In the News: Blog

Some have questions about the role of one of the president’s advisers, Steve Bannon, and the National Security Council. This is the latest background on the facts of the situation from the Congressional Research Service, the nonpartisan research arm of the Library of Congress. 

Trump Administration Changes to the National Security Council: Frequently Asked Questions

January 30, 2017

On January 28, 2017, the Trump Administration issued National Security Presidential Memorandum (NSPM) 2: Organization of the National Security Council and the Homeland Security Council. The memorandum details how the executive branch intends to manage and coordinate national and homeland security issues among relevant departments and agencies. In keeping with the practices of prior administrations, the White House issued the memorandum early in its tenure. Since the memorandum was signed, some media reports have incorrectly characterized the manner in which the Trump administration appears to be organizing itself to manage national security matters. These FAQs are intended to clarify the terms and structures associated with the National Security Council (NSC).

What is the National Security Council?

Since its inception in 1947, the National Security Council, and the institutions that support it, has evolved from a statutorily-mandated meeting of cabinet-level officials into a complex system of coordination, adjudication, and in some instances formulation (as in the case of Dr. Kissinger's tenure as National Security Advisor) of policies among relevant departments and agencies. As a result, when individuals refer to the "NSC," they variously refer to the decisionmaking body created in statute in the 1947 National Security Act, the staff that supports that decisionmaking body, or the processes used by the White House to discuss and adjudicate decisions across different agencies of the executive branch.

  • The National Security Council is the President's statutory advisory body on matters related to national and international security. Pursuant to Title 50 U.S.C §3021, the NSC's statutory members are the President, Vice President, Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense, and Secretary of Energy. Other senior officials, including the National Security Advisor, participate in NSC deliberations at the President's request. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Director of National Intelligence are the NSC's statutory advisers. The National Security Council is chaired by the President.
  • The National Security Council Staff. The NSC's activities are coordinated and directed by the Presidentially-appointed National Security Advisor (NSA). They are supported by a National Security Staff (NSS, or NSC staff) comprising permanent employees of the Executive Office of the President and "detailees" from other government agencies serving temporary assignments. It is organized into offices that focus on a variety of long-term strategic issues and ad hoc working groups that address emerging topics. Each President configures the NSC to address risks to U.S. global security interests according to proscribed policy priorities. The size of the NSC staff and ratio of political appointees to detailees has varied with each administration. In P.L. 114-328, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017, Congress limited the number of policy-focused individuals serving on the NSC staff to 200 persons. During the Obama Administration, the Homeland Security Committee and National Security Council staffs were combined into an organization called the National Security Staff.
  • Decisionmaking committees. Coordinating and managing U.S. national security affairs requires routine coordination and discussion among relevant departments and agencies. Most administrations have therefore set up a hierarchical system of committees designed to discuss, and when appropriate decide, national security matters. These committees meet as frequently as the White House deems necessary. The design and composition of the committee structure is the prerogative of the President, but the approach has often included some variant of the following:

The Principals Committee (PC) is a level below the NSC, convened by the National Security Advisor. The PC does not need to include all statutory NSC members, but generally includes the heads of departments or agencies involved with the subject matter being discussed at a given meeting.

The Deputies Committee (DC) is convened by the Deputy National Security Advisor, and generally includes the deputy heads of departments (i.e., the Deputy Secretary of Defense or Deputy Secretary of State) involved with the subject matter being discussed at a given meeting.

Policy Coordination Committees (PCC) are established by the Deputies Committee and are responsible for day-to-day management of national security matters on a given region or topic at the Assistant Secretary level from relevant agencies. These are chaired by members of the National Security Staff whose subject matter portfolios are relevant to the issue at hand. Different administrations have used various titles for these committees; under President Obama, this forum was called the Interagency Policy Committee.

Overall, the NSC and its supporting processes and institutions are purposefully designed to be flexible in order to afford the President maximum latitude to create a security advisory body that suits his unique decisionmaking styles. Apart from appropriating its annual budget, Congress has little oversight over the Executive Office of the President, and the National Security Council system in particular, due to the fact that most national security positions within the White House itself (as opposed to the Departments and Agencies) are not currently subject to the advice and consent of the Senate. Some observers over the years have argued that the position should be subject to Senate confirmation and that the National Security Advisor should be available to testify before congressional committees as are officials from other Government departments and agencies. Others argue that a President is entitled to confidential advice from his immediate staff (see CRS Report RL30840, The National Security Council: An Organizational Assessment).

