The White House today released the required presidential report on National Security Strategy. No, I haven't read it yet. [But here are some expert assessments by folks at CNAS.]
With prior reports, I used to ask students to read them, looking for anything they disagreed with. Few found contentious statements, since most of the wording is positive and anodyne. Who could be against "strength" and "promoting democracy"?
While I don't expect anything startling, I am pleased with the process that led to this product. Some friends involved in that review and comment process report that there was good back-and-forth. And that's the real value of such reports. They force interagency dialogue on key issues and sometimes even get decisions on unresolved matters. That process is more valuable than the end product.
Congress has required this report since an amendment by Senator John Warner [R-Va.] to the 1986 Goldwater-Nichols Defense Reorganization Act. That far-sighted measure built on one I helped write in 1975 requiring State-Defense consultation on the annual military posture statement, which has always said a lot about foreign policy.
Regrettably, Congress has tended to pay little attention to their presidential reports, despite their importance within the Executive Branch. One of the reasons, I believe, is that no one is qualified to testify on the document as a whole except the president himself, and his national security adviser, who is not allowed to testify. I think this deficiency should be resolved by making the NSC staff director's position confirmable by the Senate -- but that's another controversy.