Obama Directive Expands National Security Team

February 27, 2009 - 5:33 AM
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Washington (AP) - President Barack Obama is expanding the membership and reach of his top national security team, in recognition of the increasing role energy, climate and economic issues now play in keeping America safe.
 
A soon-to-be-released presidential directive reflects an effort by the White House to be better prepared to meet 21st century threats, which may now involve the nation's vast cyber networks, the delivery of energy, and the effects of the economic downturn on fragile governments.
 
The Associated Press obtained a copy of the directive Thursday, which is the first penned by Obama and was signed Feb. 13.
 
Under the new structure, representatives from a broad range of federal agencies -- from Commerce to the Office of Science and Technology Policy -- will be invited to attend meetings when the issue affects their area of expertise.
 
While the directive outlines a broader structure for the National Security Council, it is just the first step. Two other key reviews are also under way -- one that looks at the nation's cybersecurity and another that is considering a move to restructure the Homeland Security Council that would shift some of its responsibilities to the NSC, also in the executive branch.
 
A senior administration official said the goal of the directive and subsequent restructuring is to make sure the White House is organized in a way that will allow federal agencies to collaborate better as national security threats come up.
 
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he's not authorized to discuss the directive before it's publicly released, also said agency leaders had met Thursday to talk about the HSC restructuring, but no decisions have been made.
 
The National Security Council has historically been centered on State Department and Pentagon matters, but in a speech at a security conference in Munich, retired Gen. James Jones, Obama's national security adviser, told world leaders that international security is no longer limited to defense and foreign ministries.
 
Instead, he said it now encompasses energy, narco-terrorism, illegal arms shipments and proliferation.
 
Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, echoed that view Thursday, telling reporters at the Pentagon that the global financial crisis can put governments in weaker positions, raising the potential for security concerns.
 
As resources dry up, Mullen said, there will be an impact on how much attention and resources other governments can spend protecting borders and other critical security issues.
 
Created by the Bush administration after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the Homeland Security Council initially was assigned to advise the president on all domestic terrorism issues. It later took on other domestic security issues, but as the Homeland Security Department was created and matured, the homeland council has played less of a role in day-to-day operations.