What is the history and relationship between the NSC and Homeland Security Council (HSC)?

The HSC was created by President George W. Bush soon after the terrorist attacks in the United States with the responsibility of "ensuring coordination of homeland security-related activities of executive departments and agencies and effective development and implementation of homeland security policies." Post 9/11 Administrations have undertaken different approaches to the interaction between the NSC and HSC. Under President Bush the NSC and HSC focused separately on international and domestic security issues. Soon after taking office President Obama merged the NSC and HSC into a National Security Staff with the focus of "support(ing) all White House policy-making activities related to international, transnational, and homeland security matters." The Trump Administration has returned to two separate entities with the NSC and HSC "responsible for the effective coordination of the security-related activities and functions of the executive departments and agencies."

NSPM-2: What's changed? What's stayed the same?

It is not yet fully clear how the Trump Administration intends to organize itself for national security matters, due to the fact that the White House indicated on January 30th that it intends to revise NSPM-2 to ensure that the CIA director (D/CIA) is included "in the NSC." Still, based on the existing documentation, the following key observations can be made:

  • Role of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (CJCS) and the Director of National Intelligence (DNI). NSPM-2 language on the role of CJCS at NSC and PC meetings is nearly identical to that agreed upon by the George W. Bush Administration. In their roles as statutory advisors to the National Security Council, CJCS and DNI are invited to attend all National Security Council meetings. CJCS and DNI shall also attend meetings of the Principals Committee "where issues pertaining to their responsibilities and expertise are to be discussed." The Obama administration departed from its predecessor by making CJCS and DNI "regular members" of the Principals Committee. It is not clear whether the Trump administration's reversion to the Bush formulation amounts to an actual change to either the Chairman's or DNI's roles and participation in senior national security meetings, although CJCS himself maintains that he will "remain a full participant" in the national security interagency process. With respect to the White House's intention to add D/CIA to the National Security Council, it is unclear what effect this might have on DNI's role as statutory advisor to the NSC (once they are appointed and confirmed).
  • Inclusion of the Assistant to the President and Chief Strategist as a regular NSC and PC attendee. While previous Presidents have, upon occasion, requested the attendance of their chief political strategist at NSC meetings, the Trump Administration appears to be the first to include a political advisor as a regular, permanent attendee of such meetings. The law is silent on the inclusion of political advisors as NSC regular attendees.
  • Role of the Secretary of Energy. The Secretary of Energy is a statutory member of the NSC, and as such, is invited to attend all NSC meetings. In contrast with the Obama Administration (although in keeping with the George W. Bush Administration structures), the Secretary of Energy is not included in PC meetings in the Trump Administration. 

Staff Sgt. Matthew V. Thompson, a 28-year-old Wisconsin native, was killed in the line of duty in Afghanistan last month. At his memorial service in Brookfield, Wisconsin, his father and pastor read something Matthew wrote ten years ago, a list of "all the little things" that make life sweeter. In effect, 10 rules to live by. It shows striking maturity, especially for a young man still in his teens when he and his best friend wrote the rules.

1. Never grow up.

2. Learn.

3. Never have any regrets.

4. Live for the moment.

5. Do what you love.

6. Pursue with a passion.

7. Never settle.

8. Always take time to listen and to talk.

9. Keep a positive attitude.

10. I need God and will live for him

The Joseph Project - WI is an effort inspired by Robert L. Woodson Sr.’s book, “The Triumphs of Joseph,” about community-based initiatives. Churches host week-long class sessions to teach job-seekers the “soft skills” that help them in job interviews and in their beginning steps on the career ladder. Sen. Johnson has played a pivotal role alongside the church’s pastor, Jerome Smith, in facilitating the effort since it began in September 2015.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership is a trade deal involving the United States and 11 other countries, involving about 40% of the world’s markets. It’s meant to encourage trade, which is important for agricultural and manufacturing in Wisconsin, where we import and export in roughly equal measure and we rely on having the world’s markets open to our products.

But is the TPP a good deal? That’s much more difficult to say. It’s more than 6,000 pages long and has 30 chapters before you reach the “annexes” and “related instruments.” You can read it all here.
Senator Johnson enjoys traveling Wisconsin to hear first-hand from constituents. He has visited all 72 counties. Follow the link to view some of the videos from recent visits or to learn more about what Senator Johnson is doing in your county.

