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Overview:

The National Security Council (NSC) serves the President’s inner circle of advisers who consult on matters of national security. The White House defines national security as the “defense of the United States, protection of the constitutional system of government, the advancement of United States interests around the globe” … and “America’s opportunity to prosper in the world economy.” The NSC is led by a National Security Advisor (NSA) who, over the years, has come to rival, and in some administrations, exceed the authority of the Secretary of State on foreign policy issues. The NSA and NSC have been at the center of many political controversies, including the decision by the administration of President George W. Bush to invade Iraq in 2003.

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History:

The National Security Act of 1947 (pdf) is one of the most important pieces of legislation in post-World War II American politics. The act established the foundation for what would later be termed the “national security state,” characterized by a shift in national political power from Congress to the Presidency. The 1947 NSA created the National Security Council (NSC) to advise the President on all foreign policy and military matters. The legislation also established the post of Secretary of Defense who, along with the Secretary of State, helped direct the work and goals of the NSC, and it created a National Military Establishment, Central Intelligence Agency, and National Security Resources Board.

 

In time, the NSC became a means for the President to better control and manage competing executive branch departments involved in national security affairs. President Harry Truman’s NSC was dominated by the State Department, while President Dwight Eisenhower’s preference for military staff oriented the council toward the Pentagon. The NSC staff under Eisenhower coordinated an elaborate structure for monitoring the implementation of policies—a structure that was later dismantled by President John F. Kennedy.

 

JFK initially looked to the Secretary of State’s office to take charge of foreign policy-making, but eventually turned to the NSC and his National Security Advisor, McGeorge Bundy, to take the lead when it became apparent that the State Department lacked the power to keep other departments in line. Kennedy’s freewheeling style tended to erase the distinction between policymaking and operations that President Eisenhower’s regimented staff system so carefully observed.

 

President Lyndon Johnson shared Kennedy’s affinity for relying on the National Security Advisor. Bundy continued in this role until 1966, when he was replaced by Walt Rostow. President Johnson also consulted regularly with his “Tuesday Lunch Group,” an inner circle of aides, and eventually turned to his Secretary of State Dean Rusk to supervise and coordinate interdepartmental activities that involved foreign and military affairs.

 

Under Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, the NSC was dominated by Henry Kissinger, who at one point held both the National Security Advisor and Secretary of State posts. Kissinger expanded the NSC staff and concentrated it on acquiring analytical information from the various departments that would allow him to provide the President with the best possible range of options for making decisions.

 

This system worked perfectly for President Nixon, who preferred detailed written reports rather than interpersonal meetings. Kissinger concentrated on a handful of major issues and allowed some foreign matters to devolve to the State Department, while weapons and international financial questions were dealt with by the Pentagon and the Treasury Department.

 

Under President Jimmy Carter, the National Security Advisor, Zbigniew Brzezinski, became a principal source of foreign affairs ideas, and the NSC staff was recruited and managed with that in view. The State Department provided institutional memory and served as operations coordinator. This dynamic ultimately produced tension between the NSC and the State Department.

 

A collegial approach to government decision-making was emphasized in the Reagan administration. The National Security Advisor was downgraded, and the White House Chief of Staff exercised more power over foreign policy and military matters. But the collegiality among powerful department heads was not successfully maintained and conflicts became public. The NSC staff tended to emerge as a separate, contending party, led by the largest number of National Security Advisors of any administration. During Reagan’s eight years in office, he had six men serve as the NSA: Richard Allen, William P. Clark, Robert C. McFarlane, John M. Poindexter, Frank C. Carlucci, and Colin L. Powell. Poindexter and McFarlane became the most well-known publicly, thanks to their roles in the Iran-Contra Scandal involving the diversion of funds from arms to sale to Iran that were used to help support the Contra rebels seeking the overthrow of the socialist government of Nicaragua. Their notoriety was eclipsed, however, by an NSC subordinate—Marine Lt. Col. Oliver North, who functioned as the point person in the White House for the covert operation.

 

President George H. W. Bush brought his own foreign policy experience to his leadership of the National Security Council, having served previously as the ambassador to the United Nations and the Director of Central Intelligence. Bush reorganized the NSC to include a Principals Committee, Deputies Committee, and eight Policy Coordinating Committees. The NSC played key roles during such major developments as the collapse of the Soviet Union, the unification of Germany, the invasion of Panama and the Gulf War. 

 

The Clinton administration continued to emphasize a collegial approach within the NSC on national security matters. The NSC membership was expanded to include the Secretary of the Treasury, the U.S. Representative to the United Nations, the newly created Assistant to the President for Economic Policy (who was also head of a newly created National Economic Council, or NEC, parallel to the NSC), the President’s Chief of Staff, and the National Security Advisor.

 

Under President George W. Bush, the NSC—led by Condoleezza Rice until 2005—played key roles in the Global War on Terrorism campaign. This included the effort to round up intelligence that was used to justify the US invasion of Iraq in 2003—intel that ultimately proved inaccurate in regards to Iraq possessing weapons of mass destruction. The NSC also underwent structural changes during the Bush administration, including the addition of a “war czar” who reports directly to the President (see Controversies).

 

In the Obama administration, the NSC was first led by James L. Jones, Jr., a former Marine Corps general, and then in 2010 by Thomas E. Donilon, a former State Department chief of staff in the Clinton administration. In 2009, President Barack Obama approved Presidential Study Directive-1 (pdf), which merged the NSC staff and staff of the Homeland Security Council (HSC) into one National Security Staff to function under the National Security Advisor.  HSC, which was created as a statutory body through the Homeland Security Act of 2002, advises and assists the President with all aspects of homeland security and serves as the mechanism for coordination of all homeland security-related activities among executive departments and agencies of the federal government. In addition to this integrated staff, both councils were made to operate within a single budget. Also, new directorates and positions were established to deal with WMD terrorism, cyber security, information sharing, and border security.

 

Records of the National Security Council, The National Archives

 

History of the National Security Council, 1947-1997

Truman Administration, 1947-1953
Eisenhower Administration, 1953-1961
Kennedy Administration, 1961-1963
Johnson Administration, 1963-1969
Nixon Administration, 1969-1974
Ford Administration, 1974-1977
Carter Administration, 1977-1981
Reagan Administration, 1981-1989
Bush Administration, 1989-1992
Clinton Administration, 1993-1997

 

NCS Historical Overview by Presidential Administrations

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What it Does:

The National Security Council (NSC) is the President’s principal forum for considering national security and foreign policy matters with his senior national security advisors and cabinet officials. The function of the NSC is to advise and assist the President on national security and foreign policies, and it serves as the President’s principal arm for coordinating these policies among various government agencies.

 

The NSC is chaired by the President. Its regular attendees are the Vice President (who serves as chair when the President is absent), the Secretary of State, Secretary of the Treasury, Secretary of Defense, and the National Security Advisor (NSA). The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is the military adviser to the NSC and the Director of National Intelligence is the intelligence adviser. The White House Chief of Staff, Counsel to the President and the Assistant to the President for Economic Policy are invited to attend any NSC meeting. The Attorney General and the Director of the Office of Management and Budget are invited to attend meetings pertaining to their responsibilities. The heads of other executive departments and agencies, as well as other senior officials, are invited to attend meetings of the NSC when appropriate.

 

The NSA is responsible for determining the agenda of NSC meetings, ensuring that necessary papers are prepared and that minutes of meetings and Presidential decisions are recorded. When international economic issues are on the agenda of the NSC, the NSA works with the Assistant to the President for Economic Policy to perform all of the aforementioned duties.

 

NSC Committees

Less than a month after assuming office in 2001, by President George W. Bush issued a National Security Presidential Directive that reorganized several committees.

 

Originally established by the first President Bush, the NSC Principals Committee (NSC/PC) serves as the senior interagency forum for the council. The NSC/PC is composed of the Secretary of State, Secretary of the Treasury, Secretary of Defense, the White House Chief of Staff and the NSA, who chairs the NSC/PC. The White House Chief of Staff and National Security Advisor to the Vice President also attend all meetings. The Director of Central Intelligence and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Attorney General and the director of the Office of Management and Budget attend as needed. Sometimes the White House Counsel is consulted regarding the agenda of NSC/PC meetings. When international economic issues are on the agenda of the NSC/PC, the committee’s regular attendees include the Secretary of Commerce, the United States Trade Representative, the Assistant to the President for Economic Policy (who chairs for agenda items pertaining to international economics) and sometimes the Secretary of Agriculture.

 

Another Bush I creation, the NSC Deputies Committee (NSC/DC) serves as the senior sub-cabinet interagency forum. The NSC/DC reviews the work of the NSC interagency groups and ensures that issues being brought before the NSC/PC or the NSC have been properly analyzed and prepared for decision. The NSC/DC consists of the Deputy Secretary of State or Under Secretary of the Treasury or Under Secretary of the Treasury for International Affairs, the Deputy Secretary of Defense or Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, the Deputy Attorney General, the Deputy Director of the Office of Management and Budget, the Deputy Director of Central Intelligence, the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Deputy Chief of Staff to the President for Policy, the Chief of Staff and National Security Advisor to the Vice President, the Deputy Assistant to the President for International Economic Affairs and the Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Advisor, who chairs NSC/DC meetings. When international economic issues are on the agenda, the NSC/DC’s regular membership will include the Deputy Secretary of Commerce, a Deputy United States Trade Representative and occasionally the Deputy Secretary of Agriculture. The NSC/DC is chaired by the Deputy Assistant to the President for International Economic Affairs for agenda items that principally pertain to international economics. Other senior officials are invited when appropriate.

 

The NSC Policy Coordination Committees (NSC/PCCs) manages the development and implementation of national security policies by multiple federal agencies. The NSC/PCCs function as the day-to-day body for interagency coordination of national security policy. They provide policy analysis for consideration by the more senior committees of the NSC system and ensure timely responses to decisions made by the President. Each NSC/PCC includes representatives from executive departments, offices and agencies represented in the NSC/DC.

