the confines of this guidance must be submitted by the bureau or mission leadership for clearance through F and BP.

c.  Publicly-releasable versions of all bureau and mission strategies are posted to the Department’s website consistent with legislative requirements and the Department’s transparency initiatives.  The objectives from these strategies are used in Congressional Budget Justifications, Annual Performance Plans and Reports, Foreign Assistance Operational Plans, to ensure alignment with other relevant strategies, to link bureaus/missions objectives to U.S. foreign policy priorities, and to inform internal Bureau and Mission Resource Requests, to name just a few uses.  Specific portions of the strategies must be written at the Unclassified or SBU level as specified in the relevant (bureau or mission) strategic planning guidance documents in order to clearly differentiate between settled strategic priorities and living portions of the strategies that are part of its ongoing implementation and internal deliberative processes.