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Obama’s NSC: Org Chart and Implications March 15, 2009

Posted by Molly in Analysis, News.
Tags: , ,

Last week, Budget Insight wrote about the Directive establishing the members and participants of the National Security Council (NSC). Details on the organizational structure Gen. Jones plans to put in place are now beginning to emerge. Click here to view the new NSC’s organizational chart.

While these details are still incomplete, the emerging structure of the Obama NSC is similar to that of the Bush Administration. Given the wide range of critiques of that structure and a growing number of proposals for significant reform at the NSC, the modest evolution under Jones is surprising. Keep reading for analysis by Dr. Gordon Adams and David Glaudemans after the break.

Under President Bush, the National Security Strategy of the United States laid out five key objectives: dealing with Iraq and Afghanistan, developing free markets in the international economy, democracy promotion, countering terrorism and violent extremism, and working to advance U.S. diplomatic ties around the world. The Obama NSC will overlap with this focus, being comprised of five Deputies with the following portfolios: Iraq and Afghanistan, Strategic Communications and Global Outreach, International Economics, Global Democracy Strategy, and Combating Terrorism Strategy.

In addition, the new NSC does not appear to give high priority to strategic planning. The new century and the many cross-cutting issues we face have made this requirement urgent. As we have discussed on this blog, in briefings, and in congressional testimony, the NSC needs to play a greater role strategic planning and the coordination of foreign and
national security policy throughout the executive branch. The emerging structure reflects this need only with respect to Iraq and Afghanistan, but does not appear to create a dedicated planning capability to the wider range of important foreign and security policy issues such as economic development and foreign assistance, fragile states, global health, or what is being called “natural security” – environment, climate change, energy and resources.

Finally, aside from including OMB in the Principals and Deputies committees, the new design does not appear to integrate resource planning into strategic planning for national security. Without such close integration, much of the strategic planning that happens at NSC will be meaningless, because it has not been built into resource (human and fiscal) guidance to the national security agencies.

While the Obama Administration is less than 100 days old, these structural and process decisions will set the tone for the rest of its term, either making it possible to restructure U.S. global engagement or defaulting into business as usual. Hopefully the latter can be avoided as the NSC structure and process continue to emerge.

–Dr. Gordon Adams and David Glaudemans



1. Bob - July 9, 2009

While certain elements of the above statement are true, portions of the NSC are more effective than others and very adept at resource planning. In addition the NSC in this administration appears to have more influence on policy than the past two administrations. In short President’s lack of experience in this sphere but fundamental intelligence and reasoning make him more willing to listen to his is NSC and act on their advice.

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