 

Six NSC/PCCs are structured around world regions: Europe and Eurasia, Western Hemisphere, East Asia, South Asia, Near East and North Africa, and Africa. Each of these NSC/PCCs is chaired by an official of undersecretary or assistant secretary rank chosen by the Secretary of State. There are also 11 NSC/PCCs based on functional topics (chair indicated in parentheses):

  • Democracy, Human Rights, and International Operations (NSA);
  • International Development and Humanitarian Assistance (Secretary of State);
  • Global Environment (NSA and the Assistant to the President for Economic Policy in concert);
  • International Finance (Secretary of the Treasury);
  • Transnational Economic Issues (Assistant to the President for Economic Policy);
  • Counter-Terrorism and National Preparedness (NSA);
  • Defense Strategy, Force Structure, and Planning (Secretary of Defense);
  • Arms Control (NSA);
  • Proliferation, Counterproliferation, and Homeland Defense (NSA);
  • Intelligence and Counterintelligence (NSA);
  • Records Access and Information Security (NSA).

The Trade Policy Review Group (TPRG) functions as an interagency coordinator of trade policy. Issues considered within the TPRG flow through the NSC and/or NEC process, as appropriate.

 

In March 2005, NSA Stephen Hadley announced a reorganization (pdf) of the NSC hierarchal structure. Five Deputy National Security Advisors positions were created responsible for: Iraq and Afghanistan; strategic communication and global outreach; international economics; global democracy strategy; and combating terrorism.

 

In 2009, President Barack Obama created the Cybersecurity Office within the National Security Staff in order to address cyber threats to the nation’s security. This action was taken for the purpose of implementing the recommendations of the Cyber Policy Review (pdf), a report developed as a result of Obama’s order for an examination of the federal government’s efforts to defend U.S. information and communications infrastructure.

 

In July 2011, the NSC released its report, Strategy to Combat Transnational Organized Crime: Addressing Converging Threats to National Security (pdf), a study to aid in the defense of the U.S. against the illicit activities of international criminal networks.

The National Security Strategy of the United States of America 2010 (pdf)

National Strategy for Counterterrorism 2011 (pdf)

The National Security Council: An Organizational Assessment (Congressional Research

Service) (pdf)

 

From the Web Site of the National Security Council

Contact Information

Cybersecurity

Organized Crime Strategy

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Where Does the Money Go:

In 2009, the National Security Council’s (NSC) budget was combined with that of the HSC, and includes the budget for the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board (PIAB), which provides the President with expert advice concerning the quality and adequacy of intelligence collection and activities.

 

The FY 2013 Congressional Budget Submission for the Executive Office of the President (pdf) offers the following estimate of expenditures for the NSC/HSC/PIAB budget for that year:

 

Personnel Compensation & Benefits                                                  $11,308,000

            Includes salaries, terminal leave, premium pay, assignments

under the Intergovernmental Personnel Act, and all employee

benefits.

Travel & Transportation of Persons                                                    $1,073,000

            Includes official travel, such as per diem, hotel and

transportation, auto rental, and local transportation.

Supplies and Materials                                                                            $216,000

            Includes general supplies, information technology (IT) supplies,

newspaper and magazine subscriptions, government publications.

Communication, Utilities & Misc. Charges                                             $210,000

            Includes data, voice, and wireless communications; utilities,

postage, and miscellaneous rental charges.

Other Contractual Services                                                                      $131,000

            Includes advisory and assistance services, purchases of goods

and services, operations and maintenance of facilities, research and

development contracts, medical care, operations and maintenance

of equipment, or subsistence and support of persons.

Equipment                                                                                                 $56,000

            Includes IT hardware and software, customized software

programming, printers and network devices, office furniture and

equipment (photocopiers, fax machines, telephones).

Printing and Reproduction                                                                         $50,000

Transportation of Things                                                                            $4,000

            Includes commercial express delivery, freight and other shipping.

Total FY 2013 Budget Request                                                            $13,048,000

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Controversies:

National Security Council

The National Security Council (NSC) in 2010 became embroiled in the controversy that  surrounded the killing a year later of a U.S.-born cleric in Yemen.

 

Anwar al-Awlaki, who was born in New Mexico, was placed on a Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) “kill or capture” list after the NSC concluded he was threat to national security. NSC officials also participated in a closed-door debate within the Obama administration over whether it was legal for the government to target al-Awlaki.

 

The cleric’s death in a 2011 drone strike sparked a public debate as well over the government’s ability to execute a citizen with no judicial process while relying only on secret intelligence. Civil libertarians and Muslim-American advocates said al-Awlaki’s killing was the same as summary execution without the due process of law guaranteed to U.S. citizens by the Constitution.

 

Vicki Divoll, a former CIA lawyer who teaches at the U.S. Naval Academy, pointed out that under U.S. law, the government had to get a warrant in order to obtain al-Awlaki’s cell phone records. But it needed no such court order to kill him. “That makes no sense,” Divoll told The New York Times.

Controversy Over CIA Authorization to Kill U.S. Citizen (by Scott Shane, New York Times)

Judging a Long, Deadly Reach (by Scott Shane, New York Times)

Obama Admin Debates Releasing Awlaki Memo (by Elise Labott and Carol Cratty, CNN)

Panetta: Decision to Kill Americans Suspected of Terrorism Is Obama's (by Adam Serwer, Mother Jones)

Obama Moves To Conceal Drone Death Figures  (by Steve Watson, Infowars.com)

 

Hiring of “War Czar” Prompts Calls to Fire National Security Advisor

When Army Lt. Gen. Douglas E. Lute testified before Congress as part of his confirmation hearings to become the new “war czar,” he informed lawmakers that he would be reporting directly to President Bush on all issues involving the Iraq War and military operations in Afghanistan. He also remarked that National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley would deal with the president “on matters outside of Iraq [and] Afghanistan.” The testimony stunned leading Democrats and at least one Republican. They appeared taken aback by the extent of the shake-up in Bush’s inner circle of advisers—especially the diminished role Hadley would play.

 

“Afghanistan, Iraq and, related to that, Iran are the most critical foreign policy problems we face, and the national security advisor of the United States has taken his hands off that and given it to you?” asked Sen. Jack Reed (D-Rhode Island), a former Army officer who described himself as a longtime friend of Lute’s. “Then he [Hadley] should be fired. Because frankly, if he’s not capable of being the individual responsible for those duties and they pass it on to someone else, then why is he there?”

A Shift in Leadership, and Possibly in War (by Peter Spiegel, Los Angeles Times)

 

 

“War Czar” Joins NSC

Following his reelection in 2004, President George W. Bush decided to shake up his National Security Council team. National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice moved on to become Secretary of State, while Rice’s top deputy, Stephen Hadley, took over as NSA. But Hadley did not assume responsibility for overseeing the nation’s top military priorities—Iraq and Afghanistan. Instead, President Bush decided to create the position of assistant to the president and deputy national security advisor, or “war czar,” as some began to call it, who would report directly to him on military operations in the two countries.

 

The only problem was that no one wanted the job. Administration officials approached no less than five four-star generals about the position and all of them turned it down. That included retired Marine Gen. John J. “Jack” Sheehan, a former top NATO commander, who told The Washington Post: “The very fundamental issue is, they don’t know where the hell they’re going.”

 

Sheehan said he believed that Vice President Dick Cheney and his hawkish allies remained more powerful within the administration than pragmatists looking for a way out of Iraq. “So rather than go over there, develop an ulcer and eventually leave, I said, ‘No, thanks,’” he said.

 

Eventually, President Bush found a taker—Lt. Gen. Douglas E. Lute, the top operations officer for the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Lute, though, was not supportive of the troop surge ordered by the Bush administration in 2007, leaving some to wonder why he was selected for the job.

Bush Picks General to Coordinate War Policy (by Sheryl Gay Stolberg, New York Times)

3 Generals Spurn the Position of War 'Czar' (by Peter Baker and Thomas E. Ricks, Washington Post)

Bush Taps Skeptic of Buildup as 'War Czar' (by Peter Baker and Robin Wright, Washington Post)

 

 

NSA Condoleezza Rice

During President George W. Bush’s first term, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice was often at the center of the administration’s most controversial moments. Following the Sept. 11 attacks, national security officials were some of the most scrutinized by media and lawmakers, who wanted to know how the federal government allowed such an attack to happen. Rice’s actions in particular were examined, especially after it was revealed that two months earlier, in July 2001, CIA Director George Tenet had briefed Rice in an emergency meeting at the White House about the potential threat of an al Qaeda attack.

 

When asked about the meeting in 2006, Rice claimed that she did not recall the specific meeting and that she had met repeatedly with Tenet that summer about terrorist threats. She insisted it was “incomprehensible” that she had ignored terrorist threats two months before 9/11.

 

In March 2004, Rice refused to testify before the 9/11 Commission. Under pressure, President Bush agreed to allow Rice to testify, making her the first sitting National Security Advisor to testify on matters of policy. In April 2007, Rice rejected, on grounds of executive privilege, a House subpoena regarding the false prewar claim that Iraq sought yellowcake uranium from Niger.

 

In 2003, Rice became one of the most vocal members of the Bush administration as it made its case for going to war against Iraq. After Iraqi officials declared before the United Nations that it had no weapons of mass destruction in December 2002, Rice wrote an editorial published in The New York Times, “Why We Know Iraq Is Lying.”

