History of the United States National Security Council 1947–1953

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This is a history of the United States National Security Council during the Truman Administration, 1947–1953.

Contents

Precursors to the National Security Council

The National Security Council was created by Public Law 80–253, approved July 26, 1947, as part of a general reorganization of the U.S. national security apparatus. Proponents of the reform realized that no institutional means for the coordination of foreign and defense policy existed, and that the informal management techniques employed by President Roosevelt during the war and President Truman after the war were not suitable for the long haul. The State-War-Navy Coordinating Committee (SWNCC) had been established in 1944 at the Assistant Secretary-level, and by 1945 the Secretaries of State, War, and Navy began holding weekly meetings. President Roosevelt had tended to trust White House aides like Harry Hopkins and Admiral William D. Leahy to carry on necessary day-to-day coordination. President Truman for a time relied upon Special White House Counsel Clark Clifford to provide the Hopkins-Leahy type of personal coordination. Clifford, who was dismayed by the disorder among agencies taking major post-war policy-making decisions, was a key figure in establishing the National Security Council to give institutional stability to national security policy-making.

Creation of the National Security Council

The National Security Act of 1947 created the National Security Council under the chairmanship of the President, with only the following seven officials as permanent members: the President, the Secretaries of State, Defense, Army, Navy, Air Force, and the Chairman of the National Security Resources Board. The President could designate "from time to time" the Secretaries of other executive departments and the Chairmen of the Munitions Board and the Research and Development Board to attend meetings. While the new Central Intelligence Agency was to report to the NSC, the Director of Central Intelligence was not a member, although he attended meetings as an observer and resident adviser.

The function of the NSC as outlined in the 1947 act was to advise the President on integration of domestic, foreign, and military policies relating to national security and to facilitate interagency cooperation. At the President's direction, the NSC could also assess and appraise risks to U.S. national security, consider policies, and then report or make recommendations to the President. The act created a small permanent staff headed by a civilian Executive Secretary appointed by the President. In neither the National Security Act of 1947 nor subsequent amendments was there provision for the position of National Security Adviser. Initially, the permanent NSC staff had no substantive role in the formulation, let alone implementation, of national security policies.

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