Monday, January 30, 2017
President Trump issued an EO this weekend reorganizing the National Security Council and for the first time adding a member of the President's political team to the Principals Committee. The changes have been all over the news (even if lost behind President Trump's EO on immigration); here's one of the better reports, from Kelly Magsamen at The Atlantic.
The National Security Council is established pursuant to the National Security Act of 1947, 50 U.S.C. Sec. 402. The Act names members of the Council and its committees, but also gives the President some flexibility in organizing it. Presidents have organized and used the NSC very differently, as explained in this Congressional Research Service report, but President Trump's move is the first time that a political operative gets a permanent seat at the table. Magsamen explained:
For the first time in history, a president's chief political strategist will be invited to attend any meeting of the National Security Council and will be a regular member of the highly-influential Principals Committee (PC). Now, politics finding its way into a president's national-security decision-making is nothing new. But it rarely (if ever) gets a seat in the White House Situation Room--for good reason. To place a purely political operative on the NSC--alongside actual Cabinet members with national-security responsibilities or expertise--is an unprecedented move with profound implications for how national-security policies are developed and executed. To be clear, that concern is not confined to Steve Bannon. This would be the case no matter who it was.
Under the EO, the Director of National Intelligence and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff are off the Principals Committee. Instead, they "shall attend where issues pertaining to their responsibilities and expertise are to be discussed."