Records Show Tenet Briefed Rice on Al Qaeda Threat (by Philip Shenon and Mark Mazzetti, New York Times)

“Why We Know Iraq is Lying" A Column by Dr. Condoleezza Rice

Transcript of Rice's 9/11 commission statement

Condoleezza Rice's memoir reveals clashes over Iraq (by Stephanie Condon, CBS News)

 

 

Iran-Contra Figure Tapped for NSC

Shortly after taking office in 2001, President George W. Bush selected a controversial figure from the Reagan years—Elliott Abrams—to serve on the National Security Council. Abrams, who pled guilty in 1991 to withholding information from Congress during its investigation of the scandal, was selected as Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Near East and North African Affairs. At the start of President Bush’s second term, Abrams was promoted to Deputy National Security Advisor for Global Democracy Strategy. Abrams was considered by some observers as a good fit for the White House, given his credentials as a “neo-con” like Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Pentagon deputy Paul Wolfowitz.

Elliott Abrams: It's Back! (by David Corn, The Nation)

Bush Taps Iran-Contra Figure Elliot Abrams to Promote Democracy (Democracy Now!)

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Suggested Reforms:

“War Czar” Calls for Draft

Shortly after assuming his new position as “war czar,” Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute remarked that the country should consider bringing back the military draft, which the federal government has not operated since the closing days of the Vietnam War.

 

Lute said frequent tours for U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan had stressed the all-volunteer force and made it worth considering a return to a military draft. “I think it makes sense to certainly consider it,” Lute told National Public Radio. “And I can tell you, this has always been an option on the table. But ultimately, this is a policy matter between meeting the demands for the nation’s security by one means or another.”

 

Lute also admitted that restoring the draft would be a “major policy shift” and that the President had made it clear he doesn’t support the idea.

Iraq War Czar: Consider a Draft (Associated Press)

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Former Directors:

James L. Jones, Jr.      January 20, 2009 – October 8, 2010

Stephen Hadley          January 26, 2005 – January 20, 2009            

Condoleezza Rice       January 22, 2001 - January 25, 2005

Samuel R. Berger         March 14, 1997 - January 20, 2001

W. Anthony Lake       January 20, 1993 - March 14, 1997

Brent Scowcroft          January 20, 1989 - January 20, 1993

Colin L. Powell           November 23, 1987 - January 20, 1989

Frank C. Carlucci        December 2, 1986 - November 23, 1987

John M. Poindexter    December 4, 1985 - November 25, 1986

Robert C. McFarlane October 17, 1983 - December 4, 1985

William P. Clark          January 4, 1982 - October 17, 1983

Richard V. Allen         January 21, 1981 - January 4, 1982

Zbigniew Brzezinski   January 20, 1977 - January 21, 1981

Brent Scowcroft          November 3, 1975 - January 20, 1977

Henry A. Kissinger     December 2, 1968 - November 3, 1975 (served concurrently as

Secretary of State from September 21, 1973)

Walt W. Rostow         April 1, 1966 - December 2, 1968

McGeorge Bundy       January 20, 1961 - February 28, 1966

Gordon Gray              June 24, 1958 - January 13, 1961

Robert Cutler              January 7, 1957 - June 24, 1958

Dillon Anderson         April 2, 1955 - September 1, 1956

Robert Cutler              March 23, 1953 - April 2, 1955

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Comments

David Millikan 7 years ago
I have for years said we should return to a military draft. After all, why should the same soldiers go to combat year after year without anyone to replace them, and step up to the plate. Freedom is NOT FREE as too many take for granted.

Leave a comment

Founded: 1947
Annual Budget: $13,048,000 (FY 2013 Request; budget includes the Homeland Security Council)
Employees: 77 (FY 2013 Estimate; staff shared with the Homeland Security Council)
National Security Council
Bolton, John
National Security Adviser

John Robert Bolton, who in the George W. Bush administration was recess-appointed to be ambassador to the United Nations, but more recently has been a Fox News commentator, took over April 9, 2018, as President Donald J. Trump’s third national security adviser. The position does not require Senate confirmation. Bolton has described himself as a “libertarian conservative” and a “national-interest conservative.”

 

Bolton was born in Baltimore on November 20, 1948, to Jack and Ginny Bolton. Bolton’s father was a firefighter for the city of Baltimore. Bolton has said that he was early on influenced by reading Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, as well as by the writings of Adam Smith, John Locke and Edmund Burke. Bolton won a scholarship to the private McDonogh School in Owings Mills, Maryland, graduating in 1966. He then went to Yale, where he earned his B.A. in 1970 and his law degree in 1974. He was a member of the Yale Young Republicans and was editor-in-chief of the Yale Conservative.

 

Bolton joined the National Guard in 1970 and finished his enlistment with the Army Reserve from 1974 to 1976. Although Bolton is now known as a war hawk, he wasn’t interested in serving in Vietnam. “I confess I had no desire to die in a Southeast Asian rice paddy. I considered the war in Vietnam already lost,” Bolton wrote in his Yale 25th reunion book. He also served as an intern to fellow Baltimorean Vice President Spiro Agnew in 1972.

 

In 1978, Bolton worked on the campaign of James Baker III when Baker ran unsuccessfully for Texas attorney general. Baker’s campaign manager was future U.S. president George H.W. Bush. Baker himself later became U.S. secretary of state and chief of staff when Bush was president. These connections would set the stage for Bolton’s political career.

 

After earning his law degree, Bolton found work as an associate for the law firm Covington and Burling. In 1981, he joined the Ronald Reagan administration as general counsel for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). Two years later, he was named the agency’s assistant administrator for program and policy coordination. Bolton returned to Covington and Burling—as a partner—later in 1983. Among his clients was General Dynamics, whom he represented during an investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) of cost overruns regarding nuclear submarine construction and misleading of shareholders. He also defended the National Congressional Club, a conservative political action committee led by Sen. Jesse Helms, (R-North Carolina) against Federal Election Commission complaints that charged the club was funneling illegal campaign contributions through a subsidiary, Jefferson Marketing Inc. The Club eventually settled for a minor fine.

 

Bolton returned to the federal government, this time to the Justice Department, in 1985 as assistant attorney general for legislative affairs, and then beginning in 1988 as assistant attorney general for civil rights. While at Justice, Bolton played a key role in stonewalling Congress on its efforts to investigate the Iran-Contra affair, in which Reagan authorized the sale of arms to Iran, then under an embargo, to make money to fund the Contras fighting against the Nicaraguan government. Both parts of the deal were prohibited by U.S. law. For example, he argued that the law allowing the creation of independent counsels, such as the one that investigated the Iran-Contra affair, was unconstitutional because it violated the separation of powers.

 

In 1989, Bolton was moved over to the State Department by the George H.W. Bush administration as assistant secretary for International Organization Affairs. In this position, he was the administration’s main liaison to the United Nations. He would later explain, “One thing I learned was that to have a maximum impact on policy, it’s important to go into bureaucracies that don’t initially seem to be very friendly places….I knew immediately that I wanted to go to the State Department, because that was the place needing the greatest degree of change.”

 

When the Bush administration was sent packing in 1993, Bolton joined a law firm that eventually became Lerner, Reed, Bolton and McManus. In 1994, he received $30,000 from the government of Taiwan to lobby on their behalf despite the U.S. government’s policy of opposing independence for Taiwan.

 

In addition to his law practice, Bolton was a senior fellow at the right-wing Manhattan Institute and was an adjunct professor at George Mason University School of Law. In 1997, he was named a senior vice president at the conservative American Enterprise Institute (AEI).

 

As have many in the Trump orbit, Bolton has experienced some financial controversies. In 1995 and 1996, Bolton served as president of the National Policy Forum (NPF). A 1996 Senate investigation showed that NPF was helping move foreign money into U.S. elections via the Republican National Committee (RNC). From the minority report:

 

(1) RNC Chairman Haley Barbour and the RNC intentionally solicited foreign money for the NPF.

(2) The NPF was an arm of the RNC and, as the Internal Revenue Service concluded, was not entitled to tax-exempt status as a social welfare organization under section 501(c)(4) of the U.S. tax code.

(3) Barbour solicited Ambrous Young, a foreign national, and Young agreed to provide the collateral for a loan to NPF for the purpose of helping Republican candidates during the 1994 elections.

(4) The evidence before the Committee strongly supports the conclusion that Barbour and other RNC officials knew that the money used to collateralize the NPF loan came from Hong Kong. Barbour's testimony that he did not know about the foreign source of the loan collateral was not credible.

(5) As a result of NPF’s default on the loan, the RNC improperly retained $800,000 in foreign money during the 1996 election cycle.

 

Bolton continued his work with AEI until after the 2000 presidential contest. As part of the post-election George W. Bush legal team in 2000, Bolton worked to stop the recount of ballots in Florida that, if completed, would likely have made Al Gore president instead of Bush. At one point, on December 9, Bolton rushed into a Tallahassee library where officials were counting votes and declared, “I'm with the Bush-Cheney team, and I'm here to stop the vote.”

 

As a reward Bolton was named under secretary of state for arms control and international security affairs. Among his notable achievements in that post were the withdrawal of the U.S. from the International Criminal Court; and claiming without supporting evidence that Cuba was running a biological weapons program. Bolton attempted to cherry-pick intelligence to back his assertion about Cuba. “We all agreed that what Bolton wanted to say was exaggerating to the point of cooking the intelligence,” senior Central Intelligence Agency analyst Fulton Armstrong said, according to ProPublica. “No one ever stated that Bolton did not have the right to put out any judgment he wanted. Our position was you can say whatever you want, but don’t use us to validate it.” Bolton later tried to get the CIA to remove Armstrong, who was serving as national intelligence officer for Latin America, from his post.

 

Another Bolton misstep came when he referred to then-North Korean President Kim Jong Il as the “tyrannical dictator” of a country where “life is a hellish nightmare.” Although this was true, the comment caused Kim to refuse to deal with Bolton and the U.S. had to send another representative to the six-party talks concerning North Korea.

