Simon Cameron needed this?

If you want to understand then versus now, picture this organization under Simon Cameron providing him with "decision support." All this to determine "Centerville now or later?"

Never mind the blurry typography, you get the idea: cumbersome. Also, just as in Civil War literature, the political is missing. It's a closed loop between the decisionmaker (secretary off to the top right corner) and his huge input feed.

Yes, the secretary is a political appointee, but this scheme imagines strategy decisions being made away from political influences (Congress, the president, the press).

If Lincoln taught us anything at all it is that political leaders will never, ever set strategy during war waged by a republic. The contingency-loving politico understands, in a way few Civil War readers grasp, that strategy commits resources now to events later in a constraining way; strategy is measurable, meaning the policymaker will be held to a standard and graded; strategy marches to a timeline oblivious to changing political will and fortune; strategy solicits the public's support on specifics, much more difficult to secure than public support for general principles; strategy is a very dangerous political trap for the politician-in-chief.

We don't find Lincoln reviewing and approving strategy, despite the material submitted to him by McClellan and Grant. What we find is presidential approval (or rejection) of specific operations of limited scope and duration. That is, we find political pragmatism driving operations within a limited window of opportunity. As Archer Jones has suggested, the optimal outcome in Lincoln's concept of war was a series of victories generating ever larger headlines thus increasing political support for the GOP while sapping enemy and Democratic Party support. It would not matter where the victories occurred, nor in what geographic sequence, nor need they be associated with any military concept.

Take this political conception of war to an extreme and understand that the ACW could have been fought entirely in Antarctica and won there based on glowing newspaper coverage. You would not need strategy or geography, just a series of encounters that could be "won" in newspaper terms and broadcast as victories. The loser, in headline terms, would have been voted out of office. That is something like what is happening in Iraq and Afghanistan even now. You have a military that cannot devise a strategy, or make a case for one, and you have a political class with no use for strategy, which however inspired works against expediency (which is a higher value in political terms).

Of strategy in the Civil War, there was none. Of strategy in the future, there shall be none.

Some ideas will always be bruited about but no national strategy. If WWII appears rich in U.S. geostrategy - an exception to this rule - it is an illusion, a post-facto stitch-up of ad hoc decisions taken as situations put decisions within reach. So it will ever be. Kings and dictators may have strategies, republics will not.

The SecDef (SecWar) is therefore always more in need of politcal decisionmaking machinery than strategy vetting processes. Politics is where Cameron went wrong, anyway.

The diagram comes from a proposal from these people. (Click link to read the whitepaper and see the diagram clearly.)