Obama directive expands national security

United States President Barack Obama is expanding the membership and reach of his top national security team, in recognition of the increasing role energy, climate and economic issues now play in keeping the US safe.

A soon-to-be-released presidential directive reflects an effort by the White House to be better prepared to meet 21st-century threats, which may now involve the nation’s vast cyber networks, the delivery of energy and the effects of the economic downturn on fragile governments.

The Associated Press obtained a copy of the directive on Thursday, which is the first penned by Obama and was signed on February 13.

Under the new structure, representatives from a broad range of federal agencies — from Commerce to the Office of Science and Technology Policy — will be invited to attend meetings when the issue affects their area of expertise.

While the directive outlines a broader structure for the National Security Council (NSC), it is just the first step. Two other key reviews are also under way — one that looks at the nation’s cybersecurity and another that is considering a move to restructure the Homeland Security Council that would shift some of its responsibilities to the NSC, also in the executive branch.

A senior administration official said the goal of the directive and subsequent restructuring is to make sure the White House is organised in a way that will allow federal agencies to collaborate better as national security threats come up.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he’s not authorised to discuss the directive before it’s publicly released, also said agency leaders had met on Thursday to talk about the HSC restructuring, but no decisions have been made.

The NSC has historically been centered on State Department and Pentagon matters, but in a speech at a security conference in Munich, retired General James Jones, Obama’s national security adviser, told world leaders that international security is no longer limited to defence and foreign ministries.

Instead, he said it now encompasses energy, narco-terrorism, illegal arms shipments and proliferation.

Admiral Mike Mullen, chairperson of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, echoed that view on Thursday, telling reporters at the Pentagon that the global financial crisis can put governments in weaker positions, raising the potential for security concerns.

As resources dry up, Mullen said, there will be an impact on how much attention and resources other governments can spend protecting borders and other critical security issues.

Created by the Bush administration after the September 11, 2001, attacks, the Homeland Security Council initially was assigned to advise the president on all domestic terrorism issues. It later took on other domestic security issues, but as the Homeland Security Department was created and matured, the homeland council has played less of a role in day-to-day operations. — Sapa-AP

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