Skip to content

News: National Security Structure Is Set

March 3, 2009


Karen DeYoung had an intriguing and important piece in the Friday, February 27 edition of the Washington Post on how the Obama Administration may be realigning the NSC.

The Story:

National Security Structure Is Set

Under Obama, Council Will Grow

By Karen DeYoung
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, February 27, 2009; A03

President Obama’s first presidential directive, outlining the organization of his national security structure, adds the attorney general, the secretaries of energy and homeland security, and the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations to the formal National Security Council.

The four-page directive sketches wide input to NSC meetings, providing for “regular” inclusion of senior trade, economic and science advisers.

The document puts national security adviser James L. Jones firmly in charge of setting the NSC agenda and communicating Obama’s decisions to the others. Jones will determine when to call White House meetings of policymaking “principals” and will police implementation of assigned tasks.

All post-World War II presidents, with the exception of Ronald Reagan in his first term, have begun their administrations with similar documents. Although most have contracted or enlarged the list of senior officials included in the formal structure — usually by one or two officials either way — Obama’s is by far the most expansive, in keeping with his definition of national security to include economic, climate, energy and cyber-threats.

Few presidents have followed the letter or often even the spirit of their national security directives under the pressure of crises and internal power struggles. President George W. Bush’s six-page directive set out an orderly policymaking system that was thwarted early on by the relative weakness of his initial national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, the supremacy of Vice President Richard B. Cheney among his advisers, and clashes between Donald H. Rumsfeld and Colin L. Powell, his first secretaries of defense and state. The upheaval of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks created a more narrow structure.

Obama also has divided his national security orders into two categories: presidential policy directives, and presidential study directives, designed to initiate and direct policy reviews. A copy of Policy Directive 1, the NSC directive signed on Feb. 13, was obtained by The Washington Post.

Study Directive 1, dated Feb. 23 and made available this week by Secrecy News, orders an interagency review of the White House homeland security and counterterrorism structure. Headed by counterterrorism adviser John O. Brennan, the review will recommend whether to retain the separate the Homeland Security Council established under the Bush administration, or to incorporate some or all of its functions within the NSC.

Obama’s security directive also establishes an elaborate system of interagency policy committees to coordinate analysis and reviews of issues “for consideration by the more senior committees . . . and ensure timely responses to decisions made by the President.”

Under the 1947 National Security Act that created it, the National Security Council included only the president, vice president, and secretaries of state and defense. The CIA director and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff have been added by most presidents.

Obama’s directive includes all of these and new members from Energy and Homeland Security, as well as the attorney general. He follows in the footsteps of President Bill Clinton by including his U.N. ambassador — although Bush did not — and mandating that his White House counsel, Gregory B. Craig, “shall be invited to attend every NSC meeting,” along with Tom Donilon, his deputy national security adviser.

International economic, homeland security, counterterrorism, science and technology advisers are to become “regular members” when their issues are “on the agenda of the NSC,” the directive says.


Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: