National Security Policy Development, Coordination, and Oversight

NSPD-1 outlines four coordinating bodies that consider cross-cutting policy issues affecting national security, weigh options, and make recommendations to the next higher level, in order to obtain Presidential decisions. There are interagency groups, ad hoc bodies, and executive committees that exist outside of the NSC structure that are mandated by statute or executive order or are necessary for the accomplishment of the particular agency function, but the center of interagency policy coordination resides within the NSC committee structure. The coordinating bodies described are not standing organizations with permanent staff, but they do meet frequently and therefore allow members to build lasting relationships and understanding of national security roles, authorities, processes, and capabilities.


President Clinton, speaking with advisors.

1. The National Security Council (NSC) is described in Lesson 3. The NSC is the most senior interagency forum for policy coordination.

2. The NSC Principals Committee (PC) is the senior interagency coordination body below the NSC. Attendees are similar to the NSC, but meetings are hosted by the National Security Advisor.

3. The NSC Deputies Committee (DC) serves as the senior sub-Cabinet interagency body for coordinating national security policy issues. The DC prescribes and reviews the work of the subordinate interagency groups and ensures that issues being brought before the PC or the NSC have been properly analyzed and prepared for decision. The Deputy National Security Advisor chairs DC meetings. Other regular members include the Deputy Secretary of State or Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, the Deputy Secretary of the Treasury or Under Secretary of the Treasury for International Affairs, the Deputy Secretary of Defense or Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, the Deputy Attorney General, the Deputy Director of the Office of Management and Budget, the Deputy Director of National Intelligence, the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Deputy Chief of Staff to the President for Policy, the Chief of Staff and National Security Adviser to the Vice President, and the Deputy Assistant to the President for International Economic Affairs. Other senior officials attend, as appropriate, particularly for economic issues.

4. NSC Policy Coordination Committees (PCCs) manage the development and coordination of national security policies by multiple agencies of the U.S. Government on a more routine basis. PCCs provide policy analysis for consideration by the more senior committees of the NSC system and ensure timely responses to decisions made by the President. Each PCC includes representatives from the organizations represented in the DC and is chaired by a person of Under Secretary or Assistant Secretary rank. PCCs establish subordinate working groups to assist the PCC in the performance of its duties. (PCC structure as of December 2007.)

The main products of NSC coordination committees are position papers, directives that establish policy and/or direct implementation activities, and summaries of conclusion from committee meetings. Intangible products include common understanding of: key national security issues; other agency perspectives; and the rationale behind national security policies and decisions.