 

In 2001. Bolton was instrumental in disrupting implementation of the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention that banned the production and use of biological weapons, claiming that it endangered U.S. national security by allowing spot inspections of suspected U.S. weapons sites.

 

In February 2003, Bolton visited Israel and, according to Ha'aretz, told government officials that “America will attack Iraq, and that it will be necessary to deal with threats from Syria, Iran and North Korea afterwards.” After the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq, Bolton convinced 70 foreign governments to exempt the United States from prosecution by the International Criminal Court for war crimes.

 

Bush nominated Bolton in 2005 to be the ambassador to the United Nations, which he would later describe as “an instrument for helping to advance U.S. policy.” However, Bolton didn’t have enough support to overcome a Democratic filibuster in the Senate and the nomination was denied. Bush then made a recess appointment of Bolton to represent the United States to a body about which Bolton said in 1994, “The Secretariat Building in New York has 38 stories. If you lost 10 stories today it wouldn’t make a bit of difference. The United Nations is one of the most inefficient inter-governmental organizations going.” Bush renominated Bolton to the UN post in 2006 but it went nowhere. At the end of the 109th Congress that year, when Bolton’s recess appointment expired, he left the UN.

 

Bolton then returned to AEI as a senior fellow, served as chairman of the neoconservative Gatestone Institute and worked as a commentator on Fox News, taking potshots at the Barack Obama administration, particularly in the area of foreign policy. He has urged pre-emptive war against North Korea to keep it from launching nuclear weapons on the United States or its allies. He has also urged Trump to withdraw from the Iran nuclear agreement and work toward overthrowing the Tehran government.

 

In 2013, Bolton founded the John Bolton Political Action Committee (PAC), which the following year contributed to the Congressional campaigns of 89 Republican candidates. In 2016, it contributed to the campaigns of 91 Republicans. He also founded the Bolton for America Super PAC, later known as the John Bolton Super PAC. Bolton’s PACs were heavily supported by hedge fund billionaire, Robert L. Mercer, who contributed $5 million to them between 2014 and 2016. The Super PAC was one of the first clients of data research firm Cambridge Analytica, in which Mercer invested $15 million. According to Christopher Wylie, the head of data harvesting at Cambridge Analytica, “The Bolton PAC was obsessed with how America was becoming limp-wristed and spineless and it wanted research and messaging for national security issues. That really meant making people more militaristic in their worldview.”

 

Between them, Bolton’s two PACs had about $3.2 million in their accounts when Bolton took over as National Security Adviser.

 

Bolton and his first wife, Christine, married in 1972 and divorced in 1983. Bolton married his second wife, Gretchen Smith, on January 24, 1986. They have a daughter, Jennifer.

-Steve Straehley, David Wallechinsky

 

To Learn More:

John Bolton Skewed Intelligence, Say People Who Worked with Him (by Sebastian Rotella, Pro Publica)

Bolton Was Early Beneficiary of Cambridge Analytica’s Facebook Data (by Matthew Rosenberg, New York Times)

Trump Names Former Ambassador John Bolton as His New National Security Adviser (by Greg Jaffe and Josh Dawsey, Washington Post)

John Bolton: The Essential Profile (by Mitchell Plitnick, Lobe Log)

Interview with Adam Garfinkle (American Interest)

The Nomination of John R. Bolton to Be U.S. Representative to the United Nations (109th Congress)

You Don't Have to be Jewish to be a Neocon: John Bolton and James Woolsey (by Richard H. Curtiss, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs)

North Korea Won’t Recognize State Dep’t. Ideologue (by Jim Lobe, Inter Press Service)

Investigation of Illegal or Improper Activities in Connection With 1996 Federal Election Campaigns (Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs

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McMaster, H.R.
Previous National Security Adviser

President Donald Trump’s choice to succeed Michael Flynn as national security advisor, announced February 20, 2017, was Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, a combat veteran whose positions often seem diametrically opposed to those of Flynn and, indeed, to those of Trump himself. Whereas Trump has made statements like, “Islam hates us,” and Flynn stated that “Islam is a political ideology masked behind a religion,” McMaster has repeatedly referred to terrorist organizations like ISIS as being un-Islamic because terrorism is a perversion of Islam.

 

Herbert Raymond McMaster was born July 24, 1962, in Philadelphia. His father was an Army enlisted man during the Korean War, and then was directly commissioned as a captain during the Vietnam War. McMaster’s mother was a teacher. He has a sister, Letitia.

 

McMaster got a jump start on a military career while attending Valley Forge Military Academy, where he played football and baseball. After graduating in 1980, McMaster went on to the United States Military Academy at West Point, earning his bachelor’s degree in 1984.

 

McMaster had initially decided to go into Army Aviation, but a flight physical revealed a previously undiagnosed astigmatism, so he went into Armor instead. His first assignment was the 2nd Armored Division at Fort Hood, Texas. In 1989, McMaster was transferred to the 2nd Armored Cavalry Division in Germany, and it was with this unit that he went to war in Operation Desert Storm.

 

McMaster began to build his reputation in the Battle of 73 Easting, which was named for map coordinates. McMaster led nine tanks, 12 Bradley Fighting Vehicles and 136 Cavalry troopers into battle against more than 80 tanks of the Iraqi Republican Guard. The U.S. forces routed the Iraqis without the loss of a single American tank.

 

Upon returning to the United States, McMaster earned an M.A. (1994) and a Ph.D. (1996) in American history from the University of North Carolina. He taught history at West Point during this period as well. His doctoral dissertation, “From Distrust to Deceit: The Joint Chiefs of Staff, Civil-Military Conflict, and Planning the Escalation of American Military Intervention in Vietnam, 1961-1964,” later was turned into a 1997 book, Dereliction of Duty: Lyndon Johnson, Robert McNamara, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Lies That Led to Vietnam. The dissertation and book criticized high-ranking military officers for their failure to stand up to President Lyndon B. Johnson and Defense Secretary Robert McNamara concerning their strategy for prosecuting the war. “The war in Vietnam was not lost in the field, nor was it lost on the pages of The New York Times or on the college campuses,” McMaster concluded. “It was lost in Washington, D.C.” He added, “The failings were many and reinforcing: arrogance, weakness, lying in pursuit of self-interest, and above all, the abdication of responsibility to the American people.” McMaster’s book was well-received and is now on some official military reading lists, but caused career problems for him later on.

 

McMaster graduated from United States Army Command and General Staff College in 1999 and then got command of 1st Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment. He also was a national security affairs fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University from 2002 to 2003. Following that, McMaster took staff and operational jobs at U.S. Central Command, which ran the war in Iraq.

 

In 2005, McMaster scored another combat victory, but one that also temporarily hurt his career. In fighting against Al Qaeda in the Battle of Tal Afar, west of Mosul, near the Syrian border, McMaster used counter-insurgency techniques that included working to get the city’s civilian population on the side of the American forces. McMaster, quoted by Jon Finer, who covered the battle for The Washington Post, laid out his strategy in five steps:

First, “if we go in and fight and then reduce our presence, the enemy will move to where there are insufficient security forces, because the Iraqi security forces can’t withstand them yet.”

Second, “you have to defeat the enemy’s campaign of intimidation over the population by providing security for people who cooperate with you. You cannot allow retribution.”

Third, you need to “clarify your intentions to people by developing relationships, by action, by dialogue with people and by addressing local grievances.”

Fourth, “this means being out in the city. We could stay in our F.O.B. [Forward Operating Base] and eat mini pizzas and ice cream and redeploy in a year, but that won’t win the war.”

Fifth, “do everything you can to minimize destruction. If that happens, it’s the enemy’s fault. We’re not booby-trapping buildings, putting explosives in the ground, sniping indiscriminately. We’re fighting the people doing that. We don’t want to kill this city, we want to bring it back to life.”

McMaster’s troops took back Tal Afar. But his unorthodox tactics had upset some of his superiors. In 2006, he left Iraq to do research at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London, as a senior research associate. Then a colonel, McMaster was passed over twice, in 2006 and 2007, for brigadier general and he could have been forced out of the Army. However, Secretary of the Army Pete Geren brought in Gen. David Petraeus, who had been McMaster’s commander, to lead a promotion board with the charge of evaluating several successful war-fighters, including McMaster. In 2008, McMaster earned his star.

 

He subsequently served in Afghanistan as commander of the Combined Joint Interagency Task Force and in 2012 was promoted to major general when he took over the U.S. Army Maneuver Center of Excellence at Fort Benning, Georgia. McMaster earned his current rank, lieutenant general, in 2014, when he was made deputy commanding general of the Army Capabilities Integration Center at the Training and Doctrine Command in Langley, Virginia.

 

McMaster showed in Tal Afar and has subsequently said that rather than taking an anti-Muslim stance, the United States should join forces with Muslim-majority countries to fight the Islamic State. Another contrast with Trump’s philosophy was outlined in an April 2015 speech at the University of South Florida, when McMaster said “the military-industrial complex may represent a greater threat to us than at any time in history.” McMaster also warned about military strategy think tanks that are actually funded by defense contractors.

 

McMaster and his wife, Kathleen Trotter, have been married since 1985. They have three daughters: Katharine, Colleen and Caragh.

-Steve Straehley

 

To Learn More:

H.R. McMaster Is Hailed as the Hero of Iraq’s Tal Afar. Here’s What That Operation Looked Like. (by Jon Finer, Washington Post)

Trump Just Hired the Army’s Smartest Officer (by Fred Kaplan, Slate)

The Insurgent in the White House (by James Kitfield, Politico)

H.R. McMaster Isn’t a Bigot, Making Him an Outlier on Trump’s National Security Team (by Zaid Jilani and Murtaza Hussain, The Intercept)

General Dissects U.S. Approach to War in Speech at USF (by Howard Altman, Tampa Bay Times)

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Overview:

The National Security Council (NSC) serves the President’s inner circle of advisers who consult on matters of national security. The White House defines national security as the “defense of the United States, protection of the constitutional system of government, the advancement of United States interests around the globe” … and “America’s opportunity to prosper in the world economy.” The NSC is led by a National Security Advisor (NSA) who, over the years, has come to rival, and in some administrations, exceed the authority of the Secretary of State on foreign policy issues. The NSA and NSC have been at the center of many political controversies, including the decision by the administration of President George W. Bush to invade Iraq in 2003.

