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296 9 National Security Council National security policy is not an easily defined domain. Foreign policy is both more and less than national security policy. Military policy and domestic policy, too, are both more and less than national security policy. The instruments available to pursue national security are scattered across the departments and agencies of government. Assuming that the instruments exist in the proper mix, assuring national security is a matter of orchestrating the many instruments. No cabinet secretary is subordinate to another. Only the president sits atop the departments and agencies, and the National Security Council system is the president’s principal mechanism for achieving a unifying national security policy and overseeing its implementation. Up to and throughout World War II, the executive branch included separate departments of State, Navy, and War. Foreign relations were conducted through State. When necessary, the Navy and its Marine Corps provided the muscle behind coercive diplomacy. The War Department stood by with mobilization plans to raise an army should Congress declare war. In the run up to World War II, President Roosevelt assumed the position of commander in chief of the armed forces and acted as his own secretary of state. The Joint Chiefs of Staff was established as a committee of service chiefs with no one in charge. By the end of the war, there were nearly twenty major joint boards established to coordinate activities across State, Navy, and War. They, too, were committees with no one in charge. Committee chairs lacked directive authority and could at most induce agreements. National Security Council 297 After the war, unification was sought as an alternative to the plethora of coordinating committees. Unification of State, Navy, and War, including a central intelligence function, was the objective of some, but that proved to be too ambitious. The span of unification quickly receded to the Navy and War Departments. A single Defense Department was created on top of three subordinate departments of Army, Navy, and Air Force. Some joint boards survived but one by one were subordinated to the Defense Department. The State Department remained outside the unified solution as did the new Central Intelligence Agency. The National Security Council (nsc) was established to integrate policies across the various departments and agencies. The subordinate cia provided integrated intelligence to the nsc. New agencies were born in the early 1960s. The U.S. Agency for International Development (usaid) was established to administer foreign aid. Defense administered military assistance. The U.S. Information Agency (usia) was established to project the message. A weak form of unification was established by allowing State to set objectives and priorities but granting usaid and usia independence in execution. The relationship and the agencies decayed after the Cold War. The result is a mixed bag. There is strong unification over the military instrument in the Department of Defense. There is weak unification over the diplomatic, economic, and information instruments in State, usaid, and the remnants of usia. Other instruments—law enforcement, financial, and intelligence—are scattered across the executive branch, including State, Treasury, and Justice. The separation of the military and diplomatic instruments may have served the country well during great-power conflicts like World War II and the Cold War. But the current geostrategic environment requires unity of effort from all the instruments of national power. Only the president’s authority spans the entire executive branch. Given the radical reorganization to be imposed on the War and Navy Departments after World War II, establishment of a national security council was at most of secondary importance. After an inauspicious beginning under Truman, the nsc system matured and grew in importance until it took center stage, allowing the president to steer the ship of state toward 298 National Security Apparatus the administration’s security objectives. The nsc system is the principal mechanism for achieving unity of effort. The highest-level committee is chaired by the president, who has directive authority over all the departments and agencies. The chairs of the remaining lower-level committees in the hierarchy have no directive authority. They are committees with no one in charge. The nsc system is principally involved in policy formulation. Unity of effort is accomplished by establishing overarching national policy to be followed across government and by overseeing its faithful execution. The nsc system is best characterized as a decision support system for presidential decision making. The nsc is not a decision-making body. Decision making and crisis management are generally handled in the Oval Office, with...


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