18 FAM 301.2


(CT:PPP-24;   10-20-2022)
(Office of Origin: F, BP)

18 FAM 301.2-1  PURPOSE

(CT:PPP-24;   10-20-2022)

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 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, and 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.

c.  The JSP, JRS, FBS, and ICS are considered the Department’s core strategic planning processes.  Requirements and standards for these core strategies are set out in 18 FAM 301.2-4 and 18 FAM 301.2-4(A).  In 2019, Department-level guidance on developing other strategies was issued.  This guidance sets standardized strategic planning requirements for strategies outside of these core processes and products, including but not limited to thematic strategies (e.g., IT Strategic Plan).  Any products produced not adhering to the 18 FAM 301.2 Standards and Requirements must be called something other than a “strategic plan,” such as a "tactical plan" or "operational framework."  See 18 FAM 301.2-4(B) Standards and Requirements for other Strategy Documents. 


(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-21;   07-31-2020)

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)

·         Strategic Sector Reviews led by the Office of Foreign Assistance (F)

·         Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act


(CT:PPP-24;   10-20-2022)

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 term of the President commences.  The Department of State leadership collaborates with USAID on 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. Bureaus and missions support JSP and/or other higher level strategic priorities by developing their strategies in accordance with the "Bureau Strategy Guidance and Instructions," "Integrated Country Strategy Guidance and Instructions," and a schedule managed by the Office of Foreign Assistance (F) and the Bureau of Budget and Planning (BP) on behalf of the Secretary.

c.  State regional bureaus are required to jointly develop their JRS with the relevant USAID regional bureau.  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 Department and interagency partners is built into the strategy development processes.  Feedback 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.  Critical elements of the draft plans identified by F and BP during the feedback process as not complying with the guidance must be addressed before the final document can be submitted for publication.

e. All other strategy documents developed within the Department must align with the relevant higher-level core strategies (i.e., JSP, JRS/FBS, ICS).

18 FAM 301.2-4(A)  Key Elements and Standards for Core Strategy Documents

(CT:PPP-24;   10-20-2022)

Core Department Strategies - JRS, FBS, ICS: Specific standards for the content of bureau and mission 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 should be grounded in evidence and analysis, developed collaboratively with relevant stakeholders, sufficiently focused and realistic to facilitate decision-making, and aligned with higher level strategies (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 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 12-18 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) and they must be regularly reviewed, and updated as needed.

(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

18 FAM 301.2-4(B)  Key Elements and Standards for Other Department Strategy (ODS) Documents

(CT:PPP-24;   10-20-2022)

a. Outside of the Department’s core bureau and mission strategies discussed above, this guidance applies to all Other Department Strategies authored by (or in partnership with) bureaus, regardless of whether they are drafted as a result of a bureau’s own initiative or requested by outside elements (e.g., strategies coordinated through National Security Council processes or Congressionally mandated strategies).  In exceptional cases when NSC staff or Congressional guidance specifically calls for a particular strategy format that contradicts this guidance, then the NSC staff or Congressional guidance takes precedence.  For the purpose of this guidance, strategies are defined as planning documents that include a hierarchy of goals and subordinate objectives with clear desired results and associated performance measures.

b. This guidance does not apply to documents that do not include the aforementioned components; such documents will not be called a strategy. Additionally, this guidance does not apply to documents, including those called strategies, which are developed at the country-level or below, such as strategies developed with the host-country governments and multilateral institutions.

(1)  Required Components: In addition to clearly articulated goals and objectives, the elements below must either be included in the strategy itself, or a clear reference made to these elements must be made within the strategy.  These nine elements fall into three categories:  Interagency coordination, strategic integration, and assessment of progress toward strategic goals.

(a)  Interagency Coordination:

·         Agencies’ roles and responsibilities:  The strategy must include a clear description of the lead and contributing bureaus'/agencies' roles and responsibilities.

·         Interagency coordination mechanisms:  The strategy must describe how the strategy was coordinated within the Department and with other departments and agencies.

