by WorldTribune Staff, February 1, 2017
President Donald Trump took a page out of the George W. Bush administration’s playbook with the reorganization of the National Security Council (NSC) principals committee and the participation of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) chairman.
There were no major protests or challenges to Bush’s reorganization in 2001.
In 2017, however, as is the case with much of what Trump does or says, former Washington insiders have gone ballistic.
“Trump is simply reverting to the way the last Republican president did national security business in-house, a comparison of their directives shows,” Rowan Scarborough wrote for The Washington Times on Jan. 30.
“Washington is in a uproar because the Trump directive does not make the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff a ‘regular’ member of the principals committee. The committee debates policies and is a sub-panel of the full National Security Council of which the JCS chair is a permanent member.”
The Trump wording: “The Director of National Intelligence and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff shall attend where issues pertaining to their responsibilities and expertise are to be discussed.”
Susan Rice, former President Barack Obama’s national security adviser, called Trump’s wording on the JCS chairman, “stone cold crazy. After a week of crazy. Who needs military advice or intel to make policy on ISIL, Syria, Afghanistan, DPRK?”
Bush’s wording in February 2001, his first full month in office: “The Director of Central Intelligence and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff shall attend where issues pertaining to their responsibilities and expertise are to be discussed.”
The director of National Intelligence did not exist at the time.
“In other words, Trump’s treatment of the JCS chairman, currently Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford, is a throwback to the Bush era,” Scarborough wrote.
“This is literally the language in 2001. The same language in 2017,” White House press secretary Sean Spicer said on Jan. 30 during an appearance on MSNBC.
The Bush directive changed the regular membership from President Bill Clinton’s directive, which made the JCS chairman a regular member. Obama changed the wording back to Clinton’s directive.
The Trump principals committee will include as regular members the secretaries of State, Treasury, Defense, and Homeland security as well as the Attorney General, the chief of staff, the chief strategies, the national security adviser and the homeland security adviser.
Senate Armed Services Committee John McCain, Arizona Republican, criticized the JCS chairman change.
“The role of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has been diminished, I understand, with this reorganization,” McCain told “Face the Nation” on Jan. 29. “One person who is indispensable would be the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in my view. So it’s of concern.”
McCain did not appear to protest in 2001 when Bush made the same move.