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United States National Security Council

The White House National Security Council (NSC) is the principal forum used by the President of the United States for consideration of national security, military matters, and foreign policy matters with senior national security advisors and Cabinet officials and is part of the Executive Office of the President of the United States. Since its inception under Harry S. Truman, the function of the Council has been to advise and assist the President on national security and foreign policies. The Council also serves as the President's principal arm for coordinating these policies among various government agencies. The Council has counterparts in the national security councils of many other nations.

The National Security Council was created in 1947 by the National Security Act. It was created because policymakers felt that the diplomacy of the State Department was no longer adequate to contain the USSR in light of the tension between the Soviet Union and the United States. The intent was to ensure coordination and concurrence among the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force and other instruments of national security policy such as the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), also created in the National Security Act. In 2004, the position of Director of National Intelligence (DNI) was created, taking over the responsibilities previously held by the head of CIA, the Director of Central Intelligence, as a cabinet-level position to oversee and coordinate activities of the Intelligence Community.

On January 29, 2017, President Donald Trump restructured the Principals Committee (a subset of the full National Security Council), while at the same time altering the attendance of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Director of National Intelligence. On April 5, 2017, President Trump removed Steve Bannon from the Security Council.

A secret National Security Council panel pursues the killing of an individual, including American citizens, who has been called a suspected terrorist. In this case, no public record of this decision or any operation to kill the suspect will be made available. The panel's actions are justified by "two principal legal theories": They "were permitted by Congress when it authorized the use of military forces against militants in the wake of the attacks of September 11, 2001; and they are permitted under international law if a country is defending itself."

Homeland Security Advisor John O. Brennan, who has helped codify targeted killing criteria by creating the Disposition Matrix database, has described the Obama Administration targeted killing policy by stating that "in order to ensure that our counterterrorism operations involving the use of lethal force are legal, ethical, and wise, President Obama has demanded that we hold ourselves to the highest possible standards and processes".

The Trump Administration's National Security Council, as per the statute and National Security Presidential Memorandum¥4, is chaired by the President. Its members are the Vice President (statutory), the Secretary of State (statutory), the Secretary of Defense (statutory), the Secretary of Energy (statutory), the National Security Advisor (non-statutory), the Attorney General (non-statutory), the Secretary of Homeland Security (non-statutory), the Representative of the United States to the United Nations (non-statutory), and the Secretary of the Treasury (non-statutory).

The Principals Committee of the National Security Council is the Cabinet-level senior interagency forum for consideration of national security policy issues. The Principals Committee is convened and chaired by the National Security Advisor. The regular attendees of the Principals Committee are the Secretary of State, the Secretary of the Treasury, the Secretary of Defense, the Attorney General, the Secretary of Energy, the Secretary of Homeland Security, the White House Chief of Staff, the Director of National Intelligence, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, the Homeland Security Advisor, and the United States Ambassador to the United Nations. .... The White House Counsel, the Deputy Counsel to the President for National Security Affairs, the Director of the Office of Management and Budget, the Deputy National Security Advisor, the Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategy, the National Security Advisor to the Vice President, and the NSC Executive Secretary may also attend all meetings of the Principals Committee. When considering international economic issues, the Principals Committee's regular attendees will include the Secretary of Commerce, the United States Trade Representative, and the Assistant to the President for Economic Policy.

The Policy Coordination Committees of the National Security Council, established and directed by the Deputies Committee, are responsible for the management of the development and implementation of national security policies through interagency coordination. Policy Coordination Committees are the main day-to-day fora for interagency coordination of national security policy development, implementation and analysis in aide of the Deputies Committee and the Principals Committee. Policy Coordination Committees are chaired by Senior Directors on the National Security Council staff, or sometimes National Economic Council staff, with Assistant Secretary-level officials from the relevant executive department or agency acting as co-chairs.