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PNSR Recommends Active Role for Legal Community

December 2, 2011 in News, Report by admin

WASHINGTON, DC – The Project on National Security Reform (PNSR) released today a new report, “The Legal Affairs Roundtable Series on National Security Transformation.” It calls on the legal community, especially the American Bar Association, to “contribute their authoritative voice[s] to the public debate on needed changes” to the national security system.

The report represents the work of more than eighty dedicated national security attorneys, practitioners, and subject matter experts, including Secretary Michael Chertoff, Admiral Dennis Blair, Judge James Baker and General Stanley McChrystal. During three roundtables, participants debated the legal impediments to, and remedies for, the optimal performance of the national security system — specifically addressing the National Security Council, unity of effort proposals and the Intelligence Community. Additionally, during a concluding conference, participants discussed the legal challenges to making reforms and the role of the legal community. Although based upon the discussions during the roundtable series, the resulting report is solely the responsibility of PNSR.

A grant from Carnegie Corporation of New York funded the roundtable series. The American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on Law and National Security, Bingham McCutchen LLC and the Bipartisan Policy Center’s National Security Preparedness Group joined PNSR as sponsors. Arnold & Porter LLP and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars also supported the roundtable series.

The majority of roundtable participants concluded that sweeping reform of the national security system, which encompasses the complex whole of all national security institutions, is necessary. They found the system “mostly ‘stove-piped’ and hierarchical, posing roadblocks to integrated [whole-of-government] consideration of national security policy and issues.”

Most roundtable participants recognized that the current National Security Council apparatus “struggles to be an effective management and integration arm of the president in a security environment characterized by increasing complexity, uncertainty and speed.” Debated remedies included expanding the role of the national security advisor to serve as a national security manager and strengthening the ability of the National Security Staff to integrate the expertise and capabilities of departments and agencies.

Concerning unity of effort in national security operations abroad, participants generally agreed on “the need for better interagency cooperation and for executive cross-agency authority to be developed.” They concluded, “Existing solutions, such as czars and lead agencies, have proven inadequate.” In particular, participants urged improved integration by departments and agencies in their execution of U.S. regional policy abroad and the need for interagency teams in the field.

Despite passage of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, participants found “the required level of integration across the sixteen components of the Intelligence Community has not been achieved.” Key areas for reform focused on the role of the Director of National Intelligence, oversight of the Intelligence Community and information-sharing policies.

Noting the important role of lawyers in any reform effort, the concluding conference produced several recommendations for the legal community:
• Develop a definition for national security law and an agreed-upon body of statutes and executive orders that make up this law.
• Draft and advance transformation proposals in all forms.
• Outline the scope of executive authority in making institutional changes and what reforms require legislative action.
• Advocate publicly for national security transformation.
• Review how congressional organization affects attempts to create a whole-of-government approach to national security issues.

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PNSR Envisions National Security in 2026

November 9, 2011 in News, Report by admin

WASHINGTON, DC – The Project on National Security Reform (PNSR) today released “America’s First Quarter Millennium: Envisioning a Transformed National Security System in 2026,” a paper prepared by Christopher Holshek, PNSR Senior Associate. Holshek will present ideas from the paper at today’s National Defense University symposium, “Forging an American Grand Strategy.” The paper encompasses many transformative concepts developed by PNSR and its partners over the past five years.

The paper may be found here.

To view the website for the paper and post comments, click here.


“America’s First Quarter Millennium” finds the United States no longer the dominant power and standing at a crossroads. Of the two roads in front of the nation, the paper notes, “One way lays the path of inertia and declining returns from an aging national security system. The other way is the ‘road less travelled by,’ leading to greater security and prosperity for future generations.” Given the magnitude of required institutional changes, the paper observes, “To commit to this road, we must first envision its destination: a transformed national security system. A clear vision of a newly created system will point the way ahead for change, reduce fear of the unknown, attract commitment, and demonstrate that transformation is doable.”

PNSR envisions “an anticipatory, collaborative, agile, and innovative system capable of combining all elements of national strength, integrating intelligence, making timely and informed decisions, and taking decisive action.” It would be characterized by “whole-of-government and whole-of-nation approaches, unity of purpose and effort, and prioritized investments emphasizing strengths and opportunities.” Many changes would model organizational reforms successfully adopted by the private sector.

