US National Security Council is a subset of White House Office, established by the National Security Act of 1947 in Harry Truman’s administration for the purpose of integrating domestic and foreign policies, military policies, and issues concerning national security.
The Structure of US National Security Council
US National Security Council is a subset of White House Office, established by the National Security Act of 1947 in Harry Truman’s administration for the purpose of integrating domestic and foreign policies, military policies, and issues concerning national security. The president chairs the council and this council has a consultative status for the president. The members of the council are appointed by the president and the president can make changes in the structure of this institute.
The meetings of National Security Council are held on a regular basis, at least once a week. The members of the National Security Council are:
- Chairman: the President
- Statutory Attendees: Vice President, Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense and Secretary of Energy
- Military Advisor: Joint Chief of Staff (Military Advisor to the President). Trump has removed this post.
- Intelligence Advisor: Director of National Intelligence. This position was removed by Trump. He replaced the Director of National Intelligence with Director of CIA.
- Drug Policy Adviser: Director of Drugs Control Office
Additional Participants: Secretary of the Treasury, Secretary of Homeland Security, White House Counsel, Assistant to the President for Economic Policy, Director of Office of Management and Budget, US Ambassador to the United Nations, Homeland Security Adviser and White House Chief Strategist, added to the council by Trump
It is necessary to note that there are other committees and working groups supporting and organizing the functions of the council, which are:
- US National Security Staff: This staff consists of the President’s Executive Staff and the National Security Advisor. It is chaired by National Security Advisor. This staff consists of different committees working on the plans and programs on the staff’s agendum. The members of the staff pursuant to Act for Fiscal Year 2017 are 200. The members of the staff and its subsets are appointed by the president. However, the president cannot change the head of the staff. This staff has a number of committees helping it accomplish its missions. These committees are:
- Decision-making Committees: These committees are comprised of representatives of different administrative organizations. Through consultation, they prepare the drafts for the plans. These drafts constitute the basis of the discussions of National Security council. These committees are further divided into 3 subcommittees, which are:
- Decision-making committees: This is a subset of the White House chaired by National Security Advisor. Not all regular attendees of National Security Council attend the committee. Rather, the secretary, organ, or the representative pertinent to the discussion in that particular session attends the session.
- Committee of Undersecretaries: In this committee, undersecretaries and agencies pertinent to the discussions attend the session.
- Policy Coordination Committees: This is a subset of the Committee of Undersecretaries which sets its agenda. This committee is charged with investigating everyday issues of national security, referred to them by National Security Adviser and Committee of Undersecretaries.
The Changes Made by Trump to US National Security Council
Since World War II, US National Security Council has been an influential body in different aspects of US national security. This influence has at times been so pervasive that in Henry Kissinger’s, Baginsky’s and Condoleezza Rice’s terms of office as the US National Security Advisors, their roles in national security and foreign policy were far important than the roles of Secretary of Defense and Secretary of State. Therefore, even a minor change in the structure and the composition of attendees could have important consequences for US policies in general.
When Trump took office, he made a number of changes in the structure and the composition of US National Security Council. These changes are as follows.
- Following his pessimism about and distrust in US intelligence and military agencies, he did not allow the highest-ranking intelligence director and the highest-ranking military official to attend US National Security Council. They can attend the council if the issue to be discussed is somewhat related to the institute or office which they are running.
- Appointment of CIA Director as the Regular Member of US National Security Council: When Obama took office, the director of CIA did not attend the US National Security Council as a regular attendee and the Director of National Intelligence replaced him. Removal of the position of Director of National Intelligence from the council and its replacement with the position of the Director of CIA is actually backtracking to the George Walker Bush era. It seems that Trump has replaced expertise with trust system in intelligence agencies. Trump has appointed the man whom he trusts as the head of the most important intelligence agency in the US, so he can avoid the grave consequences of mistakes made in wars on Afghanistan and Iraq. Trump believes that it is necessary to review American intelligence agencies and their structure, so these glaring mistakes could be avoided. However, one must not forget the role of accusations made by intelligence agencies against him about his relationships with Russians during his presidential campaign in this decision.
Appointment of White House Chief Strategist as the Regular Attendee: For the first time in the life of US National Security Council, the White House Chief Strategist attends the council as a regular attendee. This appointment could help clarify the status of Steve Bannon with Trump. Bannon was the chief executive officer of Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and his chief advisor. Before his political career, Bannon served as a navy officer and as the executive chair of a far-right news website. He is so powerful in the White House that some even call him “The Shadow President”. They regard him as Trump’s closest friend and believe that he has the most influence on the president.
- Demotion of the Status of USAID
This agency has a significant role in American general diplomacy. In Obama’s administration, this agency attended some of the US National Security Council sessions. However, at the time being, it will attend just one of the main committees as a regular attendee. This shows that Trump pays less attention to general diplomacy. For Trump, improvement of Obama’s policies in negotiating economic agreements, betterment of the situation of alliances and direct diplomacy with other countries are more important than general diplomacy. That is why we rarely hear Trump commenting on general diplomacy.
When an American president comes to power, some changes are made in different government agencies. This is a right, which Trump has used in a courageous way. Given the changes which a president makes in the executive agencies, it is possible to gain insights into his mindset and ideology. Trump has chosen his national security advisers out of those who strongly believe in pursuing national interests by challenging the rivals, which, in turn, requires challenging domestic policy, and domestic military and intelligence agencies. Trump took the first step quite firmly, which was making his desired changes in the National Security Council. He did this to show that he is intent on changing the policies related to national security. This was done to the extent that for the first time in the life of the council, he added the post of White House Chief Strategist to the council. The changes made in the US National Security Council are consistent with the policies that Trump promised in his presidential campaign.
According to Trump, security is the offshoot of military power and might. There are some people in the council who subscribe to this view.
Given the discussion so far, it is possible to conclude that the new US only respects countries which have strong preemptive military power and have the capability to influence their regional order. He will try not to confront these countries and will strike deals with them proportionate to their regional power.