The Development of the National Security Council

DURING the Eisenhower Administration, the National Security Council has emerged as a mechanism of the executive branch of the federal government for advising the President on matters of high policy, equal in importance to the Cabinet. The solid establishment and effective functioning of this relatively new organ at the apex of government is a current phenomenon of America's political economy.

The National Security Council was created by the National Security Act of 1947 and first began to function in late September 1947. An account of its origin, characteristics, composition and current rôle has recently been given by Dillon Anderson, Special Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs.[i] Because it is Mr. Anderson's function to operate the Council mechanism for the President--as it was mine before his day--he is particularly qualified to tell that story. While it is not here necessary to repeat all that is there so clearly set forth, it will be desirable at the outset to summarize certain essential aspects of the National Security Council.

The Council, unlike the Cabinet, had from its birth the legislative sanction of an Act of Congress. Under its statutory charter, the Council is concerned only in policy matters affecting the security of the nation. The Cabinet, by reasonable accommodation, handles other vast policy areas such as Agriculture, Labor, Post Office, Interior, Health, Education and Welfare, Civil Service, much of Justice and Commerce, and so forth. The Council's purpose is to integrate the manifold aspects of national security policy (such as foreign, military, economic, fiscal, internal security, psychological) to the end that security policies finally recommended to the President shall be both representative and fused, rather than compartmentalized and several. The Council's rôle is advisory only. It recommends; it does not decide. Whatever security policy may be finally approved by the President, after such modifications or rejections of the Council's views as he may determine, is the policy, not of the Council, but of the Chief Executive.

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