National Security Advisor (United States)

Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
Susan Rice

since July 1, 2013
Executive Office of the President
National Security Council staff
Reports to The President
Chief of Staff to the President
Appointer The President
Constituting instrument The post is defined by the current executive order defining the work of the National Security Council.
Formation 1953
First holder Robert Cutler
Deputy Deputy National Security Advisor
Website The White House

The Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, commonly referred to as the National Security Advisor or at times informally termed the NSC advisor,[1][2] is a senior aide in the Executive Office of the President, based at the West Wing of the White House, who serves as the chief in-house advisor to the President of the United States on national security issues.

The APNSA also participates in the meetings of the National Security Council and usually chairs the Principal Committee meetings with the Secretary of State and Secretary of Defense (i.e., the meetings not attended by the President). The APNSA is supported by the National Security Council staff that produces research and briefings for the APNSA to review and present, either to the National Security Council or directly to the President.

The current Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs is Susan Rice, who assumed the role on July 1, 2013.[3]


The Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs (APNSA) is appointed by the President without confirmation by the Senate.[4] The influence and role of the National Security Advisor varies from administration to administration and depends not only on the qualities of the person appointed to the position but also on the style and management philosophy of the incumbent President.[5] Ideally, the APNSA serves as an honest broker of policy options for the President in the field of national security, rather than as an advocate for his or her own policy agenda.[6]

However, the APNSA is a staff position in the Executive Office of the President and does not have line or budget authority over either the Department of State or the Department of Defense, unlike the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Defense, who are Senate-confirmed officials with statutory authority over their departments;[7] but the APNSA is able to offer daily advice (due to the proximity) to the President independently of the vested interests of the large bureaucracies and clientele of those departments.[5]

In times of crisis, the National Security Advisor is likely to operate from the White House Situation Room or the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (as on September 11, 2001[8]), updating the President on the latest events in a crisis situation.


President George H. W. Bush meets in the Oval Office with his NSC about Operation Desert Shield, 1991

The National Security Council was created at the start of the Cold War under the National Security Act of 1947 to coordinate defense, foreign affairs, international economic policy, and intelligence; this was part of a large reorganization that saw the creation of the Department of Defense and the Central Intelligence Agency.[9][10] In 1949, the NSC became part of the president's executive office.[9] The National Security Act of 1947 did not create the position of the National Security Advisor per se, but it did create an executive secretary in charge of the staff.

Robert Cutler became the first National Security Advisor in 1953. The system has remained largely unchanged since then, particularly since Kennedy's time, with powerful National Security Advisors and strong staff but a lower importance given to formal NSC meetings. This continuity persists despite the tendency of each new president to replace the advisor and senior NSC staff.[9]

Henry Kissinger, President Richard Nixon's National Security Advisor, enhanced the importance of the role, controlling the flow of information to the President and meeting him multiple times per day. Henry Kissinger also holds the distinction of serving as National Security Advisor and United States Secretary of State at the same time from September 22, 1973, until November 3, 1975.[9][10]

List of National Security Advisors

# Picture Name Term of Office[11] President(s) served under
Start End
1 Robert Cutler March 23, 1953 April 2, 1955 Dwight D. Eisenhower
2 Dillon Anderson April 2, 1955 September 1, 1956
3 William H. Jackson September 1, 1956 January 7, 1957
4 Robert Cutler January 7, 1957 June 24, 1958
5 Gordon Gray June 24, 1958 January 13, 1961
6 McGeorge Bundy January 20, 1961 February 28, 1966 John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson
7 Walt W. Rostow April 1, 1966 January 20, 1969 Lyndon B. Johnson
8 Henry Kissinger January 20, 1969 November 3, 1975 Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford
9 Brent Scowcroft November 3, 1975 January 20, 1977 Gerald Ford
10 Zbigniew Brzezinski January 20, 1977 January 21, 1981 Jimmy Carter
11 Richard V. Allen January 21, 1981 January 4, 1982 Ronald Reagan
12 William P. Clark, Jr. January 4, 1982 October 17, 1983
13 Robert McFarlane October 17, 1983 December 4, 1985
14 John Poindexter December 4, 1985 November 25, 1986
15 Frank Carlucci December 2, 1986 November 23, 1987
16 Colin Powell November 23, 1987 January 20, 1989
17 Brent Scowcroft January 20, 1989 January 20, 1993 George H. W. Bush
18 Anthony Lake January 20, 1993 March 14, 1997 Bill Clinton
19 Sandy Berger March 14, 1997 January 20, 2001
20 Condoleezza Rice January 22, 2001[12] January 25, 2005[12] George W. Bush
21 Stephen Hadley January 26, 2005[12] January 20, 2009
22 James Jones[13] January 20, 2009 October 8, 2010 Barack Obama
23 Tom Donilon[14] October 8, 2010 July 1, 2013[15]
24 Susan Rice[15] July 1, 2013[15] January 20, 2017
25 Michael Flynn January 20, 2017 Designate Donald Trump

Brent Scowcroft is the only person to have held the job in two different administrations: in the Ford administration and in the George H.W. Bush administration. Robert Cutler also held the job twice, both times under Dwight D. Eisenhower.


2009-02: The National Security Advisor and Staff (PDF). 2009. 

  1. The National Security Advisor and Staff: p. 1.
  2. Abbreviated NSA, or sometimes APNSA or ANSA in order to avoid confusion with the abbreviation of the National Security Agency.
  3. "Key members of Obama-Biden national security team announced | The Obama-Biden Transition Team". Retrieved 2016-08-12.
  4. The National Security Advisor and Staff: p. 29.
  5. 1 2 The National Security Advisor and Staff: pp. 17-21.
  6. The National Security Advisor and Staff: pp. 10-14.
  7. See 22 U.S.C. § 2651 for the Secretary of State and 10 U.S.C. § 113 for the Secretary of Defense.
  8. Clarke, Richard A. (2004). Against All Enemies. New York: Free Press. p. 18. ISBN 0-7432-6024-4.
  9. 1 2 3 4 George, Robert Z; Harvey Rishikof (2011). The National Security Enterprise: Navigating the Labyrinth. Georgetown University Press. p. 32.
  10. 1 2 Schmitz, David F. (2011). Brent Scowcroft: Internationalism and Post-Vietnam War American Foreign Policy. Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 2–3.
  11. "History of the National Security Council, 1947-1997". National Security Council. White House. August 1997. Archived from the original on 2008-03-06. Retrieved 2008-09-05.
  12. 1 2 3 The National Security Advisor and Staff: p. 33.
  13. "Key members of Obama-Biden national security team announced" (Press release). The Office of the President Elect. 1 December 2008. Retrieved 2008-12-01.
  14. "Donilon to replace Jones as national security adviser". CNN. October 2010. Retrieved 2010-10-08.
  15. 1 2 3 Scott Wilson and Colum Lynch (June 5, 2013). "Tom Donilon resigning as Kir To Koon national security adviser; Susan Rice to replace him". Washington Post.

External links

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