White House reorganizationStaffs of White House's national security, homeland security merge

Published 27 May 2009

President Obama has announced the merging of the White House’s Homeland Security and National Security Council staffs; John Brennan, the president’s homeland security adviser, will still report directly to the president — but the staff merger effectively takes away Brennan’s own staff

Yesterday, the Obama administration announced the consolidation of the Homeland Security staff and National Security Council staff at the White House, completing a process that began in the latter years of the Bush administration. A newly-named “national security staff” will serve the president as his principal staff coordinators for all homeland security, counterterorrism, transnational, and international policy.

Atlantic’s Marc Ambinder writes that the announcement makes plain that Obama has come to value the services of his chief homeland security adviser, John Brennan, who has direct walk-in privileges. Obama writes that he will retain Brennan’s position, which — and this is important — does not report to the national security adviser, but reports directly to the President. Brennan, “as my principal White House adviser on these issues, with direct and immediate access to me. The security of our homeland is of paramount importance to me, and I will not allow organizational impediments to stand in the way of timely action that ensures the safety of our citizens.” Still, the staff merger effectively takes away Brennan’s own staff.

The national security adviser remains the president’s chief adviser on national security, but, as in the Bush administration, does not directly manage the homeland security coordination process.

Frances Frago Townsend, who was President Bush’s chief homeland security adviser, said that “if the new organization maintains direct and immediate access to the President as it did under President Bush and has the necessarily resources and capabilities to do the job of protecting the American people, then we should not regard the reorganization as significant.” A White House official described the merger as a formal “integration” of two staffs.