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History:

The National Security Act of 1947 (pdf) is one of the most important pieces of legislation in post-World War II American politics. The act established the foundation for what would later be termed the “national security state,” characterized by a shift in national political power from Congress to the Presidency. The 1947 NSA created the National Security Council (NSC) to advise the President on all foreign policy and military matters. The legislation also established the post of Secretary of Defense who, along with the Secretary of State, helped direct the work and goals of the NSC, and it created a National Military Establishment, Central Intelligence Agency, and National Security Resources Board.

 

In time, the NSC became a means for the President to better control and manage competing executive branch departments involved in national security affairs. President Harry Truman’s NSC was dominated by the State Department, while President Dwight Eisenhower’s preference for military staff oriented the council toward the Pentagon. The NSC staff under Eisenhower coordinated an elaborate structure for monitoring the implementation of policies—a structure that was later dismantled by President John F. Kennedy.

 

JFK initially looked to the Secretary of State’s office to take charge of foreign policy-making, but eventually turned to the NSC and his National Security Advisor, McGeorge Bundy, to take the lead when it became apparent that the State Department lacked the power to keep other departments in line. Kennedy’s freewheeling style tended to erase the distinction between policymaking and operations that President Eisenhower’s regimented staff system so carefully observed.

 

President Lyndon Johnson shared Kennedy’s affinity for relying on the National Security Advisor. Bundy continued in this role until 1966, when he was replaced by Walt Rostow. President Johnson also consulted regularly with his “Tuesday Lunch Group,” an inner circle of aides, and eventually turned to his Secretary of State Dean Rusk to supervise and coordinate interdepartmental activities that involved foreign and military affairs.

 

Under Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, the NSC was dominated by Henry Kissinger, who at one point held both the National Security Advisor and Secretary of State posts. Kissinger expanded the NSC staff and concentrated it on acquiring analytical information from the various departments that would allow him to provide the President with the best possible range of options for making decisions.

 

This system worked perfectly for President Nixon, who preferred detailed written reports rather than interpersonal meetings. Kissinger concentrated on a handful of major issues and allowed some foreign matters to devolve to the State Department, while weapons and international financial questions were dealt with by the Pentagon and the Treasury Department.

 

Under President Jimmy Carter, the National Security Advisor, Zbigniew Brzezinski, became a principal source of foreign affairs ideas, and the NSC staff was recruited and managed with that in view. The State Department provided institutional memory and served as operations coordinator. This dynamic ultimately produced tension between the NSC and the State Department.

 

A collegial approach to government decision-making was emphasized in the Reagan administration. The National Security Advisor was downgraded, and the White House Chief of Staff exercised more power over foreign policy and military matters. But the collegiality among powerful department heads was not successfully maintained and conflicts became public. The NSC staff tended to emerge as a separate, contending party, led by the largest number of National Security Advisors of any administration. During Reagan’s eight years in office, he had six men serve as the NSA: Richard Allen, William P. Clark, Robert C. McFarlane, John M. Poindexter, Frank C. Carlucci, and Colin L. Powell. Poindexter and McFarlane became the most well-known publicly, thanks to their roles in the Iran-Contra Scandal involving the diversion of funds from arms to sale to Iran that were used to help support the Contra rebels seeking the overthrow of the socialist government of Nicaragua. Their notoriety was eclipsed, however, by an NSC subordinate—Marine Lt. Col. Oliver North, who functioned as the point person in the White House for the covert operation.

 

President George H. W. Bush brought his own foreign policy experience to his leadership of the National Security Council, having served previously as the ambassador to the United Nations and the Director of Central Intelligence. Bush reorganized the NSC to include a Principals Committee, Deputies Committee, and eight Policy Coordinating Committees. The NSC played key roles during such major developments as the collapse of the Soviet Union, the unification of Germany, the invasion of Panama and the Gulf War. 

 

The Clinton administration continued to emphasize a collegial approach within the NSC on national security matters. The NSC membership was expanded to include the Secretary of the Treasury, the U.S. Representative to the United Nations, the newly created Assistant to the President for Economic Policy (who was also head of a newly created National Economic Council, or NEC, parallel to the NSC), the President’s Chief of Staff, and the National Security Advisor.

 

Under President George W. Bush, the NSC—led by Condoleezza Rice until 2005—played key roles in the Global War on Terrorism campaign. This included the effort to round up intelligence that was used to justify the US invasion of Iraq in 2003—intel that ultimately proved inaccurate in regards to Iraq possessing weapons of mass destruction. The NSC also underwent structural changes during the Bush administration, including the addition of a “war czar” who reports directly to the President (see Controversies).

 

In the Obama administration, the NSC was first led by James L. Jones, Jr., a former Marine Corps general, and then in 2010 by Thomas E. Donilon, a former State Department chief of staff in the Clinton administration. In 2009, President Barack Obama approved Presidential Study Directive-1 (pdf), which merged the NSC staff and staff of the Homeland Security Council (HSC) into one National Security Staff to function under the National Security Advisor.  HSC, which was created as a statutory body through the Homeland Security Act of 2002, advises and assists the President with all aspects of homeland security and serves as the mechanism for coordination of all homeland security-related activities among executive departments and agencies of the federal government. In addition to this integrated staff, both councils were made to operate within a single budget. Also, new directorates and positions were established to deal with WMD terrorism, cyber security, information sharing, and border security.

 

Records of the National Security Council, The National Archives

 

History of the National Security Council, 1947-1997

Truman Administration, 1947-1953
Eisenhower Administration, 1953-1961
Kennedy Administration, 1961-1963
Johnson Administration, 1963-1969
Nixon Administration, 1969-1974
Ford Administration, 1974-1977
Carter Administration, 1977-1981
Reagan Administration, 1981-1989
Bush Administration, 1989-1992
Clinton Administration, 1993-1997

 

NCS Historical Overview by Presidential Administrations

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What it Does:

The National Security Council (NSC) is the President’s principal forum for considering national security and foreign policy matters with his senior national security advisors and cabinet officials. The function of the NSC is to advise and assist the President on national security and foreign policies, and it serves as the President’s principal arm for coordinating these policies among various government agencies.

 

The NSC is chaired by the President. Its regular attendees are the Vice President (who serves as chair when the President is absent), the Secretary of State, Secretary of the Treasury, Secretary of Defense, and the National Security Advisor (NSA). The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is the military adviser to the NSC and the Director of National Intelligence is the intelligence adviser. The White House Chief of Staff, Counsel to the President and the Assistant to the President for Economic Policy are invited to attend any NSC meeting. The Attorney General and the Director of the Office of Management and Budget are invited to attend meetings pertaining to their responsibilities. The heads of other executive departments and agencies, as well as other senior officials, are invited to attend meetings of the NSC when appropriate.

 

The NSA is responsible for determining the agenda of NSC meetings, ensuring that necessary papers are prepared and that minutes of meetings and Presidential decisions are recorded. When international economic issues are on the agenda of the NSC, the NSA works with the Assistant to the President for Economic Policy to perform all of the aforementioned duties.

 

NSC Committees

Less than a month after assuming office in 2001, by President George W. Bush issued a National Security Presidential Directive that reorganized several committees.

 

Originally established by the first President Bush, the NSC Principals Committee (NSC/PC) serves as the senior interagency forum for the council. The NSC/PC is composed of the Secretary of State, Secretary of the Treasury, Secretary of Defense, the White House Chief of Staff and the NSA, who chairs the NSC/PC. The White House Chief of Staff and National Security Advisor to the Vice President also attend all meetings. The Director of Central Intelligence and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Attorney General and the director of the Office of Management and Budget attend as needed. Sometimes the White House Counsel is consulted regarding the agenda of NSC/PC meetings. When international economic issues are on the agenda of the NSC/PC, the committee’s regular attendees include the Secretary of Commerce, the United States Trade Representative, the Assistant to the President for Economic Policy (who chairs for agenda items pertaining to international economics) and sometimes the Secretary of Agriculture.

 

Another Bush I creation, the NSC Deputies Committee (NSC/DC) serves as the senior sub-cabinet interagency forum. The NSC/DC reviews the work of the NSC interagency groups and ensures that issues being brought before the NSC/PC or the NSC have been properly analyzed and prepared for decision. The NSC/DC consists of the Deputy Secretary of State or Under Secretary of the Treasury or Under Secretary of the Treasury for International Affairs, the Deputy Secretary of Defense or Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, the Deputy Attorney General, the Deputy Director of the Office of Management and Budget, the Deputy Director of Central Intelligence, the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Deputy Chief of Staff to the President for Policy, the Chief of Staff and National Security Advisor to the Vice President, the Deputy Assistant to the President for International Economic Affairs and the Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Advisor, who chairs NSC/DC meetings. When international economic issues are on the agenda, the NSC/DC’s regular membership will include the Deputy Secretary of Commerce, a Deputy United States Trade Representative and occasionally the Deputy Secretary of Agriculture. The NSC/DC is chaired by the Deputy Assistant to the President for International Economic Affairs for agenda items that principally pertain to international economics. Other senior officials are invited when appropriate.

 

The NSC Policy Coordination Committees (NSC/PCCs) manages the development and implementation of national security policies by multiple federal agencies. The NSC/PCCs function as the day-to-day body for interagency coordination of national security policy. They provide policy analysis for consideration by the more senior committees of the NSC system and ensure timely responses to decisions made by the President. Each NSC/PCC includes representatives from executive departments, offices and agencies represented in the NSC/DC.

