What is the Role of the National Security Advisor?

It’s not unusual for a new job to be created within a federal agency when a new Federal statute establishes or reorganizes that organization. This was the situation at the time the 1947 National Security Act was passed. The National Military Establishment was created by merging the Departments of the Army, Navy, and Air Force, and the National Security Council and the Central Intelligence Agency were also established by the law, which was signed by President Truman in the wake of World War II and the start of the Cold War. The National Security Advisor, sometimes known as the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, is one prominent job established by the National Security Act.

First, Present, and Noteworthy National Security Advisors

During Dwight Eisenhower’s presidency, Robert Cutler was the first person to hold the position of National Security Advisor. There are 28 permanent National Security Advisors as of the time of this writing; Jake Sullivan is the one in charge at the moment. Sullivan majored in political science and international studies while a student at Yale. Other recent National Security Advisors have degrees in management science, law, history, and philosophy. Richard V. Allen ’57 [BA] and ’58 [MA] (Ronald Reagan) and Condoleezza Rice ’75 [MA] (George W. Bush) both held the position of National Security Advisor.


The National Security Advisor and staff are among the most significant White House positions, according to the 2009 White House Transition Project, because of their influence on policy. According to John P. Burke of the University of Vermont, “in some services, the effect is so strong that foreign and national security policy has been essentially centralised in the hands of the national security advisor, with little input from cabinet-level departments such as State or Defense.” Burke notes the variations between presidents in the obligations placed on the National Security Advisor within their administrations.

Few could name President Nixon’s first secretary of state, Burke continues. Henry Kissinger, Nixon’s national security adviser, was a well-known figure in the media and a household name. Although this media attention is a little unusual, other prominent National Security Advisors include Trump appointees Michael Flynn, John Bolton, and Robert O’Brien (who holds the record for the shortest term at 24 days), Susan Rice, Condoleezza Rice, and Colin Powell. But Condoleezza Rice and Powell mostly became well-known because of the position they would someday hold: Secretary of State.

While serving as national security advisor is frequently the highest office held, Henry Kissinger would also become secretary of state. William P. Clark and Frank Carlucci also served as Reagan’s secretaries of the interior and defense, respectively. Brent Scowcroft, a George H.W. Bush appointee, later served as president Clinton’s chair of the intelligence oversight board and as president George W. Bush’s chair of the president’s intelligence advisory board. As of this writing, President Biden has Susan Rice in the position of Director of the Domestic Policy Council.

What is the role of the national security advisor?

What then is the National Security Advisor’s job description? There is ultimately no single solution because the position is dynamic and has varying requirements depending on the events occurring during the President’s term. For instance, the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 presented a unique problem. There is yet another reference to the White House Transition Project, which claims that “there is no historical model to rely upon for insight for the changing organizational setting in the aftermath of 9/11. There isn’t another one that is as rife with present danger and high levels of uncertainty. In other words, Condoleezza Rice had to work inside the framework of the War on Terror’s inception during her tenure as national security adviser.

As opposed to this, Scott Wilson of the Washington Post claims that when Obama appointed Susan Rice, he was elevating a “proponent of a larger American role in prevent humanitarian crises and safeguarding human rights.” The War on Terrorism is also specifically brought up by Wilson, who writes, “The ideological change signaled… a central quandary for Obama as he attempts to make an impact on the world at a time of austerity—and war weary—at home.” Last but not least, Wilson examines the various functions that the National Security Advisor performs at various points in time, particularly between the initial term and the second term.

The National Security Advisor’s job description is constantly evolving. And even while this is a difficulty to everybody who has held the position, whether permanently or temporarily, it is still a crucial part of American national security. The Notre Dame International Security Center educates undergraduate and graduate students on the complexities of national security if you’re interested in learning about the topics of national security, diplomacy, and current events.

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