Heinrich Introduces Legislation To Ensure Decisions Affecting National Security Are Not Clouded By Political Calculations

Legislation would codify membership on the National Security Council; Address issues raised by President Trump's move to diminish roles of intel, military experts.

WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) introduced legislation that will clarify the permanent membership of the National Security Council (NSC) to ensure that decisions affecting national security are not clouded by political calculations.

The legislation addresses significant concerns following President Trump's reorganization of the NSC, which diminished the roles of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Director of National Intelligence and extended NSC membership to a top campaign and political advisor.

"President Trump has shown that he trusts the former leader of the far-right website Breitbart News Steve Bannon on decisions of national security more than our highest-ranking military leader and the director of the intelligence community," said Sen. Heinrich, a member of the Senate Armed Services and Intelligence Committees. "This legislation would ensure that the experts are in the room when it comes to important national security and foreign policy assessments. The President owes it the American people to do what's best to keep them safe, rather than what's going to affect his ratings."

On Saturday, President Trump issued National Security Presidential Memorandum (NSPM) 2, which outlined how he would organize and use his National Security Council. In the memorandum, he elevated a senior political advisor to be a core member of the influential Principals Committee, while also removing the Director of National Intelligence and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff as members of the Principals Committee unless issues pertaining to their responsibilities or expertise are to be discussed.

The legislation was introduced by U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner (D-Va.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Kamala Harris (D- Calif.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.).

The Strengthening Oversight of National Security Act will amend the National Security Act of 1947 to clarify membership at the senior advisory level of the NSC, ensuring that national security experts are the ones crafting national security policy. It does so by setting out in law limits to membership.

  • The bill amends the National Security Act to specify the composition of the National Security Council. In addition to the current statutorily designated NSC members, the bill adds the Director of National Intelligence and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
  • The bill further establishes that the composition of the cabinet-level interagency forum for policy consideration and decision making to support the NSC will reflect the membership of the NSC with flexibility to add other Senate-confirmed members. Any exceptions must be one-time actions and notified to Congress within 24 hours.
  • The bill requires the Consent of the Congress to add any non-Senate confirmed official except the National Security Advisor and Deputies, Homeland Security Advisor and Deputies, Assistant to the President and Chief of Staff, Counsel, Assistant to the President for Economic Policy, and the Assistant to the Vice President for National Security. The composition limitation applies to members and attendees. 

A copy of the bill text is available here.