This short, modular paper seeks to inspire a true “national conversation” to envision this future. It is a public-working-draft, casting a wide net among stakeholders to capture the best of America’s collective wisdom. Written in the past tense, it looks back in order to look forward. Components of the envisioned system include: comprehensive strategy; foresight and anticipatory governance; strategic management; interagency high-performance teaming; integrated and flexible national security resourcing; role of Congress; public-private partnering and global networking; and our greatest strength – human capital.

About the Author

Col. Christopher Holshek is a retired U.S. Army Reserve civil affairs officer. After leaving the Army, Holshek took an 8,000 mile tour of the country on his Harley-Davidson and created a blog, “Two Wheels and Two Questions,” where he reflected on America’s place in the world and experiences from his career. Over the years, he has had significant input to the development of civil-military policy and doctrine in the U.S. military, NATO, and United Nations. Effectively fusing his parallel civilian and military careers, he is a rare American who has served in United Nations peace operations in both civilian and military capacities.

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Book launch: Two Wheels and Two Questions: A Journey through America in Search of Personal and National Identity, by PNSR Senior Associate Christopher Holshek

January 29, 2011 in News, Report by admin

WASHINGTON, DC – The Project on National Security Reform (PNSR) today launched “Two Wheels and Two Questions: A Journey through America in Search of Personal and National Identity,” a personal memoir by PNSR Senior Associate Christopher Holshek (Colonel, US Army, retired) reflecting on America and its place in the world. First written as a PNSR blog and then summarized in a Huffington Post article, “America and the Long Goodbye,” the book chronicles Chris Holshek’s reflections and experiences during an extended motorcycle tour across America following his retirement from the military in early 2010.

In addition to his work as a PNSR Senior Associate, Chris Holshek is a civilian civil-military adviser with the Defense Security Cooperation Agency’s Defense Institution Reform Initiative. While in the Army he served in civil-military operations in numerous positions, including command of the first civil affairs battalion to deploy to Iraq in support of Army, Marine and British forces, and as a staff officer for United Nations multinational peacekeeping missions. He participated in the development of Army, Joint, NATO, and UN policies and doctrine for civil-military, stability, and interagency operations, as well as contributed to the State Department’s recent Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review.

“Chris Holshek’s personal reflections on his 30-year service in the U.S. Army and his journey across America are personal testaments to why national security transformation is the critical question of our time” said PNSR President and CEO James R. Locher III. “They ground us in the reality of how our defective system affects the lives of real Americans and provides new thinking on how the national security system of the twenty-first century should function. I commend Chris for his selfless national service and his poignant insights that could help us transcend our current national security paradigm.”

In May 2010, newly retired Colonel Holshek set out from Washington D.C. on his Harley-Davidson motorcycle in search of the answer to two fundamental questions: “What does it mean to be an American?” “And what does that mean for America and the rest of the world?” Chris rumbled through the American South and Southwest to the Pacific Coast and returned through the Great Plains and the American Heartland. His trip also had a detour, escorting some students from the George Mason University to the African nation of Liberia. In the book, Chris chronicles his many encounters, including meeting his uncle, a Vietnam War veteran, and bantering with a shrimp boat captain while oil from the BP well polluted the waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

Pondering his travels, Chris saw the value of seeing America from both the “outside-in” and the “inside-out.” He discovered insights into the American character in its national parks and presidential homes and gained an appreciation of the enduring flow of American history as he traversed the routes of the Transcontinental Railroad and Lewis and Clark expedition. The conclusions he draws are both thought-provoking and timely as the United States looks for national renewal, to reinvent its government through a national security transformation and to use its leadership to secure a safe and prosperous world for generations to come.

“I realized that, like America, I found myself in mid-life transition, as I wandered between the military and civilian worlds at home as well as abroad,” Chris noted. “As I meandered through America on my Harley, reflecting both backwards and ahead in my life, it became clear I could never return to the structured and more predictable world of the military. That’s gone now, so I have to move on.”

