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.