Report: McMaster consolidates power on Trump’s National Security Council

by WorldTribune Staff, April 11, 2017

National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster continues to reform the National Security Council (NSC) after taking the reins from Mike Flynn, who was ousted in February.

The latest move saw deputy National Security Advisor K.T. McFarland being asked to step down and came shortly after White House chief strategist Steve Bannon was removed from his seat on the NSC.

H.R. McMaster is taking steps to reform President Donald Trump’s NSC after taking over in February. /AP

McFarland, who was brought into the fold by Flynn, is expected to be named ambassador to Singapore, Bloomberg reported on April 9.

McMaster sought to minimize the significance of the demotion of Bannon, which came as the president was weighing options for action against Syria, his administration’s first major decision on military intervention.

“This is not as significant as it appears,” said the 54-year-old Army lieutenant general. “Steve Bannon provides the president with advice on a broad range of issues and will continue to do so.”

President Donald Trump issued a directive to reorganize the NSC which gives McMaster greater authority. McMaster has restored the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Joseph Dunford, as a regular member of the NSC, along with the director of national intelligence, former senator Dan Coats.

An administration official said the changes are part of broader reforms McMaster is implementing, including reducing the size of the NSC’s professional staff, which skyrocketed to about 450 under President Barack Obama.

McFarland proved “not to be a good fit at the NSC,” according to the report citing a person familiar with White House personnel moves. The report added that Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly was also involved in the decision.

Who McMaster chooses to fill the deputy position, analysts say, could play a key role in determining national security policy.

“The deputy national security adviser is really the most important position in the interagency national security agency decision-making process,” said John Bellinger, a former NSC legal adviser during the George W. Bush administration. “It’s a killer job. Who comes in as the Deputy NSC? That’s the person who makes sure the trains run on time.”