Brzezinski, Scrowcroft: Obama Should Shrink 300-Plus National Security Staff


WASHINGTON – Zbigniew Brzezinski, former national security adviser to President Carter, and Brent Scowcroft, former national security adviser to Presidents Ford and George H.W. Bush, said President Obama’s national security team should be reduced in size.

“Kennedy’s national security adviser had a staff probably just a little larger than the number of deputies to the national security adviser in the present administration,” said Brzezinski during a discussion moderated by David Rothkopf, CEO and editor of the FP Group at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. The event was named after his new book titled National Insecurity: Making U.S. Foreign Policy in an Age of Fear.

Brzezinski said his staff, Scowcroft’s staff and Henry Kissinger’s staff were much smaller than the national security team in the Obama administration.

“We had staffs roughly in terms of 40, 50 – take a few as senior officers who were responsible for different issues in parts of the world. Today, the NSC staff writ large is well over 300 people – that creates a bureaucracy, which the national security adviser finds difficult to run directly,” Brzezinski said.

“I used to make sure that my 40 people would be in touch with me every day either in person or in writing so when I would go home while in the limo, I would read the daily report, which I required every one of them to write, indicating what they did, who they talked to, what problems they confronted,” he added.

Brzezinski said he would write notes on the reports, which the staff would receive the next morning.

“This is impossible today, absolutely impossible, so responses tend to be much more ad hoc, much more sudden,” he said.

Scowcroft, president of the Scowcroft Group, shared the same view as Brzezinski.

“The first thing you need to do fundamentally is reduce somewhat the size because when you’ve got 350 people, you’ve got a management issue. The NSC should not be managing. It’s a thought-processing system and you can’t have 350 people sitting down and making the policy,” said Scowcroft.