GEORGE P. SHULTZ
The Wall Street Journal
April 11, 2011
A pattern of governance has emerged in Washington that departs substantially from that envisaged in our Constitution. Under our basic concept of governance: (1) a president and vice president are elected; and (2) the departments of government are staffed by constitutional officers including secretaries, undersecretaries, assistant secretaries and others who are nominated by the president and confirmed for service by the consent of the Senate. They are publicly accountable and may be called to testify under oath about their activities.
Over time, this form of governance has changed. Presidents sometimes assume that the bureaucracy will try to capture a secretary and his or her immediate staff so that they will develop a departmental, rather than a White House, point of view. So presidents will name someone in the White House to oversee the department and keep a tight rein on its activities.
In national security and foreign policy, the National Security Council (NSC) was established after World War II by the National Security Act of 1947. As late as 1961, under President Dwight Eisenhower, the NSC was supported by a small staff headed by an executive secretary with a “passion for anonymity” and limited to a coordinating role. In subsequent administrations, that passion disappeared and staff members took on operational duties that formerly were the responsibility of constitutionally confirmed cabinet officials. This aggrandizement of the staff function then spread into fields far beyond national security.