National Security Advisor (United States)

Source: Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
Jake Sullivan

since January 20, 2021
Executive Office of the President
Member ofNational Security Council
Homeland Security Council
Reports toPresident of the United States
AppointerPresident of the United States
Constituting instrumentNational Security Presidential Memorandum[1]
First holderRobert Cutler
DeputyDeputy National Security Advisor (DNSA)

The Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs (APNSA), commonly referred to as the National Security Advisor (NSA),[2][Note 1] is a senior aide in the Executive Office of the President, based at the West Wing of the White House. The National Security Advisor serves as the principal advisor to the President of the United States on all national security issues. The National Security Advisor is appointed by the President and does not require confirmation by the United States Senate. However, an appointment of a three- or four-star General to the role requires Senate reconfirmation of military rank.[3]

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 (those meetings not attended by the President). The NSA also sits on the Homeland Security Council (HSC).

The National Security Advisor is supported by NSC staff who produce classified 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.[4] 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.[5]

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.[6] 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.[4]

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),[7] 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.[8][9] 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.[8]

Robert Cutler was the first National Security Advisor in 1953, and held the job twice, both times during the Eisenhower administration. 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.[8]

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 with 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.[8][9] He holds the record for longest term of service (2,478 days); Michael Flynn holds the record for shortest term, at just 24 days.

Brent Scowcroft held the job in two non-consecutive administrations: the Ford administration and the George H. W. Bush administration.

List of National Security Advisors

No. Portrait Name Term of office[10] President(s) served under
Start End Days
1 Robert Cutler
March 23, 1953 April 2, 1955 740 Dwight D. Eisenhower
2 Dillon Anderson
April 2, 1955 September 1, 1956 518
William Harding Jackson.jpg
William Harding Jackson
September 1, 1956 January 7, 1957 128
3 Robert Cutler
January 7, 1957 June 24, 1958 533
Gordon Gray - Project Gutenberg etext 20587.jpg
Gordon Gray
June 24, 1958 January 13, 1961 934
McGeorge Bundy.jpg
McGeorge Bundy
January 20, 1961 February 28, 1966 1865 John F. Kennedy
Lyndon B. Johnson
Walt Rostow 1968.jpg
Walt Whitman Rostow
April 1, 1966 January 20, 1969 1025
Henry Kissinger.jpg
Henry Kissinger
January 20, 1969 November 3, 1975 2478 Richard Nixon
Gerald Ford
National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft at a meeting following the assassinations in Beirut, 1976 - NARA - 7064964.jpg
Brent Scowcroft
November 3, 1975
First appointment
January 20, 1977 444
Zbigniew Brzezinski, 1977.jpg
Zbigniew Brzezinski
January 20, 1977 January 20, 1981 1461 Jimmy Carter
Richard V. Allen 1981.jpg
Richard V. Allen
January 21, 1981 January 4, 1982 348 Ronald Reagan
James W. Nance.png
James W. Nance
November 30, 1981 January 4, 1982 35
William patrick clark.png
William P. Clark Jr.
January 4, 1982 October 17, 1983 651
Robert Mcfarlane IAGS.jpg
Robert McFarlane
October 17, 1983 December 4, 1985 779
Admiral John Poindexter, official Navy photo, 1985.JPEG
John Poindexter
December 4, 1985 November 25, 1986 356
Frank Carlucci official portrait.JPEG
Frank Carlucci
December 2, 1986 November 23, 1987 356
Colin Powell
November 23, 1987 January 20, 1989 424
Brent Scowcroft.jpg
Brent Scowcroft
January 20, 1989
Second appointment
January 20, 1993 1461 George H. W. Bush
Anthony Lake 0c175 7733.jpg
Anthony Lake
January 20, 1993 March 14, 1997 1514 Bill Clinton
Official Portrait of United States National Security Advisor Samuel Richard "Sandy" Berger.jpg
Sandy Berger
March 14, 1997 January 20, 2001 1408
Condoleezza Rice cropped.jpg
Condoleezza Rice
January 20, 2001[15] January 25, 2005[15] 1466 George W. Bush
Stephen Hadley Natl Security Advisor bio photo.jpg
Stephen Hadley
January 26, 2005[15] January 20, 2009 1455
James L. Jones 2.jpg
James L. Jones
January 20, 2009 October 8, 2010 626 Barack Obama
Thomas Donilon.jpg
Thomas E. Donilon
October 8, 2010 July 1, 2013[18] 997
Susan Rice official photo.jpg
Susan Rice
July 1, 2013[18] January 20, 2017 1299
Michael T Flynn.jpg
Michael Flynn
January 20, 2017 February 13, 2017 24 Donald Trump
Keith Kellogg 2000.jpg
Keith Kellogg
February 13, 2017 February 20, 2017 7
H.R. McMaster ARCIC 2014.jpg
H. R. McMaster
February 20, 2017 April 9, 2018 413
John R. Bolton official photo (cropped).jpg
John Bolton
April 9, 2018 September 10, 2019 519
Reagan Contact Sheet C42578 (cropped).jpg
Charles Kupperman
September 10, 2019 September 18, 2019 8
Robert C. O'Brien.jpg
Robert C. O'Brien
September 18, 2019 January 20, 2021 490
Jake Sullivan
January 20, 2021 Incumbent 488 Joe Biden

