Position Memo

(Will provide login for the content and history to include in memo)Position MemoThe first memo you will write is called a position memo. This memo is written from the perspective of your assigned role

(Will provide login for the content and history to include in memo)

Position Memo

  • The first memo you will write is called a position memo. This memo is written from the perspective of your assigned role. In about two single-spaced pages, it presents a set of policy options for consideration by the NSC and recommends one of them to the president. The recommendation, or position, outlined in this memo is the one you will defend during the role-play. You will write the second memo, called a policy review memo, as a part of Section Four, after you have completed the role-play and participated in the simulation wrap-up.
  • The position memo should provide brief background on the issue at hand; outline the United States’ strategic objectives; present and analyze several policy options; and, finally, recommend and justify a particular course of action. Although conveying complex ideas in a concise way can be challenging, it will help your fellow NSC members consider the issue efficiently and facilitate decision-making by the president. Equally important, it will help you clarify your understanding of the case by forcing you to identify the essential facts and viable policy options.
  • The memo gives you an opportunity to demonstrate an understanding of the point of view and interests of the department, agency, or office you represent. Using your institutional position as a lens, you will outline a set of options to address the crisis. Make sure to take into account the pros, cons, and ramifications of each option as it pertains to your role, and as informed by your reading of the case materials and further research. Also anticipate critiques of your proposed policy and incorporate your response into the memo. In so doing, you can use the memo to help you prepare for the role-play.
    • Note: If you are assigned the role of president, you will not write a position memo. Instead, you will write a two-page presidential directive, or PD, at the conclusion of the role-play. You will address the PD, which will follow a memo format, to the NSC members and inform them of your final decision regarding the policy option or options to be implemented (see below).
  • If your teacher has chosen to assign everyone the role of general advisor to the president, you will not need to write the position memo from a particular institutional position. Instead, you will have the flexibility to approach the issue from your own perspective, incorporating a comprehensive assessment of the crisis into your argument.
  • The position memo and presidential directive below give you a sample template to follow as you write your own memo. When reviewing the sample memos, pay attention to how they are structured, how much information they include, and how they advance their analysis and argument.

Position Memo Template

  • Subject and Background (two short paragraphs): Briefly summarize the significance of the issue for U.S. foreign policy and national security and identify the central policy question(s) to be decided. Provide just enough information about the crisis so the reader can understand your memo’s purpose and importance. Do not summarize the case in depth since your readers are already well-informed.
  • Objectives (bullet points): Succinctly state your department’s objectives in the current crisis. These can be general national security objectives (such as preventing war), or more specific goals tied to your department’s mission (such as protecting U.S. citizens). They should be important to U.S. national security, directly tied to the case, and feasible. These objectives should guide the policy analysis and recommendation that make up the rest of your memo. This section requires exceptional clarity of thought.
  • Options and Analysis (one paragraph for each option): Present and analyze several options for U.S. policy. Discuss their costs, benefits, and resource needs where possible. Be sure to acknowledge the weaknesses or disadvantages of each proposed option in order to illuminate the trade-offs inherent in complex policy decisions. No option is likely to be perfect.
  • Recommendation and Justification (several paragraphs): Identify your preferred policy option(s) and provide more details about it or them. Explain your reasoning, keeping in mind that you aim to convince the president that he or she should follow your recommendation. Addressing the weaknesses or disadvantages you identified in the Options and Analysis section can help strengthen your argument.

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