After Susan Rice incorrectly informed the American people about the source of the terrorist attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, her appointment as National Security Adviser was, to say the least, controversial. But how much influence on security policy will she actually have?
The National Security Adviser is an appointed staff member of the Executive Office of the President (EOP). Staff members of the EOP are appointed directly by the president and do not require confirmation by the Senate.
As the title implies, the National Security Adviser is the chief adviser to the President of the United States on any foreign or domestic issues that might affect or threaten national security. Assisted by the staff of the National Security Council, the National Security Adviser may be called on to report to the National Security Council or directly to the president.
In times of crisis, the National Security Adviser is one of the people who might be summoned to the White House Situation Room by the president.
However, as an appointed employee of the EOP, the National Security Adviser has no direct authority over the policies or actions of any federal agency, including the Departments of Defense, State or Homeland Security.
In theory, and theory only, the advice of the National Security Adviser may be of more value to the president than that of the Secretary of Defense or Secretary of State, because his or her advice should not influenced by either partisan politics or the vested interests of the massive bureaucracies behind the federal agencies.
For example, the National Security Adviser could advise the president on policies regarding the government's use of drone aircraft without having his or her thinking clouded by how those policies might affect the employees, operations or budgets of the federal agencies involved.
The National Security Adviser is just one of over 300 high-level federal government positions that can be filled by the Presidential Appointment process without Senate approval.
The first National Security Adviser was appointed by President Eisenhower in 1953. Susan Rice is the 23rd person and second woman to serve as National Security Adviser. Dr. Condoleezza Rice served from 2001 to 2005 under President George W. Bush. Other notable past National Security Advisers include Gen. Colin Powell under President Reagan, Henry Kissinger under Presidents Nixon and Ford, and Zbigniew Brzezinski under President Carter.