Report Details Growth of NSC Under Obama Administration


The Washington Post's Karen DeYoung had a front-page, top-of-the-fold story in Wednesday's paper detailing the exponential growth in the size of the National Security Council under the Obama administration.

Indeed, the NSC now has some 400 staffers -- double what it had under the Bush administration and four times the number it had under the Clinton administration, according to a graphic accompanying the article.

While Susan Rice, who heads the council, has taken steps to reduce its headcount by some 6 percent, the expansion is nevertheless seen as symbolic of the current White House's penchant for micromanagement. As DeYoung writes:

"... it may be too late to change impressions of an NSC bureaucracy whose size has come to symbolize an overbearing and paranoid White House that insists on controlling even the smallest policy details, often at the expense of timely and effective decisions."

The accusation of micromanagement in the Obama White House is nothing new, of course. Previous defense secretaries, including Leon Panetta and Robert Gates, a Republican holdover from the George W. Bush administration, have published books that were highly critical of the administration's management style.

In 2011, for example, the day the U.S. and coalition allies began airstrikes against the regime of Muammar Gaddafi in Libya, Gates wrote in his memoirs, "Duty," that he was questioned at a principals' meeting by then-National Security Adviser Tom Donilon and then-White House Chief of Staff William Daley over the military's targeting of Libyan ground forces.

"I angrily shot back, 'You are the biggest micromanagers I have ever worked with. You can't use a screwdriver reaching from D.C. to Libya on military operations. The president has given us his strategic direction. For God's sake, now let us run it.' My well of patience had run dry," he wrote.

The result of such an approach has been "sclerotic at best, constipated at worse" policy-making in major conflict areas, from civil war in Syria to Russian involvement in the Ukraine, according to one senior Defense Department official was quoted in The Washington Post story.

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