  Denotes acting

See also


  1. ^ Abbreviated NSA, or sometimes APNSA or ANSA in order to avoid confusion with the abbreviation of the National Security Agency.


2009-02: The National Security Advisor and Staff (PDF). 2009. Archived from the original (PDF) on March 3, 2016. Retrieved March 1, 2015.

  1. ^ "National Security Presidential Memorandum–4 of April 4, 2017" (PDF).
  2. ^ The National Security Advisor and Staff: p. 1.
  3. ^ Portnoy, Steven (February 21, 2017). "McMaster will need Senate confirmation to serve as national security adviser". CBS News. Archived from the original on March 1, 2017. Retrieved March 12, 2017.
  4. ^ a b The National Security Advisor and Staff: pp. 17-21.
  5. ^ The National Security Advisor and Staff: pp. 10-14.
  6. ^ See 22 U.S.C. § 2651 for the Secretary of State and 10 U.S.C. § 113 for the Secretary of Defense.
  7. ^ Clarke, Richard A. (2004). Against All Enemies. New York: Free Press. p. 18. ISBN 0-7432-6024-4.
  8. ^ a b c d George, Robert Z; Rishikof, Harvey (2011). The National Security Enterprise: Navigating the Labyrinth. Georgetown University Press. p. 32.
  9. ^ a b Schmitz, David F. (2011). Brent Scowcroft: Internationalism and Post-Vietnam War American Foreign Policy. Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 2–3.
  10. ^ "History of the National Security Council, 1947-1997". August 1997. Archived from the original on February 22, 2010. Retrieved September 5, 2008 – via National Archives.
  11. ^ Burke, John P. (2009). Honest Broker?: The National Security Advisor and Presidential Decision Making. Texas A&M University Press. p. 26. ISBN 9781603441025.
  12. ^ "Foreign Relations of the United States, 1955–1957, National Security Policy, Volume XIX". Department of State, Office of the Historian. Retrieved July 12, 2020.
  13. ^ Lay, James S.; Johnson, Robert H. (1960). Organizational history of the National Security Council during the Truman and Eisenhower administrations. Washington, DC: Central Intelligence Agency. p. 40.
  14. ^ Weisman, Steven R. (January 2, 1982). "Reagan Replacing Security Advisor, Officials Report". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved November 25, 2020.
  15. ^ a b c The National Security Advisor and Staff: p. 33.
  16. ^ "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.
  17. ^ "Donilon to replace Jones as national security adviser". CNN. October 2010. Archived from the original on November 8, 2012. Retrieved October 8, 2010.
  18. ^ 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.
  19. ^ "Biden to appoint Jake Sullivan as national security adviser". CBS News.

Further reading

  • Falk, Stanley L., "The National Security Council under Truman, Eisenhower, and Kennedy". Political Science Quarterly 79.3 (1964): 403–434. online
  • George, Robert Z. and Rishikof, Harvey, eds., The National Security Enterprise: Navigating the Labyrinth (2nd ed.: Georgetown University Press, 2017). Excerpt
  • Preston, Andrew, "The Little State Department: McGeorge Bundy and the National Security Council Staff, 1961‐65". Presidential Studies Quarterly 31.4 (2001): 635–659. Online
  • Rothkopf, David, Running the world: The inside story of the National Security Council and the architects of American power. (PublicAffairs, 2009).

External links