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National Security Advisor (United States)

The Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs (APNSA), commonly referred to as the National Security Advisor (NSA) or at times informally termed the NSC Advisor,[2][3] is a senior aide in the Executive Office of the President, based at the West Wing of the White House, who serves as the chief in-house advisor to the President of the United States on national security issues. The National Security Advisor is appointed by the President and does not require confirmation by the Senate,[4] but an appointment of a three or four-star general to the role requires Senate reconfirmation of military rank.[5]

Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
John R. Bolton official photo (cropped).jpg
John R. Bolton

since April 9, 2018
Executive Office of the President
National Security Council
Reports toThe President of the United States
Appointer The President of the United States
Constituting instrumentThe post is defined by the current directive (National Security Presidential Memorandum–4[1]) defining the work of the National Security Council.
First holderRobert Cutler
DeputyDeputy National Security Advisor
WebsiteWhite House website

The National Security Advisor participates in meetings of the National Security Council (NSC) and usually chairs meetings of the Principals Committee of the NSC with the Secretary of State and Secretary of Defense (the meetings not attended by the President). The National Security Advisor is supported by NSC staff who produce research and briefings for the National Security Advisor to review and present, either to the National Security Council or directly to the President.



The influence and role of the National Security Advisor varies from administration to administration and depends not only on the qualities of the person appointed to the position, but also on the style and management philosophy of the incumbent President.[6] Ideally, the National Security Advisor serves as an honest broker of policy options for the President in the field of national security, rather than as an advocate for his or her own policy agenda.[7]

However, the National Security Advisor is a staff position in the Executive Office of the President and does not have line or budget authority over either the Department of State or the Department of Defense, unlike the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Defense, who are Senate-confirmed officials with statutory authority over their departments;[8] but the National Security Advisor is able to offer daily advice (due to the proximity) to the President independently of the vested interests of the large bureaucracies and clientele of those departments.[6]

In times of crisis, the National Security Advisor is likely to operate from the White House Situation Room or the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (as on September 11, 2001[9]), updating the President on the latest events in a crisis situation.


President George H. W. Bush meets in the Oval Office with his NSC about Operation Desert Shield, 1991

The National Security Council was created at the start of the Cold War under the National Security Act of 1947 to coordinate defense, foreign affairs, international economic policy, and intelligence; this was part of a large reorganization that saw the creation of the Department of Defense and the Central Intelligence Agency.[10][11] The Act did not create the position of the National Security Advisor per se, but it did create an executive secretary in charge of the staff. In 1949, the NSC became part of the Executive Office of the President.[10]

Robert Cutler was the first National Security Advisor in 1953. The system has remained largely unchanged since then, particularly since President John Kennedy, with powerful National Security Advisors and strong staff but a lower importance given to formal NSC meetings. This continuity persists despite the tendency of each new president to replace the advisor and senior NSC staff.[10]

President Richard Nixon's National Security Advisor, Henry Kissinger, enhanced the importance of the role, controlling the flow of information to the President and meeting him multiple times per day. Kissinger also holds the distinction of serving as National Security Advisor and Secretary of State at the same time from September 22, 1973, until November 3, 1975.[10][11]

List of National Security AdvisorsEdit

No. Portrait Name Term of office[12] President(s) served under
Start End Days
1 Robert Cutler (1895–1974) March 23, 1953 April 2, 1955 740 Dwight D. Eisenhower
2   Dillon Anderson (1906–1974) April 2, 1955 September 1, 1956 519
3   William H. Jackson (1901–1971)[13] September 1, 1956 January 7, 1957 128
4 Robert Cutler (1895–1974) January 7, 1957 June 24, 1958 533
5   Gordon Gray (1909–1982) June 24, 1958 January 13, 1961 934
6   McGeorge Bundy (1919–1996) January 20, 1961 February 28, 1966 1865 John F. Kennedy
Lyndon B. Johnson
7   Walt W. Rostow (1916–2003) April 1, 1966 January 20, 1969 1025
8   Henry Kissinger (1923–) January 20, 1969 November 3, 1975 2478 Richard Nixon
Gerald Ford
9   Brent Scowcroft (1925–) November 3, 1975 January 20, 1977 444
10   Zbigniew Brzezinski (1928–2017) January 20, 1977 January 20, 1981 1461 Jimmy Carter
11   Richard V. Allen (1936–) January 21, 1981 January 4, 1982 348 Ronald Reagan
12   William P. Clark, Jr. (1931–2013) January 4, 1982 October 17, 1983 651
13   Robert McFarlane (1937–) October 17, 1983 December 4, 1985 779
14   John Poindexter (1936–) December 4, 1985 November 25, 1986 356
15   Frank Carlucci (1930–2018) December 2, 1986 November 23, 1987 356
16   Colin Powell (1937–) November 23, 1987 January 20, 1989 424
17   Brent Scowcroft (1925–) January 20, 1989 January 20, 1993 1461 George H. W. Bush
18   Anthony Lake (1939–) January 20, 1993 March 14, 1997 1514 Bill Clinton
19   Sandy Berger (1945–2015) March 14, 1997 January 20, 2001 1408
20   Condoleezza Rice (1954–) January 22, 2001[14] January 25, 2005[14] 1464 George W. Bush
21   Stephen Hadley (1947–) January 26, 2005[14] January 20, 2009 1455
22   James Jones (1943–)[15] January 20, 2009 October 8, 2010 626 Barack Obama
23   Tom Donilon (1955–)[16] October 8, 2010 July 1, 2013[17] 997
24   Susan Rice (1964–)[17] July 1, 2013[17] January 20, 2017 1299
25   Michael Flynn (1958–) January 20, 2017 February 13, 2017 24 Donald Trump
Acting   Keith Kellogg (1944–) February 13, 2017 February 20, 2017 7
26   H. R. McMaster (1962–) February 20, 2017 April 9, 2018 412
27   John R. Bolton (1948–) April 9, 2018 present 230
  Denotes acting