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New PNSR Study Recommends an Integrated National Security Professional System

December 15, 2010 in News, Report by admin

WASHINGTON, DC – The Project on National Security Reform (PNSR) announced today publication of a major study recommending a system to produce and manage a cadre of National Security Professionals (NSP) equipped to handle complex 21st century issues. The study, The Power of People: Building an Integrated National Security Professional System for the 21st Century, recommends the phased establishment of an Integrated National Security Professional (INSP) system. The INSP system is designed to function collaboratively across agency and government boundaries.

PNSR believes this human capital system is urgently needed to produce and retain the necessary personnel with the requisite training and experience in whole-of-government approaches, to work in permanent, temporary, and emergency assignments. The current agency-centric system, established by Executive Order 13434 in 2007, is not robust enough to do the job. The new system must be rooted in 21st century practices of collaboration and integration, facilitated by technology, and centrally managed by a Board with a Senate-confirmed director.

PNSR identifies several guiding principles for establishing an INSP system. The study recognizes that “one size may not fit all” for individuals and agencies. NSPs should qualify for progressive levels of achievement/rank. NSPs should self-select to pursue NSP qualification, bolstered by incentives, with entry and training laterally or at an early career stage. An INSP system must attract the next generation.

The INSP system should be implemented in stages over a period of five to seven years. The four stages of implementation are: 1) further development of agency-specific capabilities, especially training, in the current NSP system; 2) establishment of a NSP Qualification Program and the beginning of centralized management of some system aspects; 3) formalization of the INSP system; and 4) realization of a whole-of-government INSP system that includes individuals from the federal government and state and local entities. Pilot programs in each phase would help ensure successful implementation of the system. The study presents general and stage-by-stage recommendations as well as specific next steps for both the executive and legislative branches.

In conducting the study, PNSR interviewed and met regularly with representatives of departments, agencies, and other organizations with national security missions. As the study developed, PNSR consulted with a distinguished group of experts with deep experience in national security, human capital, government performance, and change management.

PNSR President and CEO James R. Locher III commented, “This study emphasizes the enormous importance of the collaborative ability of National Security Professionals, whether they serve on emergency teams or toil every day with others to solve the complex problems we face. PNSR is pleased to have had the opportunity to suggest practical ideas to meet the need. Action on such ideas, step-by-step, to build a new system will be foundational to securing America’s future.”

The independent study, mandated by Congress in the FY2010 National Defense Authorization Act and performed under a Department of Defense contract, has been forwarded to the executive branch and Congress. The study can be found here.

For further comment please contact:
Project on National Security Reform
(202) 643-7049


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PNSR releases comprehensive critique of NCTC’s whole-of-government planning and proposes broader reforms for the counterterrorism system.

February 23, 2010 in News, Report by admin

A new report from the Project on National Security Reform (PNSR) provides an independent, comprehensive, fresh critique of the National Counterterrorism Center’s (NCTC) mission to integrate whole-of-government counterterrorism capabilities. The report, prepared with the cooperation of NCTC and other agencies, examines the Center’s Directorate of Strategic Operational Planning (DSOP). Going beyond the current discussion on information and intelligence sharing, the report identifies long-standing systemic impediments in the counterterrorism community and recommends practical reforms.

The study was informed by a team of renowned experts led by two of the nation’s most distinguished counterterrorism practitioners: Juan Zarate, former Deputy National Security Advisor for Counterterrorism to President Bush, and Lisa Gordon-Hagerty, former Director of Combating Terrorism at the National Security Council under President Clinton.

The study team identified underlying problems that plague the counterterrorism structure. The report calls for strengthening the interagency processes that serve as the connective tissue among government agencies. It serves to elevate the current debate on airport security equipment and “connecting the dots” to more strategic issues related to interagency planning, assessments, and resources that are vital to the long-term success of the mission.

According to James R. Locher III, PNSR President & CEO, “Interagency strategic planning at NCTC is a promising innovation, but important steps are necessary for this innovation to achieve its full potential. Because NCTC is operating in an unreformed national security system, it faces systemic barriers to becoming a more efficient interagency mechanism for the counterterrorism community.”

