Analysis & Opinions - Foreign Policy

Six Pieces of Advice for Donald Trump's National Security Council Staff

| Feb. 03, 2017

I served on the U.S. National Security Council staff for two stints, for three presidents, for a total of 11 years. I have worked longer for the NSC than for any other organization. I therefore care deeply about the importance of a fair and orderly policy development process — the primary job of the NSC staff. Such a process diminishes the risk of mistakes and maximizes chances for effective implementation. The stakes can be life or death. This is the professional way to make national security policy, especially given America’s exceptional responsibilities as the indispensable nation.

In 2008, when one of my colleagues at the National Nuclear Security Administration was asked to join the National Security Council staff, I wrote the following points of advice. They were written to someone who I wanted to succeed. I now use them to teach students at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. Given recent controversy over the proper role of the NSC staff, they might now be of broader interest.

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For Academic Citation: Tobey, William.“Six Pieces of Advice for Donald Trump's National Security Council Staff.” Foreign Policy, February 3, 2017.

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