Leahy Joins In Introducing Legislation To Codify Membership On The National Security Council

Senator Patrick Leahy joined Senate Select Committee On Intelligence Vice Chairman Mark R. Warner (D-Va.) Thursday in introducing legislation that will clarify the permanent membership of the National Security Council (NSC).  The introduction follows the unprecedented reorganization of the NSC by President Trump, which diminished the permanent roles of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Director of National Intelligence and extended NSC membership to Steve Bannon, a top campaign and political advisor.

Leahy, Vice Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee and a leading member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said:  “National security decisions must be formed and advised by those with experience.  Removing the certainty that the top military officer and top intelligence official will always be in the room in exchange for the guaranteed presence of a political advisor is nothing short of bizarre and dangerous.  Politics have no place inside the National Security Council, let alone politics that condone hate, misinformation and intolerance.  Throughout our history we have strived to reject these assaults on American values.  I’m proud to join this legislation to stop this unprecedented and dangerous move from ever happening again.”

Warner and Leahy were joined by Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.)

In November, Leahy spoke out on the Senate Floor opposing the appointment of Stephen Bannon as White House Chief Strategist, saying that hateful and intolerant rhetoric only serve to divide us and do not belong in the White House.  

Late last week, 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.

The Strengthening Oversight of National Security Act will 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.  

A copy of the bill text is available here.

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