Susan Rice, who served as former President Obama’s national security adviser, said Saturday that issues of national security are being overlooked or poorly executed in the Trump administration, and that the approach worries her “enormously.”
“One of the biggest concerns that I have about where we are now is that the typical national security decision-making process, which has been in place in one form or another since 1947 [with] the National Security Act — and that has been imperfectly, but faithfully, applied by every prior administration — has broken down,” Rice said at an event hosted by American University in Washington, D.C.
Rice argued that the National Security Principals Committee — the Cabinet-level group led by the national security adviser and staffed by high-level officials including the secretaries of State and Defense, the attorney general and the director of National Intelligence — is less involved in making national security decisions than it should be.
“The wheels have come off the bus of the process,” Rice said, who was promoting her memoir “Tough Love.”
Her comments came a day after Bloomberg News reported that Trump has ordered a significant staff cut at the National Security Council. The news outlet noted the NSC grew under former President Obama and that about 310 people work there now.
Rice said it was her understanding that under former national security advisor John Bolton, who left the administration last month, “there were very, very few” meetings of the Principals Committee, which meant “that the best information was not being brought to the table and shared and factored into the decision-making process.”
Trump is now on his fourth national security adviser. His first adviser, Michael Flynn, resigned just over three weeks into Trump’s presidency following reports that he had misled Vice President Pence and the FBI about his own interactions with Russian officials. Flynn’s tenure as national security adviser was the shortest in the history of the position.
Trump’s new national security adviser, Robert O’Brien, was appointed last month after Bolton’s departure.
Rice described herself as the “point guard” of Obama’s national security team — not the person “playing the most public role” but someone whose constant focus is on helping the team function as a whole and keeping its plays on track — and suggested that the frequent turnover in the Trump administration was contributing to dysfunction on national security issues.
“There have been four point guards,” Rice said, referring to the Trump’s four national security advisers, and “a lot of air balls.”
“I think it’s obvious that the principal consumer of [national security information], the president of the United States, is making his own determinations on the fly through the iPhone, rather than through a deliberative process,” Rice added. “That worries me enormously.”
Rice acknowledged that advice from prior National Security Councils has not been infallible, but argued that administrations prior to Trump’s were on the same page when it came to matters of process regarding national security.
“It matters that the process is sound and that it’s relatively transparent and that it is predictable and reliable, and we can’t come to think that what we have now is normal,” she said. “It’s not normal. It’s deeply problematic.”