Policy Planning Staff
Fusing Thought With Action: The Mission and Purpose of the Policy Planning Staff
Created in 1947 by George Kennan at the request of Secretary of State George C. Marshall, the Policy Planning Staff (S/P) serves as a source of independent policy analysis and advice for the Secretary of State. The Policy Planning Staff's mission is to take a longer term, strategic view of global trends and frame recommendations for the Secretary of State to advance U.S. interests and American values.
In his memoirs Present at the Creation, former Secretary of State Dean Acheson characterized the role of Policy Planning: "To anticipate the emerging form of things to come, to reappraise policies which had acquired their own momentum and went on after the reasons for them had ceased, and to stimulate and, when necessary, to devise basic policies crucial to the conduct of our foreign affairs."
For today's Policy Planning Staff, fulfilling this same, core mission for the Secretary requires striking a fine balance between engagement in the day-to-day requirements of diplomacy and development of long term, strategic plans. Broadly speaking, the daily work of the Policy Planning Staff may be divided into six areas:
Dr. David F. Gordon is the 24th Director of Policy Planning and holds a rank equivalent to Assistant Secretary of State.
The Policy Planning Staff is typically a mix of career government officials and outside experts who bring differing perspectives and bases of experience to the conduct of U.S. diplomacy. Recently, the staff has included Foreign Service Officers, academics from universities and think tanks, intelligence analysts, former congressional staffers, an emergency room physician, a retired military officer, a business consultant, an arms control expert, and an economist. The staff is responsible for covering the full range of foreign policy issues facing the United States, although staff members exercise discretion and judgement in identifying the areas they focus on.
Shortly after he left the Policy Planning Staff in 1969, Zbigniew Brzezinski (who went on to become President Carter's National Security Advisor) wrote: "The purpose of planning policy is to fuse thought with action." That imperative guides us today.