Brent Scowcroft is the only person to have held the job in two non-consecutive administrations: in the Ford administration and in the G.H.W. Bush administration. Robert Cutler also held the job twice, both times during the Eisenhower administration. Henry Kissinger holds the record for longest term of service (2,478 days). Michael Flynn holds the record for shortest term of service (24 days).

Three and four-star generals require Senate confirmation due to the statutory nature requiring Congress to appoint their military rank.[5] The prior National Security Adviser, H. R. McMaster, is a three-star lieutenant general and his military rank was reconfirmed by the Senate on March 15, 2017.[18][19] On Thursday, March 22, 2018, President Donald Trump announced, via Twitter, that McMaster would be replaced as the National Security Advisor by former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John R. Bolton, effective April 9, 2018.[20]

See alsoEdit


2009-02: The National Security Advisor and Staff (PDF). 2009.

  1. ^ "National Security Presidential Memorandum–4 of April 4, 2017" (PDF).
  2. ^ The National Security Advisor and Staff: p. 1.
  3. ^ Abbreviated NSA, or sometimes APNSA or ANSA in order to avoid confusion with the abbreviation of the National Security Agency.
  4. ^ The National Security Advisor and Staff: p. 29.
  5. ^ a b "McMaster will need Senate confirmation to serve as national security adviser". Archived from the original on March 1, 2017. Retrieved March 12, 2017.
  6. ^ a b The National Security Advisor and Staff: pp. 17-21.
  7. ^ The National Security Advisor and Staff: pp. 10-14.
  8. ^ See 22 U.S.C. § 2651 for the Secretary of State and 10 U.S.C. § 113 for the Secretary of Defense.
  9. ^ Clarke, Richard A. (2004). Against All Enemies. New York: Free Press. p. 18. ISBN 0-7432-6024-4.
  10. ^ a b c d George, Robert Z; Harvey Rishikof (2011). The National Security Enterprise: Navigating the Labyrinth. Georgetown University Press. p. 32.
  11. ^ a b Schmitz, David F. (2011). Brent Scowcroft: Internationalism and Post-Vietnam War American Foreign Policy. Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 2–3.
  12. ^ "History of the National Security Council, 1947-1997". National Security Council. White House. August 1997. Archived from the original on March 6, 2008. Retrieved September 5, 2008.
  13. ^ Burke, John P. (2009). Honest Broker?: The National Security Advisor and Presidential Decision Making. Texas A&M University Press. p. 26. ISBN 9781603441025.
  14. ^ a b c The National Security Advisor and Staff: p. 33.
  15. ^ "Key members of Obama-Biden national security team announced" (Press release). The Office of the President Elect. December 1, 2008. Archived from the original on December 1, 2008. Retrieved December 1, 2008.
  16. ^ "Donilon to replace Jones as national security adviser". CNN. October 2010. Archived from the original on November 8, 2012. Retrieved October 8, 2010.
  17. ^ a b c Scott Wilson and Colum Lynch (June 5, 2013). "National security team shuffle may signal more activist stance at White House". Washington Post. Archived from the original on October 25, 2017.
  18. ^ Tritten, Travis J. (March 7, 2017). "Senate panel gives nod to McMaster's 3-star status". Stars and Stripes. Washington, D.C. Archived from the original on March 7, 2017.
  19. ^ Tritten, Travis J. (March 15, 2017). "Senate vote allows McMaster to retain 3 stars as Trump adviser". Stars and Stripes. Washington, D.C. Archived from the original on March 15, 2017.
  20. ^ "National Security Adviser H. R. McMaster to resign, replaced by former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton". WLWT. March 22, 2018. Retrieved March 22, 2018.

External linksEdit