Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

May 26, 2009

HSC staff and NSC staff to become NSS

Filed under: Organizational Issues,Strategy — by Philip J. Palin on May 26, 2009

According to the Boston Globe, this afternoon the President announced his long-signaled decision to integrate the White House staff currently assigned to the National Security Council and Homeland Security Council.  The HSC and NSC, consisting of cabinet principals and established by statute, will continue.  But the staff elements will be combined.

As of 2PM eastern I cannot find other confirmation, Nothing related is showing up on the White House website. But the Globe is a trustworthy source.  According to the Globe, here is the full White House  announcement:

As President, my highest priority is the safety and security of the American people. That is why, in February, I issued a Presidential Study Directive to look at how the White House should be organized to deal with the critical issues of homeland security and counterterrorism.  I have carefully reviewed the findings and recommendations of that study, and am announcing a new approach which will strengthen our security and the safety of our citizens. These decisions reflect the fundamental truth that the challenges of the 21st Century are increasingly unconventional and transnational, and therefore demand a response that effectively integrates all aspects of American power.

Key decisions that I have made include:

The full integration of White House staff supporting national security and homeland security. The new “National Security Staff” will support all White House policymaking activities related to international, transnational, and homeland security matters. The establishment of the new National Security Staff, under the direction of the National Security Advisor, will end the artificial divide between White House staff who have been dealing with national security and homeland security issues.

Maintaining the Homeland Security Council as the principle venue for interagency deliberations on issues that affect the security of the homeland such as terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, natural disasters, and pandemic influenza. The Homeland Security Council, like its National Security Council counterpart, will be supported by the National Security Staff.

The establishment of new directorates and positions within the National Security Staff to deal with new and emerging 21st Century challenges associated with cybersecurity, WMD terrorism, transborder security, information sharing, and resilience policy, including preparedness and response.

Retaining the position of Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism (AP/HSCT) as my principal White House advisor on these issues, with direct and immediate access to me. The security of our homeland is of paramount importance to me, and I will not allow organizational impediments to stand in the way of timely action that ensures the safety of our citizens.

Creating a new Global Engagement Directorate to drive comprehensive engagement policies that leverage diplomacy, communications, international development and assistance, and domestic engagement and outreach in pursuit of a host of national security objectives, including those related to homeland security.

The United States faces a wide array of challenges to its security, and the White House must be organized to effectively and efficiently leverage the tremendous talent and expertise of the dedicated Americans who work within it. The creation of the National Security Staff and the other recommendations from the study that I have approved will help to keep our country safe and our Homeland secure.

As regular readers of this blog know too well, I have been an advocate for keeping the Homeland Security Council staff distinct from the National Security Council staff.  The renaming of the National Security Council staff is more of a fig leaf than a substantive shift. But while I regret the decision, I do not question its earnest purpose.  I hope the integrated staff will decisively disprove all of my concerns regarding the threat of a national security mindset overwhelming and misdirecting the Homeland Security domain. 

I am especially encouraged by the decision to name a Resilience Policy Directorate.  This could initiate  and shepherd a very helpful and needed  strategic shift.

(As of 2:21 Eastern I am receiving several Email confirmations from DHS and others, but nothing yet on the White House website.  I am going into a meeting that will keep me offline for at least a couple of hours.  Please use the comment function to point readers to news coverage or the White House announcement. I think the Globe was first, Ambinder was second, and HLSwatch was third, all within the same 40 minutes.)

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Comment by Arnold

May 26, 2009 @ 1:52 pm

The White House announcement can be found here: http://www.whitehouse.gov/the_press_office/Statement-by-the-President-on-the-White-House-Organization-for-Homeland-Security-and-Counterterrorism/

I like this decision. I think retaining both Councils is simply recognition that changing the statues would entail too much work for too little actual result. The cabinet-level players can be included in every discussion that involves their agency (at the discretion of the White House when it is one not included in the statute). Whether the meeting is held under the auspices of the HSC or NSC matters little…

…if the staffs are truly merged. So budgets and other resources are equally shared between the work of the two Councils. Of course someone will always be able to nitpick about White House focus (i.e. not enough attention on “my” topic), but if the key players really do not care for preparedness and response (not saying they don’t, just using it as an example often brought up by proponents of keeping the HSC staff separate), having a separate staff that would end up under-resourced and ignored anyway would not change the underlying conditions.

Comment by William R. Cumming

May 26, 2009 @ 2:32 pm

Okay a decision but based on what reports and what analysis and what “groupthink”? Is there a distinction between the terms National Security and Homeland Security? Probably more in the career structure and culture of a somewhat larger domestic focus in the latter and a larger foreign ops focus and armed force in the former. Again however no real transparency as to who met with whom, what issues or policies identified as being enhanced or deflected by continuation of current system. Congressional oversight could be helpful and perhaps the statutory charters of both NSC and HSC need more than tweaking. So let’s see. While we’re at it does someone remember why this whole structure issue came up? My real resistence to the merger was dominance of military detailees to run NSC staff! My support was that no real line drawing possible given that the bulk of resources are with the NSC structure and HSC a stepchild. Okay two issues that might be usefully worked on by the NSS! First, the emergency blood supply of the United States? Impacts the totality from domestic catastrophic and up to and including war fighting with WMD! Second, Medical staffing issues from war fighting to large scale domestic catastrophes? Okay you say neither of these are in the realm of the NSS. Oh yes they are by published delegations from the President. And while you are looking see what HHS and DHS have done on these critical supply issues, one involving blood and one personnel. Of course there are thousands for the NSS staff to work through. Oh again that’s right. They don’t really decide policy differences, just reactive CYA for the President after the problem is critical. Let’s have a statute governing conflicts of interest with respect to their home department, agency, or branch of service, need-to-know [should there be huge stovepipes among NSS on various issues?]time served on NSS and oh yes why not let them testify as to PERSONAL views before Congress? If they get fired for their personal views then that is the risk they take but every once in a while an issue of conscience might just allow the smoke and mirrors of the NSC and HSC ops to be dissolved into a full disclosure. Well I can dream can’t I?

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