History of the United States National Security Council 1993–present

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This article is about the history of the United States National Security Council, 1993 to the present.

Clinton administration[edit]

President William J. Clinton on January 20, 1993, the day of his inauguration, issued Presidential Decision Directive (PDD) 1 to departments and agencies concerned with national security affairs. PDD l revised and renamed the framework governing the work of the National Security Council. A Presidential Review Directive (PRD) series would be the mechanism used by the new administration to direct that specific reviews and analyses be undertaken by the departments and agencies. A Presidential Decision Directive series would now be used to promulgate Presidential decisions on national security matters; the Bush administration's National Security Review (NSR) series and National Security Directive (NSD) series were abolished.

On January 21, 1993, in PDD 2, President Clinton approved an NSC decision-making system that enlarged the membership of the National Security Council and included a much greater emphasis on economic issues in the formulation of national security policy; the President, Vice President, Secretary of State, and Secretary of Defense were members of the NSC as prescribed by statute. The Director of Central Intelligence and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as statutory advisers to the NSC, attended its meetings; the new membership of the National Security Council included the following officials: the Secretary of the Treasury, the U.S. Representative to the United Nations, the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, the Assistant to the President for Economic Policy, and the Chief of Staff to the President. Although not a member, the Attorney General would be invited to attend meetings pertaining to his jurisdiction.

The new position of Assistant to the President for Economic Policy, which had been promised by Clinton during the election campaign, was intended to serve as a senior economic adviser to coordinate foreign and domestic economic policy through a newly created National Economic Council (NEC). Robert E. Rubin was the first to be appointed to this position. The NEC was to deal with foreign and domestic economic issues in much the same way as the NSC coordinated diplomatic and security issues, and the Assistant to the President for Economic Policy was to be included in meetings involving international economic issues.

In January 1993, Clinton appointed W. Anthony Lake as his National Security Adviser. Lake, a former Foreign Service officer, served under Henry Kissinger, President Nixon's National Security Adviser, and as director of the Department of State Policy Planning Staff during the Carter administration. During the Carter years, Lake had witnessed the negative effects of bureaucratic infighting and squabbling between then Secretary of State Cyrus Vance and National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski; as Clinton's National Security Adviser, Lake was effective in maintaining cordial relations with Secretary of State Warren M. Christopher and in developing an atmosphere of cooperation and collegiality. Lake initially maintained a low public profile, avoiding public appearances and television interviews, so as not to upstage the Secretary of State as Kissinger had done in the Nixon administration. In September 1993, however, in response to criticism that the Clinton administration had not adequately explained its foreign policy, Lake began to appear as a public speaker.

The National Security Council framework in the Clinton administration included an NSC Principals Committee, a forum available to Cabinet-level officials to discuss and resolve issues not requiring the President's participation. An NSC Deputies Committee served as the senior sub-cabinet interagency forum for considering policy issues affecting national security and for reviewing and monitoring the work of the NSC interagency process; this process included Interagency Working Groups (IWGs), which were to convene on a regular basis to review and coordinate the implementation of Presidential decisions in their respective policy areas. Among the most urgent issues the NSC dealt with in the first year of the Clinton administration were Bosnia, Haiti, Iraq, and Somalia; the several dozen other questions the NSC system dealt with initially included such issues as illegal drugs, United Nations peacekeeping, Zaire, strategic arms control policy, China, and global environmental affairs.

Samuel R. "Sandy" Berger, a longtime foreign policy adviser to Clinton who had been Lake's deputy since 1993, became National Security Adviser in March 1997, after Clinton nominated Lake to be Director of Central Intelligence (Lake subsequently withdrew from the nomination). Berger initiated a review of principles that would guide the foreign policy of Clinton's second term; these included the integration of Eastern and Western Europe without provoking tensions with Russia; promoting more open trade; improving a very powerful defenses against such transnational threats as terrorism and narcotics; and promoting a strong and stable Asian-Pacific community by seeking trade cooperation with China and avoiding confrontation on human rights issues. In the spring and summer of 1997, the National Security Council became occupied with such issues as the ratification of the Chemical Weapons Treaty, NATO enlargement, the Middle East peace process, the U.S.-Russian Summit at Helsinki, and the Denver Economic Summit.

On June 3, 1996, the FBI warned White House National Security Council aide Rand Beers that the People's Republic of China might be trying to funnel money into U.S. Congressional campaigns. Beers later claimed he did not report the information to President Clinton or his National Security Advisor because FBI agents asked that he not share information from the briefing with them; the FBI denied the claim.[1]

In 1999, Berger was criticized for failing to timely inform the President about China's nuclear espionage campaign against the United States. Berger had learned of the espionage in April 1996, but failed to inform the President until July 1997. Former National Security Advisor Anthony Lake had first learned of the information in November 1995, but never told anyone.

George W. Bush administration[edit]

The first meeting of the National Security Council under the leadership of George W. Bush took place January 30, 2001. Present were President Bush, Dick Cheney, Paul O'Neill, George Tenet, Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell, Donald Rumsfeld, Hugh Shelton, and Andrew Card. In the book, The Price of Loyalty, O'Neill claimed that a plan for an invasion of Iraq was begun starting at that first NSC meeting.[2][3]

Obama administration[edit]

On May 26, 2009, President Barack Obama merged the White House staff supporting the Homeland Security Council (HSC) and the National Security Council into one National Security Staff (NSS); the HSC and NSC each continue to exist by statute as bodies supporting the President.[4] The name of the staff organization was changed back to National Security Council Staff in 2014.[5]

Trump administration[edit]

According to a White House memorandum, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Director of National Intelligence will only sit on the Principals Committee as and when matters pertaining to them arise, but will remain part of the full National Security Council;[6][7] the reorganization also placed the Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development as a permanent member of the Deputies Committee, winning moderate praise.[8]

On 6 April 2017, the White House Chief Strategist was removed from the National Security Council and the roles of the director of national intelligence, CIA director and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff were restored to the Principal's Committee.[9]


 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the White House.

  1. ^ Mitchell, Alison, "Warning on China Never Got to Him, Clinton Contends", New York Times, March 11, 1997
  2. ^ Ron Suskind, George W. Bush and the Aug. 6, 2001, PDB Archived 2010-01-03 at the Wayback Machine Alex Koppelman, Salon, June 20, 2006
  3. ^ Bush decided to remove Saddam 'on day one' Julian Borger, The Guardian, January 12, 2004
  4. ^ In Security Shuffle, White House Merges Staffs
  5. ^ "NSC Staff, the Name Is Back! So Long". whitehouse.gov. 2014-02-10. Retrieved 2016-12-18.
  6. ^ "Presidential Memorandum Organization of the National Security Council and the Homeland Security Council". The White House. 31 January 2017. Retrieved 31 January 2017.
  7. ^ Garamone, Jim (31 January 2017). "No Change to Chairman's Status as Senior Military Adviser, Officials Say". US Department of Defense. Retrieved 31 January 2017.
  8. ^ Morris, Scott. "Maybe the Trump Administration Just Elevated Development Policy, or Maybe Not". Center for Global Development.
  9. ^ "Steve Bannon loses National Security Council seat". BBC News. April 6, 2017. Retrieved April 6, 2017.

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