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The National Security Act of July, 1947 (PL 235-61 Stat. 496; U.S.C. 402) established the National Security Council (NSC). The National Security Act formalized the coordination of foreign and defense policy among federal agencies. This legislation also provided for the creation of the Central Intelligence Agency, the National Security Resources Board, a National Military Establishment and a Secretary of Defense.

President Truman created the NSC to assist and advise the President on domestic, foreign and military policies relating to national security. The staff of the NSC, as stated in the National Security Act of 1947, consisted of the following seven permanent members:

  • the President, who served as chairman
  • the Secretary of State
  • the Secretary of Defense
  • the Secretary of Army
  • the Secretary of Navy
  • the Secretary of Air Force
  • the Chairman of the National Security Resources Board

The Director of the Central Intelligence Agency served as a resident advisor. The President also had the authority to designate Secretaries from other executive agencies to attend meetings as appropriate.

In 1949, the National Security Act Amendments (63 Stat. 579; 50 U.S.C. 401 et seq.) were passed, reorganizing the structure of the NSC and placing it within the Executive Office of the President. The three service secretaries were eliminated as members of the Council and the Vice President and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff were added as permanent members. The NSC staff was divided into three groups:

  • the Executive Secretary and his staff
  • personnel on detail
  • Consultants to the Executive Secretary

Standing committees were created to deal with sensitive issues. President Truman made further changes to the NSC in 1950 and 1951 when he directed the head of the Office of Defense Mobilization to attend NSC meetings and then made him a member of the senior staff. Both the personnel and Consultants were later eliminated in favor of Senior Staff.

The structure and function of the NSC continued to change with each administration. The needs and desires of the President and his relationships with his advisors and department heads all had an affect on the role of the NSC in policy and decisionmaking.  [See Also:  National Security Council Structure and Functions]

Throughout his administration President Truman relied on advice directly from his secretaries of State and Defense and only made regular use of the NSC during the Korean War.

President Eisenhower, on the other hand, met with the NSC regularly and created a structured system of policy review. Presidents Kennedy and Johnson scaled back the size and responsibility of the NSC. Instead they relied on their National Security Advisor and his staff, inter-agency working groups and heads of agencies.



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