 

Six NSC/PCCs are structured around world regions: Europe and Eurasia, Western Hemisphere, East Asia, South Asia, Near East and North Africa, and Africa. Each of these NSC/PCCs is chaired by an official of undersecretary or assistant secretary rank chosen by the Secretary of State. There are also 11 NSC/PCCs based on functional topics (chair indicated in parentheses):

  • Democracy, Human Rights, and International Operations (NSA);
  • International Development and Humanitarian Assistance (Secretary of State);
  • Global Environment (NSA and the Assistant to the President for Economic Policy in concert);
  • International Finance (Secretary of the Treasury);
  • Transnational Economic Issues (Assistant to the President for Economic Policy);
  • Counter-Terrorism and National Preparedness (NSA);
  • Defense Strategy, Force Structure, and Planning (Secretary of Defense);
  • Arms Control (NSA);
  • Proliferation, Counterproliferation, and Homeland Defense (NSA);
  • Intelligence and Counterintelligence (NSA);
  • Records Access and Information Security (NSA).

The Trade Policy Review Group (TPRG) functions as an interagency coordinator of trade policy. Issues considered within the TPRG flow through the NSC and/or NEC process, as appropriate.

 

In March 2005, NSA Stephen Hadley announced a reorganization (pdf) of the NSC hierarchal structure. Five Deputy National Security Advisors positions were created responsible for: Iraq and Afghanistan; strategic communication and global outreach; international economics; global democracy strategy; and combating terrorism.

 

In 2009, President Barack Obama created the Cybersecurity Office within the National Security Staff in order to address cyber threats to the nation’s security. This action was taken for the purpose of implementing the recommendations of the Cyber Policy Review (pdf), a report developed as a result of Obama’s order for an examination of the federal government’s efforts to defend U.S. information and communications infrastructure.

 

In July 2011, the NSC released its report, Strategy to Combat Transnational Organized Crime: Addressing Converging Threats to National Security (pdf), a study to aid in the defense of the U.S. against the illicit activities of international criminal networks.

The National Security Strategy of the United States of America 2010 (pdf)

National Strategy for Counterterrorism 2011 (pdf)

The National Security Council: An Organizational Assessment (Congressional Research

Service) (pdf)

 

From the Web Site of the National Security Council

Contact Information

Cybersecurity

Organized Crime Strategy

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Where Does the Money Go:

In 2009, the National Security Council’s (NSC) budget was combined with that of the HSC, and includes the budget for the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board (PIAB), which provides the President with expert advice concerning the quality and adequacy of intelligence collection and activities.

 

The FY 2013 Congressional Budget Submission for the Executive Office of the President (pdf) offers the following estimate of expenditures for the NSC/HSC/PIAB budget for that year:

 

Personnel Compensation & Benefits                                                  $11,308,000

            Includes salaries, terminal leave, premium pay, assignments

under the Intergovernmental Personnel Act, and all employee

benefits.

Travel & Transportation of Persons                                                    $1,073,000

            Includes official travel, such as per diem, hotel and

transportation, auto rental, and local transportation.

Supplies and Materials                                                                            $216,000

            Includes general supplies, information technology (IT) supplies,

newspaper and magazine subscriptions, government publications.

Communication, Utilities & Misc. Charges                                             $210,000

            Includes data, voice, and wireless communications; utilities,

postage, and miscellaneous rental charges.

Other Contractual Services                                                                      $131,000

            Includes advisory and assistance services, purchases of goods

and services, operations and maintenance of facilities, research and

development contracts, medical care, operations and maintenance

of equipment, or subsistence and support of persons.

Equipment                                                                                                 $56,000

            Includes IT hardware and software, customized software

programming, printers and network devices, office furniture and

equipment (photocopiers, fax machines, telephones).

Printing and Reproduction                                                                         $50,000

Transportation of Things                                                                            $4,000

            Includes commercial express delivery, freight and other shipping.

Total FY 2013 Budget Request                                                            $13,048,000

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Controversies:

National Security Council

The National Security Council (NSC) in 2010 became embroiled in the controversy that  surrounded the killing a year later of a U.S.-born cleric in Yemen.

 

Anwar al-Awlaki, who was born in New Mexico, was placed on a Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) “kill or capture” list after the NSC concluded he was threat to national security. NSC officials also participated in a closed-door debate within the Obama administration over whether it was legal for the government to target al-Awlaki.

 

The cleric’s death in a 2011 drone strike sparked a public debate as well over the government’s ability to execute a citizen with no judicial process while relying only on secret intelligence. Civil libertarians and Muslim-American advocates said al-Awlaki’s killing was the same as summary execution without the due process of law guaranteed to U.S. citizens by the Constitution.

 

Vicki Divoll, a former CIA lawyer who teaches at the U.S. Naval Academy, pointed out that under U.S. law, the government had to get a warrant in order to obtain al-Awlaki’s cell phone records. But it needed no such court order to kill him. “That makes no sense,” Divoll told The New York Times.

Controversy Over CIA Authorization to Kill U.S. Citizen (by Scott Shane, New York Times)

Judging a Long, Deadly Reach (by Scott Shane, New York Times)

Obama Admin Debates Releasing Awlaki Memo (by Elise Labott and Carol Cratty, CNN)

Panetta: Decision to Kill Americans Suspected of Terrorism Is Obama's (by Adam Serwer, Mother Jones)

Obama Moves To Conceal Drone Death Figures  (by Steve Watson, Infowars.com)

 

Hiring of “War Czar” Prompts Calls to Fire National Security Advisor

When Army Lt. Gen. Douglas E. Lute testified before Congress as part of his confirmation hearings to become the new “war czar,” he informed lawmakers that he would be reporting directly to President Bush on all issues involving the Iraq War and military operations in Afghanistan. He also remarked that National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley would deal with the president “on matters outside of Iraq [and] Afghanistan.” The testimony stunned leading Democrats and at least one Republican. They appeared taken aback by the extent of the shake-up in Bush’s inner circle of advisers—especially the diminished role Hadley would play.

 

“Afghanistan, Iraq and, related to that, Iran are the most critical foreign policy problems we face, and the national security advisor of the United States has taken his hands off that and given it to you?” asked Sen. Jack Reed (D-Rhode Island), a former Army officer who described himself as a longtime friend of Lute’s. “Then he [Hadley] should be fired. Because frankly, if he’s not capable of being the individual responsible for those duties and they pass it on to someone else, then why is he there?”

A Shift in Leadership, and Possibly in War (by Peter Spiegel, Los Angeles Times)

 

 

“War Czar” Joins NSC

Following his reelection in 2004, President George W. Bush decided to shake up his National Security Council team. National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice moved on to become Secretary of State, while Rice’s top deputy, Stephen Hadley, took over as NSA. But Hadley did not assume responsibility for overseeing the nation’s top military priorities—Iraq and Afghanistan. Instead, President Bush decided to create the position of assistant to the president and deputy national security advisor, or “war czar,” as some began to call it, who would report directly to him on military operations in the two countries.

 

The only problem was that no one wanted the job. Administration officials approached no less than five four-star generals about the position and all of them turned it down. That included retired Marine Gen. John J. “Jack” Sheehan, a former top NATO commander, who told The Washington Post: “The very fundamental issue is, they don’t know where the hell they’re going.”

 

Sheehan said he believed that Vice President Dick Cheney and his hawkish allies remained more powerful within the administration than pragmatists looking for a way out of Iraq. “So rather than go over there, develop an ulcer and eventually leave, I said, ‘No, thanks,’” he said.

 

Eventually, President Bush found a taker—Lt. Gen. Douglas E. Lute, the top operations officer for the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Lute, though, was not supportive of the troop surge ordered by the Bush administration in 2007, leaving some to wonder why he was selected for the job.

Bush Picks General to Coordinate War Policy (by Sheryl Gay Stolberg, New York Times)

3 Generals Spurn the Position of War 'Czar' (by Peter Baker and Thomas E. Ricks, Washington Post)

Bush Taps Skeptic of Buildup as 'War Czar' (by Peter Baker and Robin Wright, Washington Post)

 

 

NSA Condoleezza Rice

During President George W. Bush’s first term, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice was often at the center of the administration’s most controversial moments. Following the Sept. 11 attacks, national security officials were some of the most scrutinized by media and lawmakers, who wanted to know how the federal government allowed such an attack to happen. Rice’s actions in particular were examined, especially after it was revealed that two months earlier, in July 2001, CIA Director George Tenet had briefed Rice in an emergency meeting at the White House about the potential threat of an al Qaeda attack.

 

When asked about the meeting in 2006, Rice claimed that she did not recall the specific meeting and that she had met repeatedly with Tenet that summer about terrorist threats. She insisted it was “incomprehensible” that she had ignored terrorist threats two months before 9/11.

 

In March 2004, Rice refused to testify before the 9/11 Commission. Under pressure, President Bush agreed to allow Rice to testify, making her the first sitting National Security Advisor to testify on matters of policy. In April 2007, Rice rejected, on grounds of executive privilege, a House subpoena regarding the false prewar claim that Iraq sought yellowcake uranium from Niger.

 

In 2003, Rice became one of the most vocal members of the Bush administration as it made its case for going to war against Iraq. After Iraqi officials declared before the United Nations that it had no weapons of mass destruction in December 2002, Rice wrote an editorial published in The New York Times, “Why We Know Iraq Is Lying.”

