The Purpose and Impact of Quadrennial Reviews by U.S. National Security Agencies

45 Pages Posted: 12 Aug 2013

Date Written: 2013


Over the past two decades, major strategic reviews have become a mainstay of U.S. national security policy making. In 1996, Congress enacted a law mandating that the Defense Department conduct a Quadrennial Defense Review. Since then, quadrennial reviews have also been instituted by Congress or the executive branch in the intelligence community and at the State Department and Homeland Security Department. This proliferation of quadrennial reviews raises several questions: Why have Congress and the executive branch established these reviews? What, if anything, has resulted from them? What factors have shaped their impact? In this paper I answer these questions by integrating insights from several scholarly disciplines and drawing on interviews of 43 current and former congressional and executive branch officials who are very knowledgeable about the quadrennial reviews. My findings indicate that policymakers establish quadrennial reviews to promote organizational change in the executive branch and to influence the relationship between agencies and Congress – rather than to generate new strategic ideas – and that such reviews tend to have more impact on organizational management than on outward-facing strategy.

Keywords: National security, strategy, strategic planning, quadrennial reviews

Suggested Citation

Tama, Jordan, The Purpose and Impact of Quadrennial Reviews by U.S. National Security Agencies (2013). APSA 2013 Annual Meeting Paper, American Political Science Association 2013 Annual Meeting, Available at SSRN:

Jordan Tama (Contact Author)

American University ( email )

Do you have negative results from your research you’d like to share?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics