The former National Security Advisor Mike Flynn has reportedly plead guilty in regards to charges that he intentionally made “false, fictitious and fraudulent statements” to the FBI. In light of these developments, it helps to know exactly in what capacity these advisors serve. The easy, obvious answer (and as the title implies) is that they advise the president on all things national security. It is an advisory role in the truest sense of the word, as they don’t actually have fiscal or direct authority over functional aspects of government like the DoS or DoD, they simply advise on a daily basis.
The National Security Advisor has a staff to back them up with relevant information (intelligence reports, in-depth research, etc.) so as to give the president the most informed advice possible. They also sit on the National Security Council, a council at the highest levels of U.S. government to manage, govern and coordinate the various agencies responsible for national security as well as advising the president on both foreign policy and national security. The National Security Advisor does NOT have to be a member or veteran of the Armed Forces.
Mike Flynn, retired U.S. Army Lieutenant General, was the National Security Advisor under Presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump. Now the National Security Advisor is Lieutenant General H. R. McMaster, though the acting advisor is retired Lieutenant General Keith Kellogg.
The first National Security Advisor was Robert Cutler, appointed in 1953 by Dwight Eisenhower. He was an infantry officer in WWI and eventually reached the rank of Brigadier General until 1945, upon which time he retired. As mentioned before, the National Security Advisor does not have to have served in the military, but it wasn’t until Walt Whitman Rostow, the 7th man to hold the position, that someone who had not served in the military took the job—and he actively served in the predecessor to the CIA (OSS) during WWII. If you count that, it wasn’t until the 10th incumbent, Zbigniew Brzezinski, that non-military personnel held the position.
The National Security Advisor is generally privy to daily interaction with the president and is a crucial part of the Executive Office of the President.
In February, Mike Flynn resigned after allegedly giving misleading information to Vice President Mike Pence in regards to his interactions with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, ending the shortest run as a National Security Advisor in U.S. history (24 days). He has since been charged and allegedly plead guilty to lying to the FBI.
Featured image courtesy of the Associated Press.