Fateful Decisions: Inside the National Security Council

By Karl F. Inderfurth; Loch K. Johnson | Go to book overview

8
ORGANIZING FOR NATIONAL SECURITY

Jackson Subcommittee

The Jackson Subcommittee presented an important critique of the NSC, faulting it for
growing too large and too bureaucratic.

By law and practice, the President has the prime role in guarding the Nation's safety. He is responsible for the conduct of foreign relations. He commands the Armed Forces. He has the initiative in budgetmaking. He, and he alone, must finally weigh all the factors—domestic, foreign, military—which affect our position in the world and by which we seek to influence the world environment.

The National Security Council was created by statute in 1947 to assist the President in fulfilling his responsibilities. The Council is charged with advising the President—

with respect to the integration of domestic, foreign,
and military policies relating to the national security
so as to enable the military services and the other
departments and agencies of the Government to coop-
erate more effectively in matters involving the national
security.

The NSC was one of the answers to the frustrations met by World War II policymakers in trying to coordinate military and foreign policy. It is a descendant of such wartime groups as the State-War-Navy Coordinating Committee (SWNCC).

The Council is not a decisionmaking body; it does not itself make policy. It serves only in an advisory capacity to the President, helping him arrive at decisions which he alone can make.

Although the NSC was created by statute, each successive President has great latitude in deciding how he will employ the Council to meet his particular needs. He can use the Council as little, or as much, as he wishes. He is solely responsible for determining what policy matters will be handled within the Council framework, and how they will be handled.

An important question facing the new President, therefore, is how he will use the Council to suit his own style of decision and action.

This study, drawing upon the experience of the past 13 years, places at the service of the incoming administration certain observations concerning the role of the Council in the formulation and execution of national security policy.


THE COUNCIL AND THE SYSTEM

When he takes office in January, the new President will find in being a National Security Council and an NSC system.

The Council itself is a forum where the President and his chief lieutenants can discuss and resolve problems of national security. It brings together as statutory members the President, the Vice President, the Secretaries of State and Defense, the Director of the Office of Civil and Defense Mobilization, and as statutory advisers the Director of Central Intelligence and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The President can also ask other key aides to take part in Council deliberations. The Secretary of the Treasury, for example, has attended regularly by Presidential invitation.

But there is also in being today an NSC system, which has evolved since 1947. This system consists of

Reprinted from "Organizing for National Security," Staff Reports and Recommendations, Vol. 3, Subcommittee on National Policy
Machinery, Committee on Government Operations, U.S. Senate (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1961).

-57-

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