(b)  Strategic Integration:

·         Integration with relevant national, agency, regional, and sectoral strategies:  For example, a strategy focused on a sub-region should be linked to the appropriate Joint Regional Strategy (JRS) and any applicable Functional Bureau Strategy (FBS) Goals and Objectives, as well as the NSS and/or JSP.

·         Expectations for lower level-strategies:  What are the expectations for lower-level strategies such as country strategies or for operational/tactical plans (i.e., office or component level) that support those strategies.

(c)  Assessment of Progress Toward Strategic Goals:

·         Desired results:  What is the end state the strategy is expected to achieve.

·         Activities to achieve results:  Planned steps and activities to achieve results.

·         Hierarchy of goals and subordinate objectives:  Logical framework that links a strategy’s goals, objectives, and/or subordinate activities.

·         Milestones and performance indicators:  Strategies must include, or reference, illustrative milestones and/or performance indicators, which may be derived from existing performance management plans already developed by bureaus.

·         Monitoring and evaluation plans:  Strategies must include a plan to assess progress towards achieving goals and objectives.  This component may be part of the actual strategy or referenced and incorporated as a series of follow-on documents that are regularly reviewed.

(2)  U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) Report 18-499, aimed at improving alignment and guidance for foreign assistance strategies, informed the development of these requirements.  Department leaders decided to implement the report’s recommendations for all strategic planning efforts, not just foreign assistance.

c.  Offices involved in the development of any strategy document will contact the Department’s Strategic Planning and Performance Team at MFR@state.gov prior to beginning their work.  The Strategic Planning and Performance Team will work with the drafters to ensure that the proposed strategy does not conflict with existing strategy documents and is coordinated with any existing related or potentially overlapping strategies.  The Department’s Strategic Planning and Performance Teams will also provide advice, work aids, assistance developing a strategy development work plan, and other facilitation support.

d. Offices responsible for drafting strategy documents should continue coordinating with the Strategic Planning and Performance Team throughout the strategy development process.  Once the strategy is fully drafted, it must be submitted to MFR@state.gov for feedback and clearance to ensure that all required elements are present.  Once the authors have received the feedback and clearance from the Strategic Planning and Performance Team the draft strategy may proceed through the Department’s clearance process.  Final strategies will be posted on the Managing for Results website and shared with Department and interagency partners as appropriate and in accordance with existing bureau and mission guidance documents.  Unclassified and publicly releasable strategies will be posted to State.gov.  See also 18 FAM 301.2-4(E) Strategic Plan Dissemination.

18 FAM 301.2-4(C)  Strategic Plan Revisions

(CT:PPP-24;   10-20-2022)

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 for core strategies, 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 core strategy revisions is 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.  For non-core strategies, bureaus and missions should inform the strategic planning teams via mfr@state.gov prior to revising a non-core strategy. Once a non-core strategy has been revised, bureaus and missions should submit the non-core strategy to mfr@state.gov for posting on the Managing for Results website.

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

(CT:PPP-24;   10-20-2022)

a. OMB 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 implemented is critical, as many interagency actors look to these strategies to provide a framework for aligning their efforts, policies, resources, and programs.  The Strategic Planning and Performance Teams in F and BP are available to assist bureaus and missions with designing these plans.  

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 at least quarterly and incorporate regular discussions about the objectives, progress, and challenges into 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.  The Strategic Planning and Performance Team will also 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(E)  Strategic Plan Dissemination

(CT:PPP-24;   10-20-2022)

a. The GPRA Modernization Act of 2010 requires the JSP be made available on the public State Department website and to notify the President and Congress of its availability. 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 also made available to the interagency via the Max.gov website.  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, and 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, among other 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 established strategic priorities and living portions of the strategies that ongoing implementation and internal deliberative processes and therefore subject to SBU classification.

d. To foster transparency and improve intra-Departmental and interagency coordination, strategies will be shared with Department and interagency partners as appropriate and in accordance with existing bureau and mission guidance documents.  Unclassified and publicly releasable strategies will be posted to State.gov.