Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

February 9, 2009

HSC-NSC Merger More Likely

Filed under: Organizational Issues,Strategy — by Jonah Czerwinski on February 9, 2009

A new presidential directive and a detailed implementation document will expand the National Security Council’s jurisdiction to include cybersecurity, energy, climate change, nation-building and infrastructure, as well as traditional foreign policy issues. The Washington Post published a detailed story yesterday based on an interview with National Security Advisor Jim Jones that indicated further progress on a possible unification of the NSC and Homeland Security Council. This week, the Senate will hold an important hearing on the subject.

The Post’s Karen DeYoung writes that most homeland and counterterrorism policy issues “may be subsumed into the expanded NSC.” The fate of the HSC as a separate body will be determined by a White House review over the next 50 days to be conducted for the President and Jones by John O. Brennan. Brennan, a former CIA official, was named deputy national security adviser for counterterrorism.

I noted at the time that it was possibly indicative of an NSC-HSC merger that when Jones was named, no corresponding Homeland Security Adviser was named. It seemed only more certain when Brennan was named, but no deputy for homeland security was. With Brennan in charge of this review, it may be even clearer that a merger is in the offing.

Brennan described his task to DeYoung as a “systems engineering challenge” to avoid overlap with the NSC while ensuring that “homeland security matters, broadly defined, are going to get the attention they need from the White House.”

This Thursday, the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs convenes a hearing entitled “Structuring National Security and Homeland Security at the White House,” which will include former senior officials in charge of these issues during the Bush Administration, as well as think tank experts. The witness list is expected to be made public tomorrow. The hearing is scheduled for 10:00 AM at the Dirksen Senate Office Building, Room 342.

Witness list is now public for this week’s hearing. We’ll hear testimony on the question of merging the HSC and NSC from:

  • Tom Ridge, former Secretary of Homeland Security
  • Fran Townsend, former Assistant to President George W. Bush for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism
  • Christine Wormuth, Senior Fellow, International Security Program, Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Jim Locher, Executive Director, Project on National Security Reform
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    Comment by William R. Cumming

    February 9, 2009 @ 10:06 am

    Apologies in advance for the long comment.My first question is rather simple and certainly repetitive from my past comments! Will the Administration have a domestic crisis management system in place and a domestic crisis management chain of command in place by the time of delivery of the STATE of the UNION address! Underlying this question is the increased reliance of the Obama Administration on militarization of domestic crisis management almost across the board. This is not to question the patriotism or capability of the career military but it is a different culture. Remember the old saw, sourced to Winston Churcill I believe, something like democracy is one of the most inefficient and ineffective political systems yet discovered except when compared to all the rest. The tumult and dissent and second opinions of the civilian governmental structure sometimes avoids the mistakes of those saying “CAN DO” when they really cannot. On top of that the roughly trillion dollar defense economy while federal civil agencies starve and STATE and LOCAL governments starve (laregely because of a decrepit financing system build on the property tax) even to the extent that now critical public safety activities (like police, fire, EM, public health (EMT) and Hazardous Materials Response are being not just cut but damaged for years to come from budget reductions (much less K-12 education)it seems that perhaps the Administration is already off track. I personally support the merger of HSC and NSC (this won’t cut down on the number of White House CZARS because so many new ones have been added. But I would also put the Drug CZAR under NSC. Karen DeYoung’s WAPO article was of great interest to me because shortly before leaving the SENATE Senator Fritz Hollings got the Senate to within 1 vote of putting the Attorney General on as a statutory member of the NSC. Only two AG’s have sat EX OFFICION on all NSC proceedings, Robert Kennedy and Edward Meese. Time that the lawless at times NSC be brought under the “No Man (or organization)above the law” standard. Also frequently, NSC has issued NSDDs, NSPD, and all kinds of other national security reviews and findings all exempt from the discipline of having to worry about budgeting these initiatives because it knew (or at least the 1/3 to 3/4 of its actively serving Officers knew) that DOD could always find the money and funding even while NSC tasked the underfunded and understaffed federal civil agencies with new unfunded mandates. The HSC did the same thing. Also no study of the impact of some of the NSC guidance documents on STATE and LOCAL governments ever occurred. Okay solutions. Let’s create a National Security and Homeland Security impact finding given to Congress on each bill voted out of Committee in Congress. Also perhaps an Environmental Impact Finding. By the way if true cleanup costs of the Military activity taking place domestically including the nuclear weapons establishment were to be documented there would be no room for the current economic bailout. The Adminitration has called for openess and transparency. Okay let’s measure the true cost of past operations (mistakes).

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    February 9, 2009 @ 1:17 pm

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