Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
Jake Sullivan
since January 20, 2021
Executive Office of the President
Member ofNational Security Council
Homeland Security Council
Reports toPresident of the United States
AppointerPresident of the United States
Constituting instrumentNational Security Presidential Memorandum[1]
First holderRobert Cutler
DeputyDeputy National Security Advisor
WebsiteOfficial website

The Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs (APNSA), commonly referred to as the National Security Advisor (NSA),[2][Note 1] is a senior aide in the Executive Office of the President, based at the West Wing of the White House.[3] The national security advisor serves as the principal advisor to the President of the United States on all national security issues. The national security advisor participates in meetings of the National Security Council (NSC) and usually chairs meetings of the Principals Committee of the NSC with the Secretary of State and Secretary of Defense (those meetings not attended by the president). The NSA also sits on the Homeland Security Council (HSC). The national security advisor is supported by NSC staff who produce classified research and briefings for the national security advisor to review and present, either to the NSC or the president. The national security advisor is appointed by the president and does not require confirmation by the United States Senate. An appointment of a three- or four-star general to the role requires Senate confirmation to maintain that rank in the new position.[4]


The influence and role of the national security advisor varies from administration to administration and depends not only on the qualities of the person appointed to the position, but also on the style and management philosophy of the incumbent president.[5] Ideally, the national security advisor serves as an honest broker of policy options for the president in the field of national security, rather than as an advocate for his or her own policy agenda.[6]

The national security advisor is a staff position in the Executive Office of the President and does not have line or budget authority over either the Department of State or the Department of Defense, unlike the secretary of state and the secretary of defense, who are Senate-confirmed officials with statutory authority over their departments.[7] The national security advisor is able to offer daily advice (due to the proximity) to the president independently of the vested interests of the large bureaucracies and clientele of those departments.[5]

In times of crisis, the national security advisor is likely to operate from the White House Situation Room or the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (as on September 11, 2001),[8] updating the president on the latest events in a crisis situation.


President George H. W. Bush meets in the Oval Office with his NSC about Operation Desert Shield, 1991

The National Security Council was created at the start of the Cold War under the National Security Act of 1947 to coordinate defense, foreign affairs, international economic policy, and intelligence; this was part of a large reorganization that saw the creation of the Department of Defense and the Central Intelligence Agency.[9][10] The Act did not create the position of the national security advisor per se, but it did create an executive secretary in charge of the staff. In 1949, the NSC became part of the Executive Office of the President.[9]

Robert Cutler was the first national security advisor in 1953, and held the job twice, both times during the Eisenhower administration. The system has remained largely unchanged since then, particularly since President John Kennedy, with powerful national security advisors and strong staff but a lower importance given to formal NSC meetings. This continuity persists despite the tendency of each new president to replace the advisor and senior NSC staff.[9]

President Richard Nixon's national security advisor, Henry Kissinger, enhanced the importance of the role, controlling the flow of information to the president and meeting with him multiple times per day. Kissinger also holds the distinction of serving as national security advisor and secretary of state at the same time from September 22, 1973, until November 3, 1975.[9][10] He holds the record for longest term of service (2,478 days); Michael Flynn holds the record for shortest term, at just 24 days.

Brent Scowcroft held the job in two non-consecutive administrations: the Ford administration and the George H. W. Bush administration.


  Denotes acting
Image Name Start End Duration President
Robert Cutler March 23, 1953 April 2, 1955 2 years, 10 days Dwight D. Eisenhower
Dillon Anderson April 2, 1955 September 1, 1956 1 year, 152 days
William Jackson[11][12][13]
September 1, 1956 January 7, 1957 128 days
Robert Cutler January 7, 1957 June 24, 1958 1 year, 168 days
Gordon Gray June 24, 1958 January 13, 1961 2 years, 203 days
Mac Bundy January 20, 1961 February 28, 1966 5 years, 39 days John F. Kennedy
Lyndon B. Johnson
Walt Rostow April 1, 1966 January 20, 1969 2 years, 294 days
Henry Kissinger January 20, 1969 November 3, 1975 6 years, 287 days Richard Nixon
Gerald Ford
Brent Scowcroft November 3, 1975 January 20, 1977 1 year, 78 days
Zbig Brzezinski January 20, 1977 January 20, 1981 4 years, 0 days Jimmy Carter
Richard Allen January 21, 1981 January 4, 1982 348 days Ronald Reagan
James Nance[14]
November 30, 1981 January 4, 1982 35 days
William Clark January 4, 1982 October 17, 1983 1 year, 286 days
Bud McFarlane October 17, 1983 December 4, 1985 2 years, 48 days
John Poindexter December 4, 1985 November 25, 1986 356 days
Alton Keel
November 26, 1986 December 31, 1986 35 days
Frank Carlucci January 1, 1987[16] November 23, 1987 326 days
Colin Powell November 23, 1987 January 20, 1989 1 year, 58 days
Brent Scowcroft January 20, 1989 January 20, 1993 4 years, 0 days George H. W. Bush
Tony Lake January 20, 1993 March 14, 1997 4 years, 53 days Bill Clinton
Sandy Berger March 14, 1997 January 20, 2001 3 years, 312 days
Condoleezza Rice January 20, 2001[17] January 25, 2005[17] 4 years, 5 days George W. Bush
Stephen Hadley January 26, 2005[17] January 20, 2009 3 years, 360 days
James Jones[18] January 20, 2009 October 8, 2010 1 year, 261 days Barack Obama
Tom Donilon[19] October 8, 2010 July 1, 2013[20] 2 years, 266 days
Susan Rice[20] July 1, 2013[20] January 20, 2017 3 years, 203 days
Mike Flynn January 20, 2017 February 13, 2017 24 days Donald Trump
Keith Kellogg
February 13, 2017 February 20, 2017 7 days
H. R. McMaster February 20, 2017 April 9, 2018 1 year, 48 days
John Bolton April 9, 2018 September 10, 2019 1 year, 154 days
Charlie Kupperman
September 10, 2019 September 18, 2019 8 days
Robert O'Brien September 18, 2019 January 20, 2021 1 year, 124 days
Jake Sullivan[21] January 20, 2021 Incumbent 3 years, 168 days Joe Biden

