President Barack Obama announced yesterday that he will follow a recommendation of the 9-11 Commission and fold the Homeland Security Council into the National Security Council (NSC), creating one body capable of quick communication and unified policymaking on security threats, reports The Wall Street Journal.
Homeland-security duties will be folded into the NSC, said John Brennan, deputy national-security adviser for homeland security. Mr. Brennan said the separate White House staffs made sense in the early days after the Sept. 11 attacks, when the Department of Homeland Security was still young and benefited from additional oversight and input. The department "has become a more capable department and is able to address a lot of these issues now on their own," he said.
The move follows a review that started in February. Retired Marine Gen. James Jones, who heads the NSC, said foreign and domestic distinctions are often moot. He also suggested the prior system might have blinded officials to imminent danger. "There is no right hand, left hand anymore. There's a single vector," Gen. Jones told reporters.
In a statement, Obama said he implemented the merger because "[t]he challenges of the 21st century are increasingly unconventional and transnational, and therefore demand a response that effectively integrates all aspects of American power."
The integration of the two councils will create a single body with 240 employees that will report to Jones, reports The Washington Post.
Both Jones and Brennan say the merger will not dilute the homeland security focus. According to the Post, Brennan will continue to report to Jones and will keep his direct access to President Obama.
Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), the ranking Republican on the Senate Homeland Security Committee, was more circumspect about the merger in a statement quoted by The Los Angeles Times:
"To coordinate homeland security matters across the federal government and with our partners in state and local governments and the private sector requires sustained and dedicated attention. Only time will tell whether this new structure can maintain the necessary focus."
The reorganization at the White House did not stop with the merging of the HSC and the NSC. Obama will add three new offices to the NSC, officials told the Post. The three will be committed to cybersecurity, terrorism using weapons of mass destruction, and "resilience"—or the ability of a society to withstand and bounce back from an act of terrorism, a natural disaster, or a pandemic.