Ever since National Security Adviser James Jones told The Washington Post in early February that the Obama administration's National Security Council would be "dramatically different" from its predecessors, Washington has watched and waited. Jones' words sent a message: that the NSC would act as the White House's integrator for an unprecedented range of policy issues -- security, military, economic, energy, environmental. To do so, however, this key White House body would need to overcome the constraints that have limited its role in prior administrations in international security issues.
Count me skeptical. There are two unanswered questions: How wide a range of issues will the NSC's jurisdiction cover, and will Jones himself be able to develop an operating style that is consistent with President Obama's informal, substantively intense, and rapid decision-making?
On February 13, several days after Jones' widely reported interview, Obama issued Presidential Policy Directive 1, which codifies formal procedures for managing national security issues in the White House. At first glance, the order seemed to confirm Jones' declaration: it names 11 senior members of the Obama administration as regular members of the NSC, reaching beyond its long-standing statutory core (the vice president and the secretaries of state and defense) to include the secretaries of the treasury and homeland security and, "when international economic issues are on the agenda," the U.S. trade representative, the secretary of commerce, and two senior White House economic aides. And it defines the scope of the NSC as "all aspects of national security policy as it affects the United States -- domestic, foreign, military, intelligence, and economic (in conjunction with the National Economic Council)."
This sounds broad. But it is not all that new. The original National Security Act of 1947, signed by President Harry Truman, gave the NSC responsibility for "the integration of domestic, foreign, and military policies relating to the national security." In February 2001, George W. Bush's National Security Presidential Directive 1 defined the NSC's jurisdiction in essentially the same terms as Obama's directive did. The only officials
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