Records Show Tenet Briefed Rice on Al Qaeda Threat (by Philip Shenon and Mark Mazzetti, New York Times)

“Why We Know Iraq is Lying" A Column by Dr. Condoleezza Rice

Transcript of Rice's 9/11 commission statement

Condoleezza Rice's memoir reveals clashes over Iraq (by Stephanie Condon, CBS News)

 

 

Iran-Contra Figure Tapped for NSC

Shortly after taking office in 2001, President George W. Bush selected a controversial figure from the Reagan years—Elliott Abrams—to serve on the National Security Council. Abrams, who pled guilty in 1991 to withholding information from Congress during its investigation of the scandal, was selected as Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Near East and North African Affairs. At the start of President Bush’s second term, Abrams was promoted to Deputy National Security Advisor for Global Democracy Strategy. Abrams was considered by some observers as a good fit for the White House, given his credentials as a “neo-con” like Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Pentagon deputy Paul Wolfowitz.

Elliott Abrams: It's Back! (by David Corn, The Nation)

Bush Taps Iran-Contra Figure Elliot Abrams to Promote Democracy (Democracy Now!)

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Suggested Reforms:

“War Czar” Calls for Draft

Shortly after assuming his new position as “war czar,” Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute remarked that the country should consider bringing back the military draft, which the federal government has not operated since the closing days of the Vietnam War.

 

Lute said frequent tours for U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan had stressed the all-volunteer force and made it worth considering a return to a military draft. “I think it makes sense to certainly consider it,” Lute told National Public Radio. “And I can tell you, this has always been an option on the table. But ultimately, this is a policy matter between meeting the demands for the nation’s security by one means or another.”

 

Lute also admitted that restoring the draft would be a “major policy shift” and that the President had made it clear he doesn’t support the idea.

Iraq War Czar: Consider a Draft (Associated Press)

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Former Directors:

James L. Jones, Jr.      January 20, 2009 – October 8, 2010

Stephen Hadley          January 26, 2005 – January 20, 2009            

Condoleezza Rice       January 22, 2001 - January 25, 2005

Samuel R. Berger         March 14, 1997 - January 20, 2001

W. Anthony Lake       January 20, 1993 - March 14, 1997

Brent Scowcroft          January 20, 1989 - January 20, 1993

Colin L. Powell           November 23, 1987 - January 20, 1989

Frank C. Carlucci        December 2, 1986 - November 23, 1987

John M. Poindexter    December 4, 1985 - November 25, 1986

Robert C. McFarlane October 17, 1983 - December 4, 1985

William P. Clark          January 4, 1982 - October 17, 1983

Richard V. Allen         January 21, 1981 - January 4, 1982

Zbigniew Brzezinski   January 20, 1977 - January 21, 1981

Brent Scowcroft          November 3, 1975 - January 20, 1977

Henry A. Kissinger     December 2, 1968 - November 3, 1975 (served concurrently as

Secretary of State from September 21, 1973)

Walt W. Rostow         April 1, 1966 - December 2, 1968

McGeorge Bundy       January 20, 1961 - February 28, 1966

Gordon Gray              June 24, 1958 - January 13, 1961

Robert Cutler              January 7, 1957 - June 24, 1958

Dillon Anderson         April 2, 1955 - September 1, 1956

Robert Cutler              March 23, 1953 - April 2, 1955

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Comments

David Millikan 7 years ago
I have for years said we should return to a military draft. After all, why should the same soldiers go to combat year after year without anyone to replace them, and step up to the plate. Freedom is NOT FREE as too many take for granted.

Leave a comment

Founded: 1947
Annual Budget: $13,048,000 (FY 2013 Request; budget includes the Homeland Security Council)
Employees: 77 (FY 2013 Estimate; staff shared with the Homeland Security Council)
National Security Council
Bolton, John
National Security Adviser

John Robert Bolton, who in the George W. Bush administration was recess-appointed to be ambassador to the United Nations, but more recently has been a Fox News commentator, took over April 9, 2018, as President Donald J. Trump’s third national security adviser. The position does not require Senate confirmation. Bolton has described himself as a “libertarian conservative” and a “national-interest conservative.”

 

Bolton was born in Baltimore on November 20, 1948, to Jack and Ginny Bolton. Bolton’s father was a firefighter for the city of Baltimore. Bolton has said that he was early on influenced by reading Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, as well as by the writings of Adam Smith, John Locke and Edmund Burke. Bolton won a scholarship to the private McDonogh School in Owings Mills, Maryland, graduating in 1966. He then went to Yale, where he earned his B.A. in 1970 and his law degree in 1974. He was a member of the Yale Young Republicans and was editor-in-chief of the Yale Conservative.

 

Bolton joined the National Guard in 1970 and finished his enlistment with the Army Reserve from 1974 to 1976. Although Bolton is now known as a war hawk, he wasn’t interested in serving in Vietnam. “I confess I had no desire to die in a Southeast Asian rice paddy. I considered the war in Vietnam already lost,” Bolton wrote in his Yale 25th reunion book. He also served as an intern to fellow Baltimorean Vice President Spiro Agnew in 1972.

 

In 1978, Bolton worked on the campaign of James Baker III when Baker ran unsuccessfully for Texas attorney general. Baker’s campaign manager was future U.S. president George H.W. Bush. Baker himself later became U.S. secretary of state and chief of staff when Bush was president. These connections would set the stage for Bolton’s political career.

 

After earning his law degree, Bolton found work as an associate for the law firm Covington and Burling. In 1981, he joined the Ronald Reagan administration as general counsel for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). Two years later, he was named the agency’s assistant administrator for program and policy coordination. Bolton returned to Covington and Burling—as a partner—later in 1983. Among his clients was General Dynamics, whom he represented during an investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) of cost overruns regarding nuclear submarine construction and misleading of shareholders. He also defended the National Congressional Club, a conservative political action committee led by Sen. Jesse Helms, (R-North Carolina) against Federal Election Commission complaints that charged the club was funneling illegal campaign contributions through a subsidiary, Jefferson Marketing Inc. The Club eventually settled for a minor fine.

 

Bolton returned to the federal government, this time to the Justice Department, in 1985 as assistant attorney general for legislative affairs, and then beginning in 1988 as assistant attorney general for civil rights. While at Justice, Bolton played a key role in stonewalling Congress on its efforts to investigate the Iran-Contra affair, in which Reagan authorized the sale of arms to Iran, then under an embargo, to make money to fund the Contras fighting against the Nicaraguan government. Both parts of the deal were prohibited by U.S. law. For example, he argued that the law allowing the creation of independent counsels, such as the one that investigated the Iran-Contra affair, was unconstitutional because it violated the separation of powers.

 

In 1989, Bolton was moved over to the State Department by the George H.W. Bush administration as assistant secretary for International Organization Affairs. In this position, he was the administration’s main liaison to the United Nations. He would later explain, “One thing I learned was that to have a maximum impact on policy, it’s important to go into bureaucracies that don’t initially seem to be very friendly places….I knew immediately that I wanted to go to the State Department, because that was the place needing the greatest degree of change.”

 

When the Bush administration was sent packing in 1993, Bolton joined a law firm that eventually became Lerner, Reed, Bolton and McManus. In 1994, he received $30,000 from the government of Taiwan to lobby on their behalf despite the U.S. government’s policy of opposing independence for Taiwan.

 

In addition to his law practice, Bolton was a senior fellow at the right-wing Manhattan Institute and was an adjunct professor at George Mason University School of Law. In 1997, he was named a senior vice president at the conservative American Enterprise Institute (AEI).

 

As have many in the Trump orbit, Bolton has experienced some financial controversies. In 1995 and 1996, Bolton served as president of the National Policy Forum (NPF). A 1996 Senate investigation showed that NPF was helping move foreign money into U.S. elections via the Republican National Committee (RNC). From the minority report:

 

(1) RNC Chairman Haley Barbour and the RNC intentionally solicited foreign money for the NPF.

(2) The NPF was an arm of the RNC and, as the Internal Revenue Service concluded, was not entitled to tax-exempt status as a social welfare organization under section 501(c)(4) of the U.S. tax code.

(3) Barbour solicited Ambrous Young, a foreign national, and Young agreed to provide the collateral for a loan to NPF for the purpose of helping Republican candidates during the 1994 elections.

(4) The evidence before the Committee strongly supports the conclusion that Barbour and other RNC officials knew that the money used to collateralize the NPF loan came from Hong Kong. Barbour's testimony that he did not know about the foreign source of the loan collateral was not credible.

(5) As a result of NPF’s default on the loan, the RNC improperly retained $800,000 in foreign money during the 1996 election cycle.

 

Bolton continued his work with AEI until after the 2000 presidential contest. As part of the post-election George W. Bush legal team in 2000, Bolton worked to stop the recount of ballots in Florida that, if completed, would likely have made Al Gore president instead of Bush. At one point, on December 9, Bolton rushed into a Tallahassee library where officials were counting votes and declared, “I'm with the Bush-Cheney team, and I'm here to stop the vote.”

 

As a reward Bolton was named under secretary of state for arms control and international security affairs. Among his notable achievements in that post were the withdrawal of the U.S. from the International Criminal Court; and claiming without supporting evidence that Cuba was running a biological weapons program. Bolton attempted to cherry-pick intelligence to back his assertion about Cuba. “We all agreed that what Bolton wanted to say was exaggerating to the point of cooking the intelligence,” senior Central Intelligence Agency analyst Fulton Armstrong said, according to ProPublica. “No one ever stated that Bolton did not have the right to put out any judgment he wanted. Our position was you can say whatever you want, but don’t use us to validate it.” Bolton later tried to get the CIA to remove Armstrong, who was serving as national intelligence officer for Latin America, from his post.

 

Another Bolton misstep came when he referred to then-North Korean President Kim Jong Il as the “tyrannical dictator” of a country where “life is a hellish nightmare.” Although this was true, the comment caused Kim to refuse to deal with Bolton and the U.S. had to send another representative to the six-party talks concerning North Korea.