Philip Zelikow, the 9/11 Commission’s Executive Director, states, “The 9/11 Commission proposed NCTC as a prototype for a novel way of organizing an important sector of national security work in our government. This study is the first really serious analysis of whether the NCTC’s whole-of-government planning effort has met expectations.”

The review, based on the results of extensive research and engagement with government stakeholders, includes steps that the President, National Security Staff, NCTC, and Congress could take immediately to further national security reform.

The report can be found here.

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PNSR Proposes Direct Resources and New Regional Integrated Staffs for National Preparedness System

January 15, 2010 in News, Report by admin

A new study from the Project on National Security Reform (PNSR) calls for systemic reform at the regional level to strengthen the National Preparedness System (NPS). The NPS was defined by the Post Katrina Emergency Management Reform Act (PKEMRA) of 2006.

The PNSR white paper, Recalibrating the System: Toward Efficient and Effective Resourcing of National Preparedness, cites fundamental and interrelated structural and process problems plaguing the current system. It recommends direct funding from the Federal Government—instead of resourcing through grants—for national catastrophic planning and assessments. Resourcing primarily via grants, with their oversight and reporting requirements, fosters intergovernmental relationships that can be more adversarial than collaborative and thus not optimal for unity of purpose.

The study recommends that the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency finance an intergovernmental, interagency Regional Catastrophic Preparedness Staff (RCPS) in each region. State and local authorities would assign representatives to an RCPS for temporary duty and receive federal reimbursements under the Intergovernmental Personnel Act (IPA) Mobility program. There would be no financial onus on the states or locals—a major and legitimate concern, especially with today’s budget deficits.

“It’s only at the regional level,” says PNSR Distinguished Fellow John F. Morton, who directed the study, “where we can get to consensus for that region. These standing regional staffs would be where federal, state, tribal, territorial, local, private sector, and non-governmental organization representatives would come together daily, from the beginning, as co-equal partners to build a bottom-up, collaborative culture of preparedness—or even resilience—and the collaborative regional programs to go with it.”

Standing RCPSs would work with existing planning, training, and exercise units in the states and at the local level to conduct catastrophic risk assessments, catastrophic operational planning and exercise validation, catastrophic capability inventories via negotiated processes through which states could identify gaps for targeting grants and other resources, and regional evaluations and self-assessments informed by regionally determined performance metrics.

To produce the study, the PNSR Homeland Security Team assembled over 20 experts, including former senior representatives from DHS and FEMA, state and local government officials, and the private sector. The report can be found here.


John Morton
(410) 263-0036

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PNSR Releases Report on the Status of Reform of U.S. National Security

October 27, 2009 in News, Report by admin

The latest report from the Project on National Security Reform, Turning Ideas in Action, gauges progress in national security reform in the Executive Branch and Congress, reiterates and refines recommendations from PNSR’s previous report, Forging a New Shield, and outlines specific next steps that must be taken by the government to implement systemic transformation.

Download executive summary here.

Findings and messages:

• Reform is underway. Progress is being made toward a national security system able to respond more effectively to 21st-Century challenges and opportunities. The vision is a collaborative, agile, and innovative national security system that horizontally and vertically integrates all elements of national power.

• President Obama supports national security reform. He and others in the administration have spoken of the complex challenges facing the United States and the need for change. Initial steps have been taken, but the system remains stove piped rather than an integrated, horizontal interagency collaboration. The system lacks unity of purpose and strategic direction, partially because strategy and resources are not aligned. Further, all elements of national power are not routinely considered in decisions and strategies. Also of note: Congress lacks the proper structure to exercise oversight of interagency activities.

• Rhetoric and initial steps are not enough. It’s time to stop talking and start doing national security reform. The broken system must be fixed. We cannot afford to handle the next crisis poorly, nor be unprepared for it.

• Specific steps can be taken now on the path to reform by the President and other key players. They are listed in the executive summary and conclusion of Turning Ideas Into Action.

• Reform will take sustained effort and leadership. It is time for champions to step forward and push it to the next level. PNSR stands ready to assist, as it continues to work on implementation with stakeholders across the whole reform front.

Since release last fall of its seminal report on national security reform, Forging a New Shield, PNSR has been working on the implementation phase.

