National Security Council

NSPM 2—Organization of the National Security Council and the Homeland Security Council: A Summary

By Jordan Brunner
Saturday, January 28, 2017, 11:12 PM

Earlier today, President Donald Trump issued NSPM-2, which reorganizes the National Security Council. Every president that comes into office creates a National Security Policy Memorandum to reorganize the NSC to reflect their own sensibilities. Below is a summary of how President Trump has organized his NSC.

NSPM-2 is addressed to an unusually large number of officials, though not as large as the Bush administration’s list. The officials addressed here largely track those in the Bush administration, except Trump has excluded the Administrator of the EPA, the Director of the NSA, the Director of the Peace Corps, and the Chairmen of the Council on Environmental Quality and the Export-Import Bank. Instead Trump has included the Assistant to the President and Chief Strategist, who is not an addressee on Bush’s memo.

Section A. The National Security Council, the Homeland Security Council, and Supporting Staff

Section A lays out the statutory authority for the National Security Council (NSC) and the Homeland Security Council (HSC), and places them on equal footing. Both are responsible for the “effective coordination” of security-related activities and functions of the executive departments and agencies. Section A mandates that the decision-making structure of the U.S. government must be as “adaptive and transformative,” as the threats that the United States faces.

The National Security Advisor and the Homeland Security Advisor are jointly responsible for determining the agenda of the NSC and the HSC, respectively. This is a departure from the Obama administration, which housed the Homeland Security Council within the National Security Council “system,” and did not have an official Homeland Security Advisor. That role was filled by Lisa Monaco as “Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism,” and acted as a deputy to the National Security Advisor.

Trump seems to have reverted back to the George W. Bush administration’s organization of the National Security Council, which had both an NSC and an HSC. According to David Rothkopf, the Bush administration reshuffled the “structure for the NSC where we went from essentially one principal deputy national security adviser to four or five deputy national security advisers.”

However, the inclusion of the Assistant to the President and Chief Strategist to sit in one any NSC meeting is a dramatic departure from both the Bush and the Obama administrations. As John Bellinger has noted, Chief Strategist Steve Bannon’s presence mixes the “political side” of the White House with its national security side and is unprecedented.

Section B. The Principals Committee

Section B continues the practice of the outgoing administration of using the NSC Principals Committee (PC) as the “Cabinet-level senior interagency forum for considering policy issues that affect the national security interests of the United States.” The PC can be convened and chaired by either the National Security Advisor or the Homeland Security Advisor. Its regular attendees include the:

Secretary of State;

Secretary of the Treasury;

Secretary of Defense;

Attorney General;

Secretary of Homeland Security;

Assistant to the President and Chief of Staff;

Assistant to the President and Chief Strategist;

National Security Advisor; and

Homeland Security Advisor

The Counsel to the President, Deputy Counsel for National Security Affairs, and the Director of the OMB are also permitted to attend all meetings.

The DNI and JCS Chairman are to attend “where issues pertaining to their responsibilities and expertise are to be discussed,” making their presence optional and again reverting back to the Bush administration’s policy. The Secretary of Commerce, the U.S. Trade Representative, and the Assistant to the President for Economic Policy will be regular attendees “when international economic issues” are on the agenda.

Notably absent from the list is the Director of the Office of Science and Technology, who under the Obama administration was to be present when “science and technology related issues” were on the agenda. Trump has removed all references to science or technology in the memo.

The PC list has a number of unusual features as compared to prior administrations. First, the NSC and HSC have equal authority and the National Security Advisor and the Homeland Security Advisor have equal authority to call a meeting of the NSC/PC. This seems to reflect two distinct but intersecting systems.

Second, the CIA Director (Mike Pompeo) is not listed as a member or invited participant to either the NSC or PC meetings, marking a change from the Obama administration. It is unclear whether the CIA Director will be invited as usual.

Finally, Chief Strategist Steve Bannon is now a regular attendeee of the NSC/PC, an unprecedneted move as discussed above.

C. The Deputies Committee

There is some continuity in the Deputies Committee, as it continues to serve as the “senior sub-Cabinet interagency forum” for national security issues, though the new administration memo does not describe what the Deputies Committee does, in contrast to the Obama administration’s PPD-1. This DC is chaired by the Deputy National Security Advisor or the Deputy Homeland Security Advisor “as appropriate.” The attendees to these meetings are the:

Deputy Secretary of State;

Deputy Secretary of the Treasury;

Deputy Secretary of Defense;

Deputy Attorney General;

Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security;

Deputy Director of the Office of Management and Budget;

Deputy Director of National Intelligence;

Vice Chairman of the JCS;

National Security Advisor to the Vice President;

Deputy National Security Advisor;

Deputy Homeland Security Advisor; and

Administrator of USAID

Any deputy assistant to the President for “the specific regional and functional issue” is also invited to attend.

D. Policy Coordination Committees

The Policy Coordination Committees (PCCs) replace the previous administration’s Interagency Policy Committees (IPCs), and revert to the name used under the Bush administration. These groups continue with their mandate to provide “management of the development and implementation of national security policies by multiple executive departments and agencies,” and continue to run the day-to-day interagency coordination and provide analysis for the more senior committees.

Members of the NSC staff are to chair the PCCs, and can establish subordinate working groups to assist the PCC, if the Executive Secretary approves. Until the PCCs are established, the Obama era IPCs will continue to operate.

As is customary, the President and Vice President are allowed to attend any and all meetings of any of the above entities, and NSPM-2 supersedes all previous orders relating to the NSC or HSC.