Monday, March 2, 2009

Presidential Policy Directive - 1: Organization of the National Security Council System

In case you haven’t seen it yet, President Obama’s Presidential Policy Directive – 1, “Organization of the National Security Council System.” Thanks to ArmsControlWonk for the link.

I've a few points to make about how this ties in to the Karen DeYoung article from a couple weeks back in which Gen. Jones laid claim to controling the NSC process. His remarks seem to be reflected in this document, but there are caveats. My analysis below.

Note that the NSA is designated as chair of NSC/Principals Committee meetings is empowered to determine NSC meeting agendas “at direction of President and in consultation with other members of the NSC.”

The NSA can also call for an NSC/PC meeting “in consultation . . .” - but the directive doesn’t limit the NSA’s ability to call meetings to “at the direction of the President.”

Also, the Assistant to the President for Homeland Security, who was the NSA equivalent for the Homeland Security Council, may now chair the NSC/PC meetings on homeland security at the discretion of the NSA. Clearly even if the HSC hasn’t been formerly disbanded it’s being informally appended to the NSC. PSD-1 seems to be a not toward due process - and probably a way to avoid a dust up from folks looking to score cheap political points ("Homeland security is being deprioritized! Oh my!")

The NSC/Deputies Committee (chaired by Deputy NSA) seems to have an added focus on oversight of execution of policy

This directive seems to empower the NSA and his staff, but below the Deputy NSA the powers of the chair of an Interagency Policy Committee are not laid out. That will create a space for continued bureaucratic entrepreneurship from the departments and agencies. The ground rules for the NSC/IPC will likely be determined as part of their mandate, established by future NSC/PC/DC meetings. That means the bureaucratic balance of power at the IPC level is still undetermined.

And of course when the above bureaucratic constructs run into the actual political capital of the players involved, the only thing that will hold it intact is the will of the President.

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