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People, Process, and Policy: Case Studies in National Security Advising, the National Security Council, and Presidential Decision Making

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Technical Report

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This study analyzes the conception, growth, and management of the United States US National Security Council NSC. The author traces the history of the NSCs creation, and assesses its role in the national strategy process during the first terms of the Eisenhower, Clinton, and George W. Bush administrations. It analyzes not only the Councils structural and procedural characteristics, but more importantly the roles of the president, principals, and National Security Advisors NSA in managing the NSCs functions. It concludes that, while the NSC remains the central and most relevant organization for conducting strategy and executing the interagency process, its role has become relegated to a crisis-management body rather than a grand strategy forum as originally intended in 1947. As determined by each presidents desires, the principals and NSAs influence on the foreign policy decision-making waxes and wanes from administration to administration, from term to term, and even from crisis to crisis. The NSA, as the leading foreign-policy advisor to the president and the manager of the NSC strategy process, must respond to the presidents decision-making style to determine the appropriate role for the NSA. They must also be prepared to depart from their expected role, typically the honest broker model, and assume other roles such as policy advocate or entrepreneur, to compensate for the presidents shortfalls or to balance the principals approach to the strategy process. Just as the NSA shapes their own role, they must also adapt the NSCs functions to synchronize the administrations strategy process with the presidents management and decision-making style. By examining three unique US president-NSA-NSC case studies, this thesis shows how different levels of presidential support for the NSA and their NSC strategy and interagency processes, more than any factor, defines the success of the system.

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  • Administration and Management
  • Government and Political Science

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