The US National Security Council
Every country is faced with a lot of demanding situations, both internal and external. The United States of America is of no exemption despite being regarded as one of the most powerful country in the world. Thus, the country itself and its leaders acknowledge the fact that they are subject to various challenges and threats. Accepting its fate made the country realize that with their tremendous ability and determination, the country can overcome these challenges and threats.
However, the campaign necessitates an aspiring national security office and measures that are tasked to formulate, execute and safeguard the country’s security plan and action. Although accepting limitations, the United States prides itself for having a dependable and an effective National Security Council and national security strategies that feature ideal goals and practical ways for the country’s best interest.
According to the White House, the National Security Council (NSC) was created by virtue of the National Security Act of 1947 (PL 235 – 61 Stat. 496; U.S.C. 402), revised by the National Security Act Amendments of 1949 (63 Stat. 579; 50 U.S.C. 401 et seq.). A reorganization program in 1949 put the National Security Council under the Executive Office of the President (whitehouse.gov). The United States Intelligence Community (2002) cited that the National Security Act of 1947 was specifically introduced as:
An ACT to promote the national security by providing for a Secretary of Defense; for a National Military Establishment; for a Department of the Army, a Department of the Navy, and a Department of the Air Force; and for the coordination of the activities of the National Military Establishment with other departments and agencies of the Government concerned with the national security. (United States Intelligence Community, 2002).
Members of the NSC
The President of the United States is seated as the NSC Chairman. Acting as both statutory and non-statutory regular members are the Vice President, the Secretary of State, the Secretary of the Treasury, the Secretary of Defense, and the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs. Other NSC members are the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff as the statutory military advisor to the Council and the Director of National Intelligence as the intelligence advisor. Other NSC meeting attendees are the Chief of Staff to the President, Counsel to the President, and the Assistant to the President for Economic Policy. Based from their respective duties, the Attorney General and the Director of the Office of Management and Budget are likewise invited to attend NSC meetings. Other key government officials such as the heads of other executive departments and agencies, as well as other senior officials, are also suitably invited to attend NSC meetings (whitehouse.gov).
Purpose of the NSC
The National Security Council serves as the President’s primary venue for meeting his senior national security advisors and cabinet members. This is also where they study and debate among themselves about the country’s security programs and plan of actions regarding the affairs of external relations. Originated under the term of President Truman, the NSC aims to notify and help the President on policies relating to national security and dealings with other countries. The NSC also functions as the President’s main arm for managing the said program of actions among the different branches of the government (whitehouse.gov).
The Office of the Historian of the U.S. Department of State (1997) traced that the NSC started after the World War II. Since its establishment, every administration has aimed to create and hone a dependable set of government establishments that will oversee the country’s security programs and policies. According to the said Office, every incumbent US President has tried to shy away from the problems suffered by the previous administration as well as what is lacking from his predecessors. It is with the NSC that the President has set up a policy-making and management-coordination system that shows his own management style and skill.
Although the NSC is the center of the US government’s security and foreign policy coordination system, a lot of modifications have been instituted to adjust with the demands and dispositions of every president. The standpoint that the NSC was established to manage and coordinate the political and military matters of each President hinted the apprehension that the Council remains for the primary purpose of attending to the concerns only of the President. Furthermore, the viewpoint that the function of NSC is to encourage collegiality among the various government agencies also addresses the need of Presidents to utilize NSC as an instrument rule and oversee competing departments of the executive branch (The Office of the Historian, U.S. Department of State).
The NSC social organization and role is largely attributed to the social chemistry between the President and his primary consultants as well as the secretaries of all the departments. Aside from the personal relationships, an acceptable and effective organizational structure is also important. This has to be created because without it, there will be an absence of essential flow of information and judgment executions (The Office of the Historian, U.S. Department of State).
Looking back at history, it can be learned that President Truman’s NSC was influenced not by his own management style and skill but by the Department of State. However, President Eisenhower’s military preference resulted in NSC’s improvement. At first, President Kennedy regarded that the powerful Secretary of State can take charge of policy-making pertaining for foreign relations. However, he later resorted to other techniques strategies when it became evident that the Department of State lacked an adequate dominance over other government agencies. Based from Kennedy’s attraction for informal consultative arrangements, President Johnson relied on NSC’s weakening structure. Just like his predecessor, Johnson depended not on his personal management attributes but more on the National Security Adviser, his staff, and the different ad hoc groups and confidants.
