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The Decision-Making Processes of the U.S. Government

23). The original function of the staff was to be a sort of managerial body which would ensure that key officials attended meetings and had open access to the President. During the Kennedy Administration, the NSA became a policy advisor who served as a personal advisor to the President without the bureaucratic baggage of the big organizations, such as the State and Defense Departments (Clarke, 1989, p. 9). The NSC itself was not subject to oversight by Congress since it was part of the Executive Office of the President. The National Security Assistant was not subject to Senate confirmation and could not be compelled to testify before Congress; consequently, Presidents gradually came to place great confidence in the NSA and his staff because they were accountable only to him (Donnelly, 1987, p. 23).

The status of the National Security Advisor has evolved since 1947 to that of a presidential advisor whose influence rivals that of members of the cabinet (Destler, 1980, p. 575). During the first term of President Nixon, National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger exercised more real power in foreign policy than did the Secretary of State. He made specific decisions concerning foreign policy, excluded State Department officials from certain back-channel negotiations, and became the Nixon Administration's prime public foreign-policy spokesman (Destler, 1980, p. 580). President Carter made the National Security Assistant a cabinet-rank official. The conflict between his NSA, Zbignew Brzezinski, and his Secretary of State, Cyrus Vance, eventually became so serious that the Administration was unable to formulate a coherent foreign policy. The two men held very divergent views on foreign policy and President Carter never made clear which views reflected his own; consequently, there was no evident direction to U.S. policy (Donnelly, 1987, p. 23).

President Reagan, however, eliminated the cabinet ranking and attempted to reduce the policymaking ...

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