 Past Events

 Friday, Oct. 23, 2015

What:  A&E Tools
Time:  11:30 p.m. – 12:30 p.m.  
Location: 5501 21 st St., Racine

 Friday, Oct. 9, 2015

What: Saris Cycling
Time: 1:45 p.m. - 2:45 p.m.
Location: 5253 Verona Rd., Fitchburg


What: Automation Components, Inc.
Time: 3:15 p.m. - 4:30 p.m.
Location: 2315 N. Parview Road, Middleton


 Friday, Oct. 2, 2015

What: Madison-Kipp Corp. visit
Time: 9:45 a.m. – 11 a.m.
Location: 201 Waubesa St., Madison



What: TLX Technologies visit
Time: noon – 1:15 p.m.
Location: N27 W23727 Paul Road, Pewaukee


What: Miro Tool & Mfg. Inc. visit
Time: 1:30 p.m. – 3 p.m.  
Location: 201 Sentry Drive, Waukesha


What: Acieta LLC visit
Time: 3:30 p.m. – 5 p.m.
Location: N27 W23750 Paul Road, Pewaukee


Events subject to change.

"I have repeatedly stated that I believe President Obama lost the negotiation with Iran before it ever began.  By acknowledging Iran’s right to enrich uranium instead of demanding the dismantling of its enrichment program, and also by lifting some of the sanctions, he gave away almost all the leverage we had to negotiate a good deal.   The Iranians accurately assessed the administration's weakness and took full advantage of it. 

"The result is a deal that will allow tens of billions – and, over time, hundreds of billions – of dollars to flow into Iran, strengthening the economy and military of the largest state sponsor of terrorism.  The anytime, anywhere inspection regime that we were assured would provide the verification and accountability that such a deal requires instead gave way to secret side deals with the IAEA that reportedly allow Iran basically to inspect itself. 

"As a result, I believe that rather than preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, the deal sets Iran on a path to eventually developing a nuclear weapon.  If that isn't bad enough, the deal also lifts the arms embargo and the embargo on ballistic missile technology, without requiring any improvement in Iran's behavior, but based on the passage of time alone. 

"The choice is not between this deal and war.  The choice should have been – and should be – between this deal and a better deal obtained by increasing sanctions until Iran finally comes to the negotiating table willing to dismantle its nuclear program and end its sponsorship of terrorism.  Until that time, Iran should remain isolated and kept as weak as possible to minimize the harm it can do to the region and the world, and the U.S. must maintain the military capability and credible threat to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

"I will vote to disapprove this awful and dangerous agreement."


Friday, Sept.4, 2015

What: Public Town Hall in Richland Center
Time: 1 p.m. - 2 p.m.
Location: Richland Center City Hall, 450 S. Main St., Richland Center

What: Public Town Hall in Baraboo
Time: 3:30 p.m. - 4:30 p.m.
Location: Baraboo Municipal Building, 135 4th St., Baraboo

Monday, Aug. 31, 2015

What: Chips Burgers
Time: 11:15 a.m. - noon
Location: 1203 E. 3rd St., Merrill

What: Public Town Hall in Prentice
Time: 1 p.m. - 2 p.m.
Location: Prentice Village Hall, 403 Center St., Prentice

What: Public Town Hall in Chetek
Time: 4 p.m. - 5 p.m.
Location: Chetek City Hall, 220 Stout St., Chetek

What: Public Town Hall in St. Croix
Time: 7 p.m. - 8 p.m.
Location: 401 N. Hamilton St., St. Croix

Saturday, Aug. 29, 2015

What: Florence County Fair
Time: 10 a.m. - 11 a.m.
Location: 5505 County Highway N., Florence

What: Public Town Hall in Crandon
Time: 12:30 p.m. - 1:30 p.m.
Location: Hotel Crandon Restaurant and Bar, 200 N. Lake Ave., Crandon

Friday, Aug. 28, 2015

What: Wirtz Beverage Wisconsin
Time: 12:30 p.m. - 1:50 p.m.
Location: 500 W. North Shore Drive, Hartland

What: ATF (ASYST) Technologies
Time: 3 p.m. - 4 p.m.
Location: 5811 99th Ave., Kenosha

Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2015

What: Farm Technology Days
Time: 11:50 a.m. – 1 p.m.  
Location: 5966 Town Hall Drive, Sun Prairie
Note: Sen. Johnson will meet and speak with visitors and exhibitors at this agricultural event.

