Sen. Warner Announces Legislation to Codify Membership on the National Security Council
Addresses issues raised by President Trump's move to diminish roles of intel, military experts
Feb 01 2017
WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, announced today that he will introduce legislation to clarify the permanent membership of the National Security Council (NSC) to better ensure that decisions affecting the national security of the nation are not clouded by political calculations. The legislation addresses significant concerns following President Trump's reorganization of the NSC, diminishing the permanent roles of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Director of National Intelligence and extending permanent NSC membership to a top campaign and political advisor.
“President Trump's reorganization of the NSC is deeply troubling, and it reflects a misguided desire to place political considerations above the valued and sober advice of any president's most experienced military and intelligence advisors,” Sen. Warner said. “The swift, broad and bipartisan criticism of President Trump's NSC reorganization reflects a deep concern that this administration continues to deny, and even dismiss, the judgment of career public servants most responsible for evaluating risks and implementing policies to keep Americans safe. In this specific case, the administration's misguided approach literally could mean the difference between war and peace.”
On Saturday, President Trump issued National Security Presidential Memorandum (NSPM) 2, which outlined how he would organize and use his National Security Council. In the memorandum, he elevated a senior political advisor to be a core member of the influential Principals Committee, while also removing the Director of National Intelligence and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff as permanent members of the Principals Committee unless issues pertaining to their responsibilities or expertise are to be discussed.
“Presidents from Truman to Obama have utilized the guidance of the NSC to make tough foreign policy decisions and keep our nation safe from harm,” Sen. Warner said. “Respected national security voices in both parties have pointed out that it is unprecedented for the president’s chief political advisor to be made part of a process that should be above politics.”
The Strengthening Oversight of National Security Act would specifically amend the National Security Act of 1947 to clarify membership at the senior advisory level of the NSC, ensuring that national security experts are the ones crafting national security policy. It does so by setting out in law limits to membership.
- The bill amends the National Security Act to specify the composition of the National Security Council. In addition to the current statutorily designated NSC members, the bill adds the Director of National Intelligence and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
- The bill further establishes that the composition of the cabinet-level interagency forum for policy consideration and decision making to support the NSC will reflect the membership of the NSC with flexibility to add other Senate-confirmed members. Any exceptions must be one-time actions and notified to Congress within 24 hours.
- The bill requires the Consent of the Congress to add any non-Senate confirmed official except the National Security Advisor and Deputies, Homeland Security Advisor and Deputies, Assistant to the President and Chief of Staff, Counsel, Assistant to the President for Economic Policy, and the Assistant to the Vice President for National Security. The composition limitation applies to members and attendees.
“The National Security Council makes some of the most important and sensitive recommendations to the President. Ensuring that those recommendations are made by knowledgeable professionals who can provide objective analysis is critically important at this time,” Sen. Warner said.
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