See also


  1. ^ Abbreviated NSA, or sometimes APNSA or ANSA in order to avoid confusion with the abbreviation of the National Security Agency.


2009-02: The National Security Advisor and Staff (PDF). 2009. Archived from the original (PDF) on March 3, 2016. Retrieved March 1, 2015.

  1. ^ "National Security Presidential Memorandum–4 of April 4, 2017" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on April 7, 2017.
  2. ^ The National Security Advisor and Staff: p. 1.
  3. ^ "History of the National Security Council, 1947-1997". August 1997. Archived from the original on February 22, 2010. Retrieved September 5, 2008 – via National Archives.
  4. ^ Portnoy, Steven (February 21, 2017). "McMaster will need Senate confirmation to serve as national security adviser". CBS News. Archived from the original on March 1, 2017. Retrieved March 12, 2017.
  5. ^ a b The National Security Advisor and Staff: pp. 17-21.
  6. ^ The National Security Advisor and Staff: pp. 10-14.
  7. ^ See 22 U.S.C. § 2651 for the Secretary of State and 10 U.S.C. § 113 for the Secretary of Defense.
  8. ^ Clarke, Richard A. (2004). Against All Enemies. New York: Free Press. p. 18. ISBN 0-7432-6024-4.
  9. ^ a b c d George, Robert Z; Rishikof, Harvey (2011). The National Security Enterprise: Navigating the Labyrinth. Georgetown University Press. p. 32.
  10. ^ a b Schmitz, David F. (2011). Brent Scowcroft: Internationalism and Post-Vietnam War American Foreign Policy. Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 2–3.
  11. ^ Burke, John P. (2009). Honest Broker?: The National Security Advisor and Presidential Decision Making. Texas A&M University Press. p. 26. ISBN 9781603441025.
  12. ^ "Foreign Relations of the United States, 1955–1957, National Security Policy, Volume XIX". Department of State, Office of the Historian. Retrieved July 12, 2020.
  13. ^ Lay, James S.; Johnson, Robert H. (1960). Organizational history of the National Security Council during the Truman and Eisenhower administrations. Washington, DC: Central Intelligence Agency. p. 40.
  14. ^ Weisman, Steven R. (January 2, 1982). "Reagan Replacing Security Advisor, Officials Report". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved November 25, 2020.
  15. ^ "Nomination of Alton G. Keel, Jr., to be the Permanent United States Representative on the Council of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization | the American Presidency Project".
  16. ^ "Newly appointed national security adviser Frank Carlucci is planning... - UPI Archives".
  17. ^ a b c The National Security Advisor and Staff: p. 33.
  18. ^ "Key Members of Obama-Biden National Security Team Announced" (Press release). The Office of the President-Elect. December 1, 2008. Archived from the original on December 1, 2008. Retrieved December 1, 2008.
  19. ^ "Donilon to Replace Jones as National Security Adviser". CNN. October 2010. Archived from the original on November 8, 2012. Retrieved October 8, 2010.
  20. ^ a b c Wilson, Scott; Lynch, Colum (June 5, 2013). "National Security Team Shuffle May Signal More Activist Stance at White House". Washington Post. Archived from the original on October 25, 2017.
  21. ^ "Biden to Appoint Jake Sullivan as National Security Adviser". CBS News. November 23, 2020.

Further reading