A new Congressional Research Service report has taken a deep look into the workings of the National Security Council. The report evaluates each council and its role under every president from the Truman administration in 1947 through the present.
As for its evaluation of the Obama administration, the report, highlighted this morning in the Federation of American Scientists' Secrecy News blog, notes that in May 2009, the administration announced the integration of the staffs of the National Security Council and the Homeland Security Council into a single National Security Staff (NSS).
"The position of assistant to the president for homeland security, currently filled by John Brennan, will be retained 'with direct and immediate access' to the president, but the incumbent would organizationally report to the national security adviser," according to CRS. Further:
In the initial months of the Obama Administration, several steps have been taken to modify and enhance the role of the National Security Council. The integration of NSC and Homeland Security Council staffs may work to overcome the intelligence and law enforcement divide that many observers believe existed prior to 9/11. It may also facilitate closer cooperation of Federal agencies and state, local, and tribal entities in dealing with homeland security issues. These relationships are, however, complex and derive from separate statutory missions; observers suggest that establishing new organizational entities can affect, but not determine, the ability of different agencies to share information and cooperate on operational planning and programs. The relationships among the relevant senior officials and the role of the President will remain crucial. The Obama Administration has not had to contend with major public disputes between the NSC and the State and Defense Departments, but there have been some complaints that Mr. Brennan has exercised an influence on intelligence activities that more properly belongs to the Director of National Intelligence.
-- John Liang