The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff will continue to present the National Security Council with his best military advice, DoD officials said today.
Gen. Joe Dunford is, by statute, the military advisor to the president, vice president, secretary of state and defense secretary and the other members of the National Security Council. Nothing in the presidential memorandum on the reorganization of the National Security Council and the Homeland Security Council that President Donald J. Trump signed on Saturday changes this, DoD officials said.
In fact, in the portion about the role of the chairman, the memo is identical to the executive order then-President George W. Bush signed in 2001, said Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. Jeff Davis during a media availability today. “There has been no change in the role of the chairman in 16 years,” he said.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis regards the chairman as his most important military advisor, the captain said. “He consults with the chairman on every decision he makes that impacts either directly or indirectly, our men and women in uniform,” Davis said.
He said that in the 10 days the administration has been in office, “there have been multiple interactions with the chairman and the president, where [the chairman] is providing his best military advice.”
Mattis intends to always have Dunford at his side whenever the NSC is discussing anything relating to national security, Davis said.
The operative portion of the memo is this: “The Director of National Intelligence and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as statutory advisers to the NSC, shall also attend NSC meetings”
The position of chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff was created in the same legislation that established the Defense Department in 1947. That legislation also created the National Security Council and established the position of chairman as the principal military adviser to the NSC. The director of the Central Intelligence Agency was the principal adviser on intelligence, but that position was superseded when the Office of the Director of National Intelligence was established in 2005.
The Goldwater-Nichols Act of 1986 strengthened the chairman’s role as the principal adviser, and that role continues to this day.
One area that caused confusion in Saturday’s executive memorandum was this: “The Director of National Intelligence and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff shall attend where issues pertaining to their responsibilities and expertise are to be discussed.”
Many commenters took this to mean that the chairman and director were being excluded from discussion, but DoD officials said that this continues a long-standing policy and is no diminution of either position’s authority.
(Follow Jim Garamone on Twitter: @GaramoneDODNews)