What: TASCET Inc.
Time: 1:30 p.m. – 2:30 p.m.  
Location: 1 S. Pinckney St., Madison
Note: Sen. Johnson will hear from company members about achieving recognition of Tribal ID cards.

Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2015

What: Menominee Tribal Enterprises Mill and Forestry Tour
Time: 1:20 p.m. - 3 p.m. 
Location: Hwy 47 N., N3522 Cottage Ave., Neopit

Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2015

What: Public Town Hall in Montello
Time: 9 a.m. – 9:45 a.m.  
Location: Health & Human Services Building, 428 Underwood Ave., Montello

What: Adams County Community Center
Time: 10:40 a.m. – 11:10 a.m.  
Location: 569 N. Cedar St., Adams

What: Public Town Hall in Black River Falls
Time: 12:30 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.  
Location: 101 S. 2nd St., Black River Falls

Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2015

What: Midwestern BioAg Field Day at Otter Creek
Time: 10 a.m. – 11 a.m.  
Location: 6620 Wisconsin Highway 130, Avoca

What: Fort Mulligan Grill
Time: 12:40 p.m. – 1: 10 p.m.  
Location: 214 W. Blackhawk Ave., Prairie du Chien

What: Rural Route 1 Popcorn
Time: 3 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.
Location: 101 Highway 18, Montfort

Monday, Aug. 17, 2015

What: Wausau Window and Wall Tour
Time: 3 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.  
Location: 7800 International Drive, Wausau 

What: Public town hall w/ Rep. Sean Duffy in Wausau
Time: 4:30 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.  
Location: Wausau Window and Wall, 7800 International Drive, Wausau 

Saturday, Aug. 15, 2015

What: Colfax Community Block Party, Colfax Lutheran Pancake Breakfast
Time: 7:30 a.m. – 9 a.m.  
Location: Colfax Lutheran Church, 600 Balsam St., Colfax.

Friday, Aug. 14, 2015

What: St. Croix Crossing bridge tour
Time: 2 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.  
Location: St. Croix Boat & Packet, 525 S. Main St., Stillwater, Minn. 
Note: Press availability following tour at 3:30 p.m. at 525 S. Main St.

What: Public Town Hall in New Richmond
Time: 7 p.m. – 8 p.m.  
Location: WITC New Richmond Campus, Conference Center, 1019 S. Knowles Ave., New Richmond.

Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2015

What: PGA Breakfast and Tour
8 a.m. – 10 a.m.  
Whistling Straits Golf Course, N8501 Lakeshore Road, Sheboygan

What: Towne House Restaurant
Time: 1:15 p.m. – 1:45 p.m.
Location: 232 Main St., Darlington

What: Public Town Hall in Monroe
Time: 2:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.
Location: Monroe City Hall, 1110 18th Ave., Monroe

What: Northwoods Premium Confections
Time: 4:20 p.m. – 4:50 p.m.
Location: 314 State St., Beloit

Saturday, Aug. 8, 2015

What: Paul Bunyan’s Cook Shanty
Time: 11:45 a.m. – 1 p.m.
Location: 8653 Highway 51, Minocqua

What: Gerrit’s Lakeview Inn
Time: 3 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.
Location: 656 County Road G, Pelican Lake

What: Reggie’s Roadhouse
Time: 4 p.m. – 5 p.m.
Location: 526 County Road G, Pelican Lake

Friday, Aug. 7, 2015

What: Veteran’s Town Hall in Superior
Time: 9 a.m. – 10:15 a.m.  
Location: 308 Harbor View Parkway, Superior

What: Bayfield County Fair
Time: 11 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.
Location: Range Line Road, Iron River

What: Apostle Islands National Lakeshore
Time: 12:15 p.m. – 3 p.m.
Location: 415 Washington Ave., Bayfield

What: Deep Water Grill
Time: 5:10 p.m. – 5:45 p.m.
Location: Deep Water Grill, 800 Main St. West, Ashland

What: Supper Club Town Hall in Mercer
Time: 7:30 p.m. – 9 p.m.
Location: Cranberry Inn, 5491 US 51, Mercer

Events subject to change.