National Security Council
The National Security Council (NSC) was created in 1947 for coordinating and implementing national security and foreign policy. By law, the President. the Vice President, Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense, Secretary of Energy, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Director of National Intelligence, and the Director of National Drug Control Policy are members.
Beyond statutory requirements, each president is free to structure his administration as he sees fit. In the Trump administration, the White House Chief of Staff, White House Counsel, National Security Advisor, Director of Central Intelligence, Attorney General, Treasury Secretary, OMB Director, and the Assistant to the President for Economic Policy are also members of the NSC or invited to attend meetings.
The NSC and its staff now consists of a Principals Committee of decision makers, known as policymakers, and a Deputies Committee charged with analysis, recommendations, and implementation.
Homeland Security Council
Immediately after the 9/11 attacks President George W. Bush created the Homeland Security Council (HSC) by Executive Order within the White House. Congress subsequently codified the HSC in the Homeland Security Act of 2002 which created the separate Department of Homeland Security. President Barack Hussein Obama merged the staff supporting the HSC with the staff supporting the NSC, howevet the two continue to exist by statute as independent councils advising the president. President Donald J. Trump has maintained the same structure.
With the Trump administration a level of professionalism returned to the National Security Council staff which had been lacking during the eight years of Obama. Many Obama holdovers throughout the Executive Branch and within the Intelligence Community however, sought to derail and block President Trump's foreign policy and national security agenda articulated on the 2016 presidential campaign trail. Through surreptitious, illegal, and blatantly abusive misuse of America's covert intelligence gathering agencies they were largely successful.
In the Trump administration the Principals Committee is convened and chaired by the National Security Advisor and consists of the Secretary of State, Secretary of the Treasury, Secretary of Defense, Attorney General, Secretary of Energy, Secretary of Homeland Security, White House Chief of Staff, Director of National Intelligence, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Director of Central Intelligence, National Security Advisor, Homeland Security Advisor, and Representative to the United Nations.
The White House Counsel, Deputy Counsel for National Security Affairs, and Director of OMB may attend all meetings.
The Deputy National Security Advisor, Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategy, National Security Advisor to the Vice President, and the Executive Secretary attend all meetings, and the Assistant to the President for Intragovernmental and Technology Initiatives may attend as appropriate.
When international economic issues are on the agenda, the Committee’s regular attendees will include the Secretary of Commerce, United States Trade Representative, and Assistant to the President for Economic Policy (who shall serve as Chair for agenda items that principally pertain to international economics).
The Deputies Committee serves as the senior sub-Cabinet interagency forum for consideration of, and where appropriate, decision making on, policy issues that affect the national security interests of the United States. The Deputies Committee is convened and chaired by the Deputy National Security Advisor.
Regular attendees are the Deputy Secretary of State, Deputy Secretary of the Treasury, Deputy Secretary of Defense, Deputy Attorney General, Deputy Secretary of Energy, Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security, Deputy Director of OMB, Deputy Director of National Intelligence, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Deputy Director of Central Intelligence Agency, Deputy National Security Advisor, Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategy, Deputy Homeland Security Advisor, Deputy National Security Advisor to the Vice President, and the Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). Other senior officials may be invited when appropriate.
Barack Obama went through an unprecedented 4 Secretaries of Defense in 8 years, and all came away with similar complaints of their advice being ignored and a lack of professionalism and discipline by the White House National Security staff. The Obama years saw major global upheavals in the standards of conduct of a great power, and the return and acceptance of slavery, kidnappings, and beheadings to enforce shariah law. Major civil wars instigated by Obama's NSC staff created massive humanitarian refugee, migrant, demographic shifts, and cultural clashes globally.
It also saw the institution of a presidential "kill list" for persons – including US citizens – deemed Obama's enemies by a surreptitious process that likely violates US constitutional law and most assuredly violates international law. Having disposed of international agreements, the Russian government and others felt obliged to do the same.
I worked in the White House on the National Security Council staff and as deputy national security adviser for nearly nine years under four presidents. And I had certain ideas about how the national security staff and how the White House staff ought to comport themselves in discussions on national security and military issues. And let's just say that the way it worked in the Obama White House was not anything like I had seen before.
I had worked for probably three of the most significant and toughest national security advisers in our history: Henry Kissinger, Zbigniew Brzezinski and Brent Scowcroft. And there were things that went on in the Obama White House that, under those three guys, I am confident would have been a firing offense......domestic politics had a role in the debates about national security issues that I had not previously experienced.
[P]roximity is everything when you’re operating at the White House. The person that’s closest to the president has greater influence than even a cabinet member, who may be located elsewhere in a department...Staff people tried to read, 'what is it that the president wants?' And then try, through the back door, [to] influence the direction of policy. What that does is, it undermines the very process...
Def. Sec. Chuck Hagel reiterated;
Ambassador Rice would often start with, ‘This is what the president wants.’ ... that’s not the way our National Security Advisor should start a meeting with the National Security Council... there were a lot of reasons those meetings kind of descended into nonsense.
...[He] has a staff around him that is very inexperienced. I don’t think there’s one veteran on his senior staff at the White House. I don’t believe there’s one businessperson. I don’t believe there’s one person who has ever been elected to anything or ever run anything....[The president] has to fundamentally understand, and I’m not sure he ever did, nor the people around him, the tremendous responsibility the United States has. Not to be the world’s policeman, but to lead, and we’re the only ones who can.
- President Truman, who signed the National Security Act of 1947 into law, was kept in the dark about the development and existence of the atomic bomb while serving as Vice President, and only learned of it after being sworn into office upon President Franklin Roosevelt's death. Prior to the National Security Act, vice presidents had little or no statutory duties in any administration other than their constitutional office as President of the Senate. For the first time a law was enacted giving the vice president duties and obligations within an administration, granting him access to its most classified secrets, and making the vice president an integral part of decision making.
- Federal Register, Vol. 82, No. 65, Thursday, April 6, 2017