 

In 2001. Bolton was instrumental in disrupting implementation of the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention that banned the production and use of biological weapons, claiming that it endangered U.S. national security by allowing spot inspections of suspected U.S. weapons sites.

 

In February 2003, Bolton visited Israel and, according to Ha'aretz, told government officials that “America will attack Iraq, and that it will be necessary to deal with threats from Syria, Iran and North Korea afterwards.” After the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq, Bolton convinced 70 foreign governments to exempt the United States from prosecution by the International Criminal Court for war crimes.

 

Bush nominated Bolton in 2005 to be the ambassador to the United Nations, which he would later describe as “an instrument for helping to advance U.S. policy.” However, Bolton didn’t have enough support to overcome a Democratic filibuster in the Senate and the nomination was denied. Bush then made a recess appointment of Bolton to represent the United States to a body about which Bolton said in 1994, “The Secretariat Building in New York has 38 stories. If you lost 10 stories today it wouldn’t make a bit of difference. The United Nations is one of the most inefficient inter-governmental organizations going.” Bush renominated Bolton to the UN post in 2006 but it went nowhere. At the end of the 109th Congress that year, when Bolton’s recess appointment expired, he left the UN.

 

Bolton then returned to AEI as a senior fellow, served as chairman of the neoconservative Gatestone Institute and worked as a commentator on Fox News, taking potshots at the Barack Obama administration, particularly in the area of foreign policy. He has urged pre-emptive war against North Korea to keep it from launching nuclear weapons on the United States or its allies. He has also urged Trump to withdraw from the Iran nuclear agreement and work toward overthrowing the Tehran government.

 

In 2013, Bolton founded the John Bolton Political Action Committee (PAC), which the following year contributed to the Congressional campaigns of 89 Republican candidates. In 2016, it contributed to the campaigns of 91 Republicans. He also founded the Bolton for America Super PAC, later known as the John Bolton Super PAC. Bolton’s PACs were heavily supported by hedge fund billionaire, Robert L. Mercer, who contributed $5 million to them between 2014 and 2016. The Super PAC was one of the first clients of data research firm Cambridge Analytica, in which Mercer invested $15 million. According to Christopher Wylie, the head of data harvesting at Cambridge Analytica, “The Bolton PAC was obsessed with how America was becoming limp-wristed and spineless and it wanted research and messaging for national security issues. That really meant making people more militaristic in their worldview.”

 

Between them, Bolton’s two PACs had about $3.2 million in their accounts when Bolton took over as National Security Adviser.

 

Bolton and his first wife, Christine, married in 1972 and divorced in 1983. Bolton married his second wife, Gretchen Smith, on January 24, 1986. They have a daughter, Jennifer.

-Steve Straehley, David Wallechinsky

 

To Learn More:

John Bolton Skewed Intelligence, Say People Who Worked with Him (by Sebastian Rotella, Pro Publica)

Bolton Was Early Beneficiary of Cambridge Analytica’s Facebook Data (by Matthew Rosenberg, New York Times)

Trump Names Former Ambassador John Bolton as His New National Security Adviser (by Greg Jaffe and Josh Dawsey, Washington Post)

John Bolton: The Essential Profile (by Mitchell Plitnick, Lobe Log)

Interview with Adam Garfinkle (American Interest)

The Nomination of John R. Bolton to Be U.S. Representative to the United Nations (109th Congress)

You Don't Have to be Jewish to be a Neocon: John Bolton and James Woolsey (by Richard H. Curtiss, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs)

North Korea Won’t Recognize State Dep’t. Ideologue (by Jim Lobe, Inter Press Service)

Investigation of Illegal or Improper Activities in Connection With 1996 Federal Election Campaigns (Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs

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McMaster, H.R.
Previous National Security Adviser

President Donald Trump’s choice to succeed Michael Flynn as national security advisor, announced February 20, 2017, was Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, a combat veteran whose positions often seem diametrically opposed to those of Flynn and, indeed, to those of Trump himself. Whereas Trump has made statements like, “Islam hates us,” and Flynn stated that “Islam is a political ideology masked behind a religion,” McMaster has repeatedly referred to terrorist organizations like ISIS as being un-Islamic because terrorism is a perversion of Islam.

 

Herbert Raymond McMaster was born July 24, 1962, in Philadelphia. His father was an Army enlisted man during the Korean War, and then was directly commissioned as a captain during the Vietnam War. McMaster’s mother was a teacher. He has a sister, Letitia.

 

McMaster got a jump start on a military career while attending Valley Forge Military Academy, where he played football and baseball. After graduating in 1980, McMaster went on to the United States Military Academy at West Point, earning his bachelor’s degree in 1984.

 

McMaster had initially decided to go into Army Aviation, but a flight physical revealed a previously undiagnosed astigmatism, so he went into Armor instead. His first assignment was the 2nd Armored Division at Fort Hood, Texas. In 1989, McMaster was transferred to the 2nd Armored Cavalry Division in Germany, and it was with this unit that he went to war in Operation Desert Storm.

 

McMaster began to build his reputation in the Battle of 73 Easting, which was named for map coordinates. McMaster led nine tanks, 12 Bradley Fighting Vehicles and 136 Cavalry troopers into battle against more than 80 tanks of the Iraqi Republican Guard. The U.S. forces routed the Iraqis without the loss of a single American tank.

 

Upon returning to the United States, McMaster earned an M.A. (1994) and a Ph.D. (1996) in American history from the University of North Carolina. He taught history at West Point during this period as well. His doctoral dissertation, “From Distrust to Deceit: The Joint Chiefs of Staff, Civil-Military Conflict, and Planning the Escalation of American Military Intervention in Vietnam, 1961-1964,” later was turned into a 1997 book, Dereliction of Duty: Lyndon Johnson, Robert McNamara, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Lies That Led to Vietnam. The dissertation and book criticized high-ranking military officers for their failure to stand up to President Lyndon B. Johnson and Defense Secretary Robert McNamara concerning their strategy for prosecuting the war. “The war in Vietnam was not lost in the field, nor was it lost on the pages of The New York Times or on the college campuses,” McMaster concluded. “It was lost in Washington, D.C.” He added, “The failings were many and reinforcing: arrogance, weakness, lying in pursuit of self-interest, and above all, the abdication of responsibility to the American people.” McMaster’s book was well-received and is now on some official military reading lists, but caused career problems for him later on.

 

McMaster graduated from United States Army Command and General Staff College in 1999 and then got command of 1st Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment. He also was a national security affairs fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University from 2002 to 2003. Following that, McMaster took staff and operational jobs at U.S. Central Command, which ran the war in Iraq.

 

In 2005, McMaster scored another combat victory, but one that also temporarily hurt his career. In fighting against Al Qaeda in the Battle of Tal Afar, west of Mosul, near the Syrian border, McMaster used counter-insurgency techniques that included working to get the city’s civilian population on the side of the American forces. McMaster, quoted by Jon Finer, who covered the battle for The Washington Post, laid out his strategy in five steps:

First, “if we go in and fight and then reduce our presence, the enemy will move to where there are insufficient security forces, because the Iraqi security forces can’t withstand them yet.”

Second, “you have to defeat the enemy’s campaign of intimidation over the population by providing security for people who cooperate with you. You cannot allow retribution.”

Third, you need to “clarify your intentions to people by developing relationships, by action, by dialogue with people and by addressing local grievances.”

Fourth, “this means being out in the city. We could stay in our F.O.B. [Forward Operating Base] and eat mini pizzas and ice cream and redeploy in a year, but that won’t win the war.”

Fifth, “do everything you can to minimize destruction. If that happens, it’s the enemy’s fault. We’re not booby-trapping buildings, putting explosives in the ground, sniping indiscriminately. We’re fighting the people doing that. We don’t want to kill this city, we want to bring it back to life.”

McMaster’s troops took back Tal Afar. But his unorthodox tactics had upset some of his superiors. In 2006, he left Iraq to do research at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London, as a senior research associate. Then a colonel, McMaster was passed over twice, in 2006 and 2007, for brigadier general and he could have been forced out of the Army. However, Secretary of the Army Pete Geren brought in Gen. David Petraeus, who had been McMaster’s commander, to lead a promotion board with the charge of evaluating several successful war-fighters, including McMaster. In 2008, McMaster earned his star.

 

He subsequently served in Afghanistan as commander of the Combined Joint Interagency Task Force and in 2012 was promoted to major general when he took over the U.S. Army Maneuver Center of Excellence at Fort Benning, Georgia. McMaster earned his current rank, lieutenant general, in 2014, when he was made deputy commanding general of the Army Capabilities Integration Center at the Training and Doctrine Command in Langley, Virginia.

 

McMaster showed in Tal Afar and has subsequently said that rather than taking an anti-Muslim stance, the United States should join forces with Muslim-majority countries to fight the Islamic State. Another contrast with Trump’s philosophy was outlined in an April 2015 speech at the University of South Florida, when McMaster said “the military-industrial complex may represent a greater threat to us than at any time in history.” McMaster also warned about military strategy think tanks that are actually funded by defense contractors.

 

McMaster and his wife, Kathleen Trotter, have been married since 1985. They have three daughters: Katharine, Colleen and Caragh.

-Steve Straehley

 

To Learn More:

H.R. McMaster Is Hailed as the Hero of Iraq’s Tal Afar. Here’s What That Operation Looked Like. (by Jon Finer, Washington Post)

Trump Just Hired the Army’s Smartest Officer (by Fred Kaplan, Slate)

The Insurgent in the White House (by James Kitfield, Politico)

H.R. McMaster Isn’t a Bigot, Making Him an Outlier on Trump’s National Security Team (by Zaid Jilani and Murtaza Hussain, The Intercept)

General Dissects U.S. Approach to War in Speech at USF (by Howard Altman, Tampa Bay Times)

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