White House reorganizationTensions arise over White House reorganization plan

Published 28 May 2009

President Obama plans to merge the staffs of the White House National Security Council and Homeland Security Council — while stipulating that John Brennan, his homeland security adviser, will still be reporting directly to the president; tensions rise

Henry Kissinger said that academic feuds are so bitter because the stakes are so small. Feuds over access to the president are so bitter because the stakes are so high. We wrote yesterday about the merging of the staffs of the White House homeland security and national security outfits. Washington Post’s Ed O’Keefe offers examples of the underlying tensions this reorganization move has engendered.

  • He quotes AP’s Pamela Hess to report that “The nation’s two intelligence chiefs are locked in a turf battle over overseas posts, forcing National Security Adviser James L. Jones to mediate, according to current and former government officials. The jockeying between CIA Director Leon Panetta and National Intelligence Director Dennis Blair centers on Blair’s effort to choose his own representatives at U.S. embassies instead of relying only on CIA station chiefs.”
  • He quotes the Post’s Spencer Hsu to report this of President Obama’s plans to merge the staffs of the Homeland Security Council and the National Security Council: “The White House also will add new offices for cybersecurity, for terrorism involving weapons of mass destruction, and for ‘resilience’ — a national security directorate aimed at preparedness and response for a domestic WMD attack, pandemic or natural catastrophe, officials said.” “Among other things, Obama is establishing a new global engagement directorate to coordinate U.S. communications with other countries and to streamline U.S. diplomatic, aid, environment and energy policies in support of security objectives, officials said. Jones said the biggest pitfall for the new structure will be if he and Brennan ‘don’t achieve this degree of collegiality that we’ve achieved,’ adding: ‘If we don’t do this well … that will contribute to instability.’”
  • He quotes Josh Meyer of the LA Times to report that the “The FBI and Justice Department plan to significantly expand their role in global counter-terrorism operations, part of a U.S. policy shift that will replace a CIA-dominated system of clandestine detentions and interrogations with one built around transparent investigations and prosecutions. The approach effectively reverses a mainstay of the Bush administration’s war on terrorism, in which global counter-terrorism was treated primarily as an intelligence and military problem, not a law enforcement one. That policy led to the establishment of the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba; harsh interrogations; and detentions without trials.”