Specific initiatives include:

• Redesign of the National Security staff in order to facilitate end-to-end management of interagency processes

• Development of the interagency system, especially human capital system and information sharing

• Next Generation State – reform of the State Department structure and processes

• Focus on empowered interagency teams, such as the Directorate of Strategic Operational Planning of the National Counterterrorism Center

• National Preparedness System to strengthen integrated intergovernmental homeland security planning

Turning Ideas Into Action is the statement of what PNSR hopes to achieve in reforming the United States’ critically important, yet lumbering and outdated, national security system. National security reform affects every citizen of the United States—the necessary changes may be esoteric and bureaucratic in nature, but the end result is a more effective government for a safer America.

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Matching Policy and Resources: A PNSR Issue Brief. Available for download

August 27, 2009 in News, Report by admin

As PNSR’s report, Forging a New Shield, states, the U.S. national security system must improve at “linking resources to goals through national security mission-based analysis and budgeting.” As part of the organization’s ongoing analysis, PNSR’s team of resource experts, led by Michael Leonard and Steve Johnson, have submitted an issue brief.

You can download the brief here

From the brief:

Starting in the early 1990s, and especially since 2001, the rising complexity of potential threats and the importance of interagency cooperation in accomplishing national security missions have revealed systemic weaknesses. Some of the more serious such problems are related to national strategy development and aligning resources with strategy, which implies cross-agency resource allocation.

Resource reform is critical if we want our national security system to address complex security threats and major emergencies effectively. National security priorities and the budget should be linked so that policymakers can make decisions across the whole of the national security system. Ultimately, relevant portions of individual agency budget requests should be integrated into a national security budget display that is based on high-level strategy and missions.

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The Project on National Security Reform Releases Recommendations Urging Sweeping Changes to Improve U.S. National Security System

December 3, 2008 in News, Report by admin

Download the full report here

Download the executive summary here

WASHINGTON– The national security system must be massively reorganized if federal agencies are to cooperate and collaborate more effectively to combat the multitude of threats facing the U.S. in the 21st century, according to recommendations released today by the Project on National Security Reform (PNSR).

The PNSR recommendations outlined in Forging A New Shield would replace a national security system created 60 years ago, that despite many marginal attempts to reform, often discourages agencies from working together on joint assignments and policy implementation to respond to crises and effectively manage national security affairs.

The recommendations comprise a broad set of mandates to improve the national security system by streamlining integrated strategy and policy among agencies and programs, improving coordination with a newly established network for sharing information, providing better job training for employees and consolidating Congressional oversight, the report says.

Among the PNSR’s key recommendations are:

• Establishing a President’s Security Council to replace the National Security Council and Homeland Security.
• Creating an empowered Director for National Security in the Executive Office of the President.
• Initiating the process of shifting highly collaborative, mission-focused interagency teams for priority issues.
• Mandating annual National Security Planning Guidance and an integrated national security budget.
• Building an interagency personnel system, including a National Security Professional Corps.
• Establishing a Chief Knowledge Officer in the PSC Executive Secretariat to ensure that the national security system as a whole can develop, store, retrieve and share knowledge.
• Forming Select Committees on National Security in the Senate and House of Representatives.

“To respond effectively and efficiently to the complex, rapidly changing threats and challenges of the 21st century security environment requires tight integration of the expertise and capabilities of many diverse departments and agencies,” says PNSR Executive Director James R. Locher III. “Current organizational arrangements provide only weak mechanism for such integration.”

PNSR’s Locher presented the recommendations today during a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. The 800-page report culminates two years of study in which more than 300 national security experts identified the problems within the system, and produced more than 100 case studies to document the research and analysis.

Since the passage of the National Security Act in 1947, the world has changed dramatically from the single Cold War threat to a multitude of diverse challenges – ranging from rogue regimes to terrorists to transnational criminals. The terrorist attacks of 9/11, troubled stability operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, and inadequate response to Hurricane Katrina provide compelling evidence of the inadequacy of the current system.

Twenty-two members of the PNSR Guiding Coalition, which includes former senior federal officials with extensive national security experience, unanimously agreed that the U.S. national security system needs reform. Joining Locher at the conference were Guiding Coalition members former U.S. Pacific Commander-in-Chief Dennis G. Blair, former Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security Admiral James M. Loy, former Deputy Director of the Central Intelligence Agency John McLaughlin and former Permanent Representative to the United Nations Ambassador Thomas Pickering.

