Wednesday, April 27, 2016

the bloated [?] NSC staff

For several months, numerous former officials and authors of think tank reports have been complaining about the Obama NSC staff, using terms like "bloated" and addicted to "micromanagement." The House Armed Services Committee may even try to legislate a cap on the staff size -- though early reports suggested that the number would be even lower than its own committee staff.

In rebuttal, former Obama official Derek Chollet cites similar complaints from previous administrations and offer his own balanced assessment of the issue.
West Wing officials tend to approach the bureaucracy in one of two ways: believing it is doing too much and going beyond what the president has decided, or that it is doing too little and not fulfilling what the president wants done. (During my time at the White House, I found myself toggling back and forth.) The answer to both is more oversight, which can often evolve into bureaucratic overreach. In my experience, even when the White House tried to focus more on the strategic issues and leave tactical implementation to the Pentagon or State Department, decisions would slowly gravitate back to the Situation Room. Given that the president would be the one held accountable by the public, press, and Congress, the incentives usually were for the White House to take more control, not less.
I don't think Congress should try to force a numerical ceiling; it would only lead to a numbers game even worse than now. I do believe the staff should be smaller and more strategic -- and the National Security Adviser should have a Senate-confirmed appointment, with legal power to effectively manage the interagency process. 

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