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History of the United States National Security Council 1993-1997

Clinton Administration, 1993-1997

President William J. Clinton on January 20, 1993, the day of his inauguration, issued Presidential Decision Directive l to departments and agencies concerned with national security affairs. PDD l revised and renamed the framework governing the work of the National Security Council. A Presidential Review Directive (PRD) series would be the mechanism used by the new administration to direct that specific reviews and analyses be undertaken by the departments and agencies. A Presidential Decision Directive (PDD) series would now be used to promulgate Presidential decisions on national security matters. The Bush administration's National Security Review (NSR) series and National Security Directive (NSD) series were abolished.

On January 21, 1993, in PDD 2, President Clinton approved an NSC decision-making system that enlarged the membership of the National Security Council and included a much greater emphasis on economic issues in the formulation of national security policy. The President, Vice President, Secretary of State, and Secretary of Defense were members of the NSC as prescribed by statute. The Director of Central Intelligence and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as statutory advisers to the NSC, attended its meetings. The new membership of the National Security Council included the following officials: the Secretary of the Treasury, the U.S. Representative to the United Nations, the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, the Assistant to the President for Economic Policy, and the Chief of Staff to the President. Although not a member, the Attorney General would be invited to attend meetings pertaining to his jurisdiction. The heads of other Executive departments and agencies, the special statutory advisers to the NSC, and other senior officials would be invited to attend meetings of the NSC where appropriate.

The new position of Assistant to the President for Economic Policy, which had been promised by Clinton during the election campaign, was intended to serve as a senior economic adviser to coordinate foreign and domestic economic policy through a newly-created National Economic Council (NEC). Robert E. Rubin was the first to be appointed to this position. The NEC was to deal with foreign and domestic economic issues in much the same way as the NSC coordinated diplomatic and security issues, and the Assistant to the President for Economic Policy was to be included in meetings involving international economic issues.

In January 1993, Clinton appointed W. Anthony Lake as his National Security Adviser. Lake, a former Foreign Service officer, served under Henry Kissinger, President Nixon's National Security Adviser, and as director of the Department of State Policy Planning Staff during the Carter administration. During the Carter years, Lake had witnessed the negative effects of bureaucratic infighting and squabbling between Secretary of State Vance and National Security Adviser Brzezinski. As Clinton's National Security Adviser, Lake was effective in maintaining cordial relations with Secretary of State Warren M. Christopher and in developing an atmosphere of cooperation and collegiality. Lake initially maintained a low public profile, avoiding public appearances and television interviews, so as not to upstage the Secretary of State as Kissinger had done in the Nixon administration. In September 1993, however, in response to criticism that the Clinton administration had not adequately explained its foreign policy, Lake began to appear as a public speaker.

The National Security Council framework in the Clinton administration included an NSC Principals Committee, a forum available to Cabinet-level officials to discuss and resolve issues not requiring the President's participation. An NSC Deputies Committee served as the senior sub-cabinet interagency forum for considering policy issues affecting national security and for reviewing and monitoring the work of the NSC interagency process. This process included Interagency Working Groups (IWGs), which were to convene on a regular basis to review and coordinate the implementation of Presidential decisions in their respective policy areas. Among the most urgent issues the NSC dealt with in the first year of the Clinton administration were Bosnia, Haiti, Iraq, and Somalia. The several dozen other questions the NSC system dealt with initially included such issues as illegal drugs, United Nations peacekeeping, Zaire, strategic arms control policy, China, and global environmental affairs.

Samuel R. "Sandy" Berger, a longtime foreign policy adviser to Clinton who had been Lake's deputy since 1993, became National Security Adviser in March 1997, after Clinton nominated Lake to be Director of Central Intelligence. (Lake subsequently withdrew from the nomination.) Berger initiated a review of principles that would guide the foreign policy of Clinton's second term. These included the integration of Eastern and Western Europe without provoking tensions with Russia; promoting more open trade; improving defenses against such transnational threats as terrorism and narcotics; and promoting a strong and stable Asian-Pacific community by seeking trade cooperation with China and avoiding confrontation on human rights issues. In the spring and summer of 1997, the National Security Council became occupied with such issues as the ratification of the Chemical Weapons Treaty, NATO enlargement, the Middle East peace process, the U.S-Russian Summit at Helsinki, and the Denver Economic Summit.

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