George W. Bush Administration
The overall policy-making organization under the general authority of President George W. Bush, for which he had command responsibility, but in which some detailed planning or implementation is delegated. Minimally, it consists of key appointed officials of the executive branch, some of which do and do not require Senate confirmation, the U.S. military and intelligence services, but not the Legislative or Judicial branches of the U.S. government.
President Bush succeeded Bill Clinton as President. He has been succeeded by Barack Obama (Democrat). Both Obama, and Republican candidate John McCain, have distanced themselves from some current policies. Nevertheless, major, implemented national policies cannot change overnight.
In addition to President Bush, the other elected official was Vice-President Dick Cheney. Traditionally, virtually all responsibilities of the Vice-President, other than ceremonially presiding over the Senate and replacing a dead President, were those delegated by the President. Vice presidents had relatively little actual authority until the 1960s, with a steady, yet undefined, growth in delegated power. Cheney legal staff have offered some new ideas referring to a unique role for the Office of the Vice President, which, in these theories, may not be strictly under any part of government.
In addition to formal treaty, legislative, and court rulings including stare decisis legal precedent, the Administration's policy is influenced by various ideologies, individual advisors, and groups who desire certain policies. Very loosely, the ideology is considered to be based on that of the Republican Party, an organization with many opinions and factions. Various external policy influencers have more or less influence in specific areas.
White House staff
While many White House functions are ceremonial, certain key operational and advisory functions rest with the staff, who are appointed by the President, not confirmed by the Senate. Many Presidents have held that staff advice is covered by executive privilege and is not available for Congressional review, as opposed to the agencies headed by officials who must be confirmed by the Senate.
Some of the more complex legal theories relating to presidential unitary authority, independent of checks and balances from other branches of the U.S. government, originated with White House legal staff. Unitary authority, in turn, is the basis for many of the more controversial decisions in national security.
National security policy
The United States has the complex role of having the most powerful military organization, within the context that grand strategy recognizes that military means  There are international approaches based on concepts, not necessarily rigorous, including neoconservatism.
To issue operational commands, the key structure is the National Command Authority (NCA), consisting of the President and Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, who continued in that role in the Barack Obama administration. This administration's Secretary of State, Condaleeza Rice, was the nation's senior foreign policy official. Obviously other senior officials in economic, military, and intelligence roles have major influence; it should be noted, however, that the U.S. concept is that the uniformed military receives its policy direction from civilians.
Rice began the Administration as Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs. When she moved to State, her deputy, Stephen Hadley, succeeded her.
War on terror
In many respects, the Administration defines its national security model around what it terms the war on terror, a term that does not have universal agreement on scope or even existence. Nevertheless, it is a strong concept for the Administration.
These efforts are unilateral and multinational. It is not well known the attacks of 9-11 led to the first invocation of the NATO Treaty, and a significant part of the intervention in Afghanistan, but not Iraq, is under a NATO command called the International Security Assistance Force.
Extraordinary detention and tortureThis Administration claiming that detainees at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp are not subject to the rules of the Geneva Convention but rather a special enemy combatant status, and that they are being subjected to enhanced interrogation techniques rather than torture. In January 2009, before the end of the administration, Susan Crawford, a retired judge and the convening authority that decides whether prisoners are to be sent to trial, determined
We tortured Mohammed al-Qahtani...His treatment met the legal definition of torture. And that's why I did not refer the case" for prosecution. The techniques they used were all authorized, but the manner in which they applied them was overly aggressive and too persistent. . . . You think of torture, you think of some horrendous physical act done to an individual. This was not any one particular act; this was just a combination of things that had a medical impact on him, that hurt his health. It was abusive and uncalled for. And coercive. Clearly coercive. It was that medical impact that pushed me over the edge [to call it torture]
Although a variety of international bodies state that they are torture including the International Committee of the Red Cross, the United Nations, the Council of Europe's Commissioner for Human Rights, Amnesty International, the British House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee and the Canadian government.
These methods have been forbidden by the Barack Obama administration.
To a large extent, concerns about terrorism have driven the idea that led to the creation of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). That Department is also the focal point for national-level preparedness and response to major natural disasters (e.g., Hurricane Katrina) and major accidents involving infrastructure (e.g., bridges and electrical power). DHS absorbed some emergency management organizations, most recently the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which traces its origins back to a cabinet-level function created by the National Security Act of 1947.
In the latter areas involving safety, there are also semi-autonomous agencies such as the National Transportation Safety Board, and government-industry partnerships for critical infrastructure (see System Control And Data Acquisition) such as the North American Electric Reliability Council coordinates the work of 8 regional grids, and is overseen by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. A good deal of infrastructure, such as electrical power, intimately involves Canada.
Courts and Justice
Economic policy strongly favors principally deregulated market models, although there is not a national consensus of the proper relationship between market forces and government, or quasi-governmental organization, regulation.