As has been recently reported, President-elect Donald Trump has settled on former Army General Mike Flynn as his choice for national security advisor, to take effect once the new president assumes office in January.  Flynn was the former head of intelligence for Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), and former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA).

The position of Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs (APNSA) — the official name for the position — though not one subject to Senatorial confirmation, is nonetheless a key part of any administration, especially in the realm of military, diplomatic, and foreign policy.  As the name implies, this person serves as the president’s closest advisor on national security issues, and depending upon the proclivities of the particular president, the national security advisor can be imbued with significant power and influence.

Past powerful and influential national security advisors have included Henry Kissinger (Nixon), Zbigniew Brzezinski (Carter), and Brent Scowcroft (Ford and George H.W. Bush).  These three, in particular, held significant sway in their respective White Houses, as key advisors to the presidents they served.

Most see the person in this role, in ideal terms, as an honest broker between competing national security views within an administration, as represented by the Departments of State and Defense, particularly, rather than as a proponent of his or her own views.  That being said, one would imagine that it is very rare indeed that a national security advisor withholds his own views from these important discussions.