WASHINGTON: Incoming National Security Advisor Michael Flynn issued a ringing endorsement today of American exceptionalism and declared, “we have always been the indispensable nation and we always will be.”
Flynn also appeared to hint at plans, supported by most GOP defense lawmakers, to reduce the size of the National Security Council staff. Without providing any details, Flynn said he is “absolutely committed to carrying out necessary reforms carried out by previous administrations.”
He spoke after his colleague, Susan Rice, the outgoing NSA, defended the current size of the NSC staff. After saying she was “struck” by how much the staff had grown between her two stints on the NSC, Rice noted the administration had cut staff by 15 percent. And she noted that 90 percent of the staff are “career national security professionals,” rather than political appointees.
Rice also argued that size was not the primary issue. Instead, she said, the role of the NSC is what matters, and “every president will decide that for himself, or herself.”
As Breaking D readers know, advisors to the Trump campaign support whacking the staff from its current level of around 375 close to the historic average of 40 to 60. A wide range of national security experts have sharply criticized the Obama Administration’s national security decision making, saying that the NSC staff had usurped the role of Cabinet agencies and forced decision-makers to spend enormous amounts of time serving NSC demands for information.
Flynn offered an intriguing outline of what the NSC will do under President Trump. The NSC will serve four functions, ones that sound as if they will hew much more closely to the 1947 law that established the council. It will:
- Advise the president on national security issues;
- Formulate policy;
- Monitor how policy is carried out;
- Prepare the president to cope with future threats
Flynn also made an intriguing remark about Trump, saying part of his job will be “we need to help him work with our partners in Congress on both sides of the aisle (emphasis added) despite the difficulties we will face.”
Overall, though, the tenor of today’s remarks at the remarkable event at the U.S Institute for Peace, “Passing the Baton,” was hopeful. Flynn and Rice delivered a pair of speeches that appeared to leave the audience heartened by the prospect of a rational and orderly transition of power in the national security realm.
Rice said the “handoff continues as I speak” and offered praise for the Trump national security team, saying they had had “constructive meetings with Gen. Flynn and his staff. I will say I’m very proud of the professional manner in which we have conducted this transition.”
While most of Rice’s speech was a predictable, though well written and delivered, defense of the Obama Administration’s foreign policy and national security achievements, it was also marked by a touching mention of her past. Her grandfather “was a janitor who emigrated from Jamaica in 1912 with my grandmother, who was a maid and a seamstress. Standing here as the national security advisor to the president of the United States, I’m filled with gratitude for this country and the opportunities afforded me and so many others.”
Her finishing line helped bring the jaded group of national security professionals to its feet for a 43-second standing ovation. She said she hoped America will remain a strong and secure country, a “beacon of hope for all the world.”
Flynn put a somewhat different spin on that sentiment in his speech, noting that, “like it or not, the world needs us.“