National Security Council

President Gerald Ford meeting with the National Security Council in the Cabinet Room of the White House.

The National Security Council (NSC) was established by the National Security Act of 1947 to "advise the President with respect to the integration of domestic, foreign and military polices relating to the national security so as to enable the military services and other departments and agencies of the Government to cooperate more effectively in matters involving the national security." In addition, the National Security Council exists to more effectively coordinate the policies and functions of departments and agencies involved in national security, assess the objectives, commitments, and risks of the United States in relation to our actual and potential military power, and consider policies on matters of common interest to departments and agencies involved in national security.

The National Security Council is chaired by the President. The exact composition of the NSC is at the discretion of each President, but must include the following statutory members:

  • President
  • Vice President
  • Secretary of State
  • Secretary of Defense

In 2007, Congress added the Secretary of Energy to the National Security Council. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is the statutory military advisor to the Council and the Director of National Intelligence is its statutory intelligence advisor. Other cabinet officials, such as the President's Chief of Staff or the Attorney General, may attend NSC meetings based on the issues to be discussed. Under President George W. Bush, the Secretary of the Treasury and the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs are non-statutory members of the NSC.

Historically, the President establishes the interagency coordination structures that support National Security Council deliberations in each President's first policy directive. The National Security Council traditionally focuses on foreign and defense policy, although economic, energy, and transnational threat issues are also addressed by the National Security Council.

History of the National Security Council