Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs

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Appointed by the President of the United States, but not requiring Senate confirmation, the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, sometimes called the National Security Assistant (with the ambiguous abbreviation NSA), is a key White House adviser to the President. He or she is a statutory member of the National Security Council. The incumbent is James Jones (General, U.S. Marine Corps, retired).

Originally, the Assistant was seen as a coordinator of information from relevant agencies such as Defense, State, CIA, etc. The responsibilities of the Assistant and of the Executive Secretary of the National Security Council were not well defined. In general, the role of the Assistant was whatever the President said it was, and what the personality of the incumbent created. Some incumbents were low-profile staff advisors, going to the "superstar" extreme of Henry Kissinger, who, for a time, was simultaneously Assistant to the President and Secretary of State. Colin Powell and Condaleeza Rice subsequently became the Secretary of State. It was sometimes unclear whether the Assistant, or the senior cabinet official, the Secretary, was more influential -- the Assistant, based in the White House and without a Department to run, certainly had more time with the President.

There is more than "stardom". McGeorge Bundy, assistant to Lyndon Johnson, saw his role as presenting the President with clear choices, and, where appropriate, his recommendation. Condaleeza Rice supported George W. Bush in his desire to see "bridges"; she would attempt to create compromises to be given to him.