Fateful Decisions: Inside the National Security Council

By Karl F. Inderfurth; Loch K. Johnson | Go to book overview
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We at the National Security Council are going to try to work the
seams, stitching the connections together tightly. If we can do that, if
we can provide glue for the many, many agencies and the many,
many instruments the United States is now deploying around the
world, I think we will have done our job on behalf of the President of
the United States.

—Condoleezza Rice
Remarks, U.S. Institute of Peace
January 17, 2001


The National Security Council system consists of three key groups of people: the statutory principals (the president, the vice president, the secretary of state, and the secretary of defense), the statutory advisers (the director of Central Intelligence and the chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff), and the Council staff. The professional (nonclerical or support) staff has ranged in size from only a few people in the early days, to around fifty during the Nixon years, down to forty in the administration of George H.W. Bush (Bush I), and upwards of 100 during the Clinton years (in each case, all but a handful on loan from various executive agencies). According to one recent study, "the NSC has become the largest policy group in the White House" (Patterson, 2000: 72; see For Further Reading). In Figure V.A (p. 132), Daalder and Destler trace the rise in the number of professional staff on the NSC from 1960 to 2000, which reveals a steep rise during the Clinton years.

The bridge that joins all three groups is the "special assistant to the president for national security affairs," a job title established in the Eisenhower Administration to designate that individual who would be the overall director of the NSC's activities. During the Truman Administration, this position was known as the NSC executive secretary; but early in the Eisenhower Administration that title became the designation for a lower office reporting to the new special assistant. The executive secretary was expected to handle administrative and other routine tasks, freeing the special assistant to devote more time to NSC committee affairs and policy coordination. (During the Eisenhower years, General Andrew J. Goodpaster also served as security aide to the president with the title "staff secretary and assistant for national security activities.") The cumbersome formal title of "special assistant to the president for national security affairs"


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Fateful Decisions: Inside the National Security Council
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