Angered by executive overreach into matters of foreign policy, House Republicans have proposed legislation to crush the authority of the White House’s National Security Council.
In the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act, the annual defense budget bill, House Committee on Armed Services Chairman GOP Rep. Mac Thornberry is reportedly set to introduce an amendment to neuter the NSC by cutting its staff far below the current number of 400, The Washington Post reports.
The amendment would also provide Congress with more oversight capabilities. One of those oversight capabilities would entail that the president’s national security adviser would have to undergo a Senate confirmation hearing.
If the amendment moves through, it would represent an incredible reversal of the Obama administration’s eight-year-long move to centralize power and dictate its will over the objections of federal agencies.
And Republicans have taken notice of NSC overreach. All three of President Barack Obama’s former defense secretaries have bitterly and publicly complained about junior, administration-picked policy hacks making decisions based on ideological commitments, as opposed to strategic and empirical rigor. In fact, former Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel was essentially forced to resign because he couldn’t support the administration’s blind goal to shutter Guantanamo Bay as fast as humanly possible and without regard for security concerns.
Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates notes one particularly obnoxious moment in which Obama snubbed nearly the entire NSC in favor of advice from a few junior backbenchers, who advocated the president should support the coup in Egypt to be on the right side of history. Egypt has since descended into a maelstrom of violence and Islamic radicalism.
There have also been reports that in the immediate aftermath of the San Bernardino terrorist attacks, Obama instructed both the NSC and FBI to “downplay” the terrorist angle, which the FBI did, but only at first, even though internally the agency believed from the very start that the attacks couldn’t be reduced to some other category like workplace violence.
Most recently, Navy Times published a piece with commentary from unnamed military officials alleging that NSC adviser Susan Rice placed a kind of “gag order” on Navy Adm. Harry Harris because of his fiery rhetoric against China’s continued buildup in the South China Sea.
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