Creation of the National Security Council

National Security Council

The creation and implementation of the National Security Council took place after the Second World War when it became evident that there was a need for the consolidation of executive posts to manage all aspects of national security policy. Furthermore, the National Security Council has always been at the forefront of the coordination of the foreign policy. However, the National Security Council or NSC, has not remained consistent since its inception and has changed in relation to the style, vision and requirements of each new administration and President.

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The NSC was ratified by the National Security Act of July 26, 1947. The organization fell under the chairmanship of the President of the United States and included the Secretaries of State and Defense as its key members. It is the “highest committee in the executive branch of the federal government for the resolution of national security and foreign policy questions.”

Elder 13)

One of the essential tasks of the NSC is “to coordinate foreign policy and defense policy, and to reconcile diplomatic and military commitments and requirements.” (History of the National Security Council)

Furthermore, the creation of the NSC also provides for “a Secretary of Defense, a National Military Establishment, Central Intelligence Agency, and National Security Resources Board.” (ibid) it has four statutory members: the President, the Vice President, the Secretary of State, and the Secretary of Defense. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (CJCS) and the Director of Central Intelligence serve as statutory advisers to the NSC. (Overview of National Security Structure)

An important aspect of the functioning of the NSC is the mutual understanding and close relationship between its member and components.

The structure and functioning of the NSC depended in no small degree upon the interpersonal chemistry between the President and his principal advisers and department heads. But despite the relationships between individuals, a satisfactory organizational structure had to be developed, for without it the necessary flow of information and implementation of decisions could not occur.

History of the National Security Council)

Besides the statutory member other leaders in government such as the Secretary of the Treasury and the Director of the Bureau of the Budget, have standing invitations to participate in NSC discussions. (″Elder 13) Other members of government and various bodies are also invited if the agenda of the NSC requires it. “The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency are always present in an advisory capacity.” (ibid)

An important part of the NSC organization is the NSC Planning Board which is responsible for preparing policy papers for the NASC.

This Board is composed of agency representatives and is “serviced by a group of relatively high-ranking civil servants of non-political character who meet regularly and do much of the preliminary work for the Planning Board.” (Ibid)

Importantly for the imperative of coordination with the NSC is the Special Assistant to the President who acts as the chairman of the Planning Board. This facilitates a close connection between the NSC and the President. It is also important to understand that the NSC does not function as a body independently of the President.” The National Security Council itself does not reach policy decisions, but if its policy papers are approved by the President after discussion and revision, the NSC papers become official statements of United States policy.” (ibid) the Current NSC members are:

Condoleezza Rice, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs

Stephen J. Hadley, Deputy Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs

Gen. John a. Gordon, USAF (Ret.), Deputy Assistant to the President for Combating Terrorism

Gregory L. Schulte, Executive Secretary

Franklin C. Miller, Senior Director for Defense Policy and Arms Control

Robert G. Joseph, Senior Director for Proliferation Strategy, Counterproliferation, and Homeland Defense

United States National Security Council)

The NSC functions as the central forum for the President for considering matters of national security and foreign policy in conjunction with his senior security advisors and cabinet officials. (National Security Council’s Function) Besides the important aspect of the consolidation of foreign policy the NSC also has the task of coordinating policy among the various government agencies. These include agencies such as the CIA and OSB, or Operations Coordinating Board.

The growth of these three coordinating mechanisms — NSC, CIA and OCB — has contributed in some ways to strengthening Presidential leadership in policy-making and to increasing cooperation of agencies under ambassadorial leadership on “country teams” in the field.

(Elder 15)

The NSC is vital in today’s Government to determine foreign Policy. “NSC staff continue to be key foreign policy advisers”

Kurian 6) the importance of the NSC can be gleaned from the following statement:

From the 1970s through the 1990s the National Security Council and its staff have overshadowed the Departments of State and Defense in formulating national security policy. The domestic policy staff in the White House is more important than any of the domestic cabinet departments on most domestic policy issues.

(Kurian 88)

The function of determining foreign policy requires the coordination of various sectors of the intelligence and governmental communities and this was the original idea behind the creation of the NSC.

The formation of the National Security Council and the Central Intelligence Agency in 1947, and the Operations Coordinating Board in 1954, must be recognized as major steps toward the achievement of a minimum degree of coordination by the Chief Executive over the foreign affairs agencies.

Elder 12)

As has been stated, the constitution and functioning of the NSC varies according to the policies and objectives of each President. For example, “President Truman’s NSC was dominated by the Department of State. President Eisenhower’s predilection for the military staff system, however, led to the development of the NSC along those lines.” (History of the National Security Council)

President Kennedy on the other hand at first placed the responsibility for foreign policy-making in the hands of the Secretary of State but changed this view when it became evident that a broader consensus with other departments was needed. Kennedy in fact “dismantled Eisenhower’s elaborate NSC machinery and allowed the Special Assistant for National Security Affairs and his staff to assume the primary coordination role.” (ibid)

The Bush Administration has placed foreign policy management in the hands of the NSC and attempted to restore relationships between the various department heads. (ibid) in short, each President attempts to coordinate the NSC in order to attain the best integration of defense and foreign policies.

For 50 years, 10 Presidents have sought to use the National Security Council system to integrate foreign and defense policies in order to preserve the nation’s security and advance its interests abroad. Recurrent structural modifications over the years have reflected Presidential management styles, changing requirements, and personal relationships.


Arnold, Peri E., Charles E. Walcott, and Bradley H. Jr. Patterson. “The White House Office of Management and Administration.” Presidential Studies Quarterly 31.2 (2001): 190. Questia. 6 Nov. 2004

An Instrument of Government, to 1950 an Instrument of Government, to 1950. University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1990.

Cyr, Arthur. “How Important is National Security Structure to National Security Policy?.” World Affairs 146.2 (1983): 127-147.

Elder, Robert Ellsworth. The Policy Machine: The Department of State and American Foreign Policy. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1960.

History of the National Security Council. The White House. Accessed Nov 4, 2004.

Kurian, George Thomas, ed. A Historical Guide to the U.S. Government. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998.

National Security Council’s Function) Welcome to the White House. Accessed November 5, 2004.

Newmann, William. “Causes of Change in National Security Processes: Carter, Reagan, and Bush Decision Making on Arms Control.” Presidential Studies Quarterly 31.1 (2001): 69. Questia. 6 Nov. 2004.

Overview of National Security Structure) the Defense Technical Information Center. Accessed November 5, 2004.

The Presidential Branch: From Washington to Clinton. 2nd ed. Chatham, NJ: Chatham House Publishers, 1995.

United States National Security Council. Disinfopedia.. Accessed November 5, 2004.

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