“The focus must shift to national missions and outcomes,” says Admiral James M. Loy, former deputy secretary of Homeland Security. “This will require strategic direction to produce unity of purpose and more collaboration to achieve unity of effort.”

Through its research and analysis, PNSR has determined the following problems with the current system:

• The system is grossly imbalanced, favoring strong departmental capabilities at the expense of integrating mechanism.
• Executive Branch department and agencies are shaped by their narrowly defined core mandates rather than by the requisites of broader national missions.
• The need for presidential integration to compensate for the systematic inability to integrate or resource missions overly centralizes issues management and overburdens the White House.
• A burdened White House cannot manage the national security system as a whole to be agile and collaborative at any time, but it is particularly vulnerable to breakdown during protracted transition periods between administrations.
• Congress provides resources and conducts oversight in ways that reinforce all these problems and make improving performance extremely difficult.

Judith Evans
(703) 387-7610 (o)
(202) 679-6668 (c)

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New Book Examines How Congress and Presidents Have Shaped the National Security System

December 2, 2008 in News, Report by admin

The National Security Council: A Legal History of the President’s Most Powerful Advisers
By Cody M. Brown

Washington, D.C., Nov. 26, 2008 – As the world becomes increasingly complex and interconnected, the role of the National Security Council has evolved into a potent instrument for the President to bring all parts of the federal government together to tackle international and domestic security crises facing America.

In “The National Security Council: A Legal History of the President’s Most Powerful Advisers,” published by the Project on National Security Reform, author Cody Brown examines for the first time how Presidents have used legal instruments to determine the form and influence of the NSC since its creation 60 years ago.

Congress established a broad statutory framework for the NSC in the National Security Act of 1947. Although Congress has amended the statute several times, including in 2007 to add the Secretary of Energy as a member, Congress has left unchanged the basic functions of the NSC.

“Over time, it is clear that the NSC has evolved from a limited advisory council to a vast network of interagency groups that are deeply involved in integrating national security policy development, oversight of implementation, and crisis management,” writes Brown, PNSR’s Chief of Legal Research. “This evolution has not been the result of congressional action, but rather presidential determination, rooted in increasingly complex tasks of managing and optimizing U.S. national security.”

Brown will discuss his book as part of a conference, “The National Security Council: Insights and Recommendations for the President-Elect,” to be held by PNSR on Monday, Dec. 1 at the Hudson Institute in Washington, D.C.

The event also will include a panel discussion with Chris Shoemaker and Alan G. Whittaker on the role of the NSC in the 21st Century. Shoemaker is a former NSC staff member for Presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan and author of “The NSC Staff: Counseling the Council.” Whittaker is the Dean of Faculty and Academic Programs for the Industrial College of the Armed Forces at the National Defense University and author of an annual review of the NSC and interagency system.

In his book, Brown sketches historical themes and offers insights about the NSC since World War II, asserting that presidents have shaped the formal NSC system through presidential directives, executive orders and reorganization plans.

“These legal instruments generally have the force of law if issued pursuant to legitimate constitutional or statutory authority,” he writes. “…Directives have been, and continue to be, most instrumental in shaping the substructures and processes of the NSC. Directives are often classified, and unlike executive orders, are unpublished.”

From Harry Truman to George W. Bush, presidents have wrestled with creating the optimal internal conditions, substructures and procedures for developing and implementing national security policy through the NSC, Brown writes.

Just in the past two decades, presidential administrations enacted significant changes that set a new modern standard for the NSC. George H.W. Bush brought stability to the system. Bill Clinton achieved continuity between administrations and deliberately integrated economic policy with national security policy. George W. Bush elevated domestic security to a national level with the creation of the Department of Homeland Security.

“Each president has made an independent determination of the type of NSC that would best serve the nation,” Brown writes, “with some arrangements proving more advantageous than others, but each with its own unique qualities.”

PNSR comprises a 23-member Guiding Coalition that includes former senior federal officials with extensive national security experience. The project is a nonpartisan and non profit organization.