House adopts amendment that slashes National Security Council

Greg Nash

The House on Tuesday adopted an amendment to a defense policy bill that would cap the National Security Council at 100 staffers, unless the National Security Adviser goes before the Senate for confirmation. 

The amendment, proposed by House Armed Services Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) was adopted by voice vote. 

{mosads}”I think everybody agrees that a president ought to have advisers, and there ought to be a…protected zone for those advisers to offer advice to the president,” Thornberry said. 

“But the problem is when those advisers do more than advise — when they direct. And when they in fact get into the operational military chain of command — that’s a problem,” he said. 

Thornberry said there has been a “tremendous increase” in NSC staff and an “astonishing increase in micromanagement and direction of military forces that come from these NSC staffers.” 

He also noted that all previous defense secretaries in the Obama administration, and former Defense Under Secretary Michele Flournoy, have complained about NSC micromanagement.  

“In fact they insert themselves into the military chain of command, and yet they are not confirmed by the Senate, nor is their supervisor, and they never have to come testify to us about the direction they give the military,” he argued. 

“That’s the reason that there has developed an imbalance in the balance of powers constructed in the Constitution,” he said. 

House Armed Services ranking Member Adam Smith (D-Wash.) opposed the amendment, arguing that the rise in size of the NSC reflects the threat environment growing much more complex. 

Smith also said permitting only 100 would allow only for administrative staff. And although he agreed that micromanagement has been a problem, he argued that it could happen with a smaller number of staff, too. 

The House is expected to vote on the defense bill, which authorizes defense policy and spending, on Wednesday.  

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