Under Presidents Nixon and Ford, Henry Kissinger’s expanded NSC staff focused on getting analytical information from the different government agencies which made the National Security Adviser, and not the President, to decide according to his best possible range of choices. President Carter made the National Security Adviser as the main source of external affairs views and policies. The Reagan administration stressed on a group approach for the country’s decision-making. However, this approach failed because the NSC needed to have a sense of separation from Reagan’s Chief of Staff for it to be effective.
President Bush employed his personal foreign policy expertise and brought back the group-relations approach among department heads. The same approach was continued by President Clinton and the second generation Bush. According to the Office of the Historian of the U.S. Department of State, the 10 Presidents of the past five decades wanted to utilize the NSC system to incorporate foreign and defense plans of action in order to conserve the country’s security and boost its interests worldwide. The repeated structural changes for the past 50 years have shown the individual management style, skills, changing demands, and personal inclinations of every President (The Office of the Historian, U.S. Department of State).
Critic and Supporter of NSC
Despite the NSC’s powerful security, military and foreign polices, it apparently failed to win victories and gain success in several matters. DeYoung of the Washington Post, quoting US officials and citing the Council’s own evaluation, concluded that the wide-ranging strategic goals about the Afghanistan War set by President Bush for 2007 did not materialize, despite the fact that the US and forces of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) have significantly gained victories against resurgent Taliban rebels (DeYoung A01).
Additionally, Rothkopf unmasked the apparent dark sides and ill-happenings inside NSC. The book “Running the world; the inside story of the National Security Council and the architects of American power” depicted NSC’s institutional growth and its engagement in various foreign policy conflicts and initiatives for the past decades. As part of the NSC and personally knowing its key players for the past 25 years, Rothkopf exposed a lot of the individual and political competitions within the body that greatly affected and destructively altered the decision-making procedures, succeeding results and management styles of previous US Presidents (Rothkopf 389).
The New Nation’s editorial, on the other hand, reinforced the need for a creation of a policy-making and governing body such as NSC. Citing new hostile events in Bangladesh that have underscored the powerful need of establishing an NSC, the said news source stated the assuring-nature of the NSC. This means that such kind of body guarantees that when worse comes to worst in the ruling system or among the functionaries and management style of a government, it would perform its duty and thwart possible dangerous mistake in rescuing a nation from being uncontrollable. The said editorial stressed the effectiveness and helpfulness of such a governing institution while establishing activities that allow for careful monitoring of the highest and primary security interests of any country (The New Nation).
Summing it up, there are always two sides of a coin. While one part generally advance the interest and welfare of the country, a concealed side eventually does not serve the very purpose that an administrative body such as the NSC is created for the goodness of all. However, for a powerful yet conflict-stricken country like the United States, NSC is perceived to be of advantageous and useful despite its criticisms. The Americans feel that NSC is timely needed. This is because their country can no longer advocate peace, security, and success if it withdraws from creating such an effective and powerful body like the NSC. This is how they lead and leave their legacy to the world.
DeYoung, Karen. “U.S. Notes Limited Progress in Afghan War Strategic Goals Unmet, White House Concludes.” Washington Post. 25 November 2007:A01.
“History of the National Security Council, 1947-1997.” August 1997. Office of the Historian, U.S. Department of State. 22 February 2008 ;http://www.whitehouse.gov/nsc/history.html;.
“National Security Council.” The White House. 22 February 2008 ;http://www.whitehouse.gov/nsc/;.
“National Security Council.” The New Nation. 4 July 2007.
“National Security Act of 1947.” 26 July 1947. United States Intelligence Community. 22 February 2008 ;http://www.intelligence.gov/0-natsecact_1947.shtml#s101;.
Rothkopf, David J. Running the world; the inside story of the National Security Council and the architects of American power. New York: PublicAffairs, 2005.