Limited knowledge about state health agencies' strategic management capabilities constrains their capacity to improve public health. The current study addresses this gap through two objectives: 1) To assess agencies' strategic management capabilities, conceptualized through a learning framework and 2) To portray both those capabilities and where the agencies have progressed along a developmental pathway of strategic management ability. Forty-one state health agencies' documents from 1995-2000 were content analyzed. Latent Trait Analysis (LTA) was used to depict both the progressive levels of strategic management capabilities and states' relative mastery along the continuum. Findings indicate that strategic management capabilities have path dependent characteristics and a distinct learning paradigm exists. Therefore, policy-makers wishing to improve agency performance can utilize this framework to assess and target capabilities that need improvement.