Strategic laboratory planning in limited resource areas is essential for addressing global health security issues. Establishing a national reference laboratory, especially one with BSL-3 or -4 biocontainment facilities, requires a heavy investment of resources, a multisectoral approach, and commitments from multiple stakeholders. We make the case for donor organizations and recipient partners to develop a comprehensive laboratory operations roadmap that addresses factors such as mission and roles, engaging national and political support, securing financial support, defining stakeholder involvement, fostering partnerships, and building trust. Successful development occurred with projects in African countries and in Azerbaijan, where strong leadership and a clear management framework have been key to success. A clearly identified and agreed management framework facilitate identifying the responsibility for developing laboratory capabilities and support services, including biosafety and biosecurity, quality assurance, equipment maintenance, supply chain establishment, staff certification and training, retention of human resources, and sustainable operating revenue. These capabilities and support services pose rate-limiting yet necessary challenges. Laboratory capabilities depend on mission and role, as determined by all stakeholders, and demonstrate the need for relevant metrics to monitor the success of the laboratory, including support for internal and external audits. Our analysis concludes that alternative frameworks for success exist for developing and implementing capabilities at regional and national levels in limited resource areas. Thus, achieving a balance for standardizing practices between local procedures and accepted international standards is a prerequisite for integrating new facilities into a country's existing public health infrastructure and into the overall international scientific community.