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United States National Security Council

United States National Security Council
Agency overview
Formed September 18, 1947
Agency executives Barack Obama, President of the United States, Chairman
Joe Biden, Vice President of the United States
John Kerry, Secretary of State
Chuck Hagel, Secretary of Defense
Susan Rice, National Security Advisor
Parent agency Executive Office of the President of the United States
Website NSC Website
President Barack Obama at a NSC Meeting in the Situation Room. Participants include Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, NSC Advisor Gen. James "Jim" Jones, Director of National Intelligence(DNI) Dennis Blair, Deputy National Security Adviser Tom Donilon, White House Counsel Greg Craig, CIA Director Leon Panetta, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. James Cartwright, and White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel

The White House National Security Council (NSC) is the principal forum used by the President of the United States for considering national security and foreign policy matters with his senior national security advisors and Cabinet officials and is part of the Executive Office of the President of the United States. Since its inception under Harry S. Truman, the function of the Council has been to advise and assist the president on national security and foreign policies. The Council also serves as the president's principal arm for coordinating these policies among various government agencies. The Council has counterparts in the national security councils of many other nations.


  • History 1
  • Membership 2
  • Staff 3
  • Authority 4
  • High Value Detainee Interrogation Group 5
  • Kill authorizations 6
  • See also 7
  • References 8
    • Additional sources 8.1
  • Further reading 9
  • External links 10


The National Security Council was created in 1947 by the National Security Act. It was created because policymakers felt that the diplomacy of the State Department was no longer adequate to contain the USSR in light of the tension between the Soviet Union and the United States.[1] The intent was to ensure coordination and concurrence among the Navy, Marine Corps, Army, Air Force and other instruments of national security policy such as the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), also created in the National Security Act.

On May 26, 2009, President Barack Obama merged the White House staff supporting the Homeland Security Council (HSC) and the National Security Council into one National Security Staff (NSS). The HSC and NSC each continue to exist by statute as bodies supporting the President.[2]

The decision process inside the structure has become less and less formal but influence of the Council has become stronger and stronger. Detailed history of the National Security Council under each Presidential administration since its inception can be found at:


The National Security Council is chaired by the President. Its members are the Vice President (statutory), the Secretary of State (statutory), the Secretary of Defense (statutory), the National Security Advisor (non-statutory), and the Secretary of Treasury (non-statutory).

The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is the statutory military advisor to the Council, the Director of National Intelligence is the statutory intelligence advisor, and the Director of National Drug Control Policy is the statutory drug control policy advisor. The Chief of Staff to the President, Counsel to the President, and the Assistant to the President for Economic Policy are also regularly invited to attend NSC meetings. The Attorney General, the Director of the Office of Management and Budget and The Director of the Central Intelligence Agency 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.

Structure of the United States National Security Council[3]
Chair President of the United States
Statutory Attendees[4] Vice President of the United States
Secretary of State
Secretary of Defense
Secretary of Energy
Military Advisor Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
Intelligence Advisor Director of National Intelligence
Drug Policy Advisor Director of National Drug Control Policy
Regular Attendees National Security Advisor
White House Chief of Staff
Deputy National Security Advisor
Attorney General
Additional Participants Secretary of the Treasury
Secretary of Homeland Security
White House Counsel
Assistant to the President for Economic Policy
Ambassador to the United Nations
Director of Office of Management and Budget
Homeland Security Advisor



The National Security Council was established by the National Security Act of 1947 (PL 235 – 61 Stat. 496; U.S.C. 402), amended by the National Security Act Amendments of 1949 (63 Stat. 579; 50 U.S.C. 401 et seq.). Later in 1949, as part of the Reorganization Plan, the Council was placed in the Executive Office of the President.

High Value Detainee Interrogation Group

The High Value Detainee Interrogation Group reports to the NSC.[6]

Kill authorizations

A secret National Security Council panel may pursue the killing of an individual who has been called a suspected terrorist.[7] In this case, no public record of this decision or any operation to kill the suspect will be made available.[7] No laws govern criteria for killing such suspects, nor mandate the existence of the panel.[7]

National Security Advisor Susan Rice, who has helped codify targeted killing criteria by creating the Disposition Matrix database, has described the Obama Administration targeted killing policy by stating that "in order to ensure that our counterterrorism operations involving the use of lethal force are legal, ethical, and wise, President Obama has demanded that we hold ourselves to the highest possible standards and processes".[8]

It is unknown who has been placed on the kill list; Mark Hosenball, a Reuters reporter, alleges Anwar al-Awlaki was on the list.[7]

On February 4, 2013, NBC published a leaked Department of Justice memo providing a summary of the rationale used to justify targeted killing of US citizens who are senior operational leaders of Al-Qa'ida or associated forces.[9]

See also


  1. ^ Encyclopedia of American foreign policy, 2nd ed. Vol. 2, New York: Scribner, 2002, National Security Council, 22 April 2009
  2. ^ In Security Shuffle, White House Merges Staffs
  3. ^ Policy Directive 1 (PDD-1), White House, Feb 13, 2009
  4. ^ "National Security Council". The White House. Retrieved 4 April 2012. 
  5. ^ a b Rogin, Josh (March 19, 2013). "Liz Sherwood-Randall promoted to new White House position". The Cable, Foreign Policy Magazine. Retrieved 19 March 2013. 
  6. ^ "Elite High Value Interrogation Unit Is Taking Its First Painful Steps", by Ed Barnes, Fox News Channel, May 12, 2010
  7. ^ a b c d "'"Secret panel can put Americans on "kill list. Reuters. 5 October 2011. 
  8. ^ John O. Brennan's April 2012 Wilson Center Speech: The Efficacy and Ethics of U.S. Counterterrorism Strategy (Transcript and Video).
  9. ^ DOJ Whitepaper

Additional sources

Further reading

  • Ivo H. Daalder and I.M. Destler, In the Shadow of the Oval Office: Profiles of the National Security Advisers and the Presidents They Served—From JFK to George W. Bush Simon & Schuster; 2009, ISBN 978-1-4165-5319-9.
  • Karl F. Inderfurth and Loch K. Johnson, eds. Fateful Decisions: Inside the National Security Council. Oxford University Press, 2004. ISBN 978-0-19-515966-0.
  • James Peck (2006). Washington's China: The National Security World, the Cold War, and the Origins of Globalism. Amherst, MA:  
  • David J. Rothkopf, Running The World: the Inside Story of the National Security Council and the Architects of American Power, PublicAffairs; 2006, ISBN 978-1-58648-423-1.
  • Journey to the Center of the World: U.S. National Security Council – Arzın Merkezine Seyahat: ABD Ulusal Güvenlik Konseyi – Article on US NSC in Turkish
  • Cody M. Brown, The National Security Council: A Legal History of the President's Most Powerful Advisers, Project on National Security Reform (2008).
  • M. Kent Bolton, U.S. National Security and Foreign Policymaking after 9/11: Present at the Re-Creation, Rowman & Littlefield; 2007, ISBN 978-0-7425-4847-3.

External links

  • Official National Security Council website
  • History of the NSC from the White House at the Wayback Machine (archived March 12, 2008)
  • Records of the National Security Council (NSC) in the National Archives
  • White House Office, National Security Council Staff Papers, 1948–1961, Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library
  • Homeland Security Watch ( provides current details on the NSC as it pertains to homeland security.
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