The Development of National Security Policy
Several actors and factors are involved in the formulation of national security policy in the United States. The most important actors are found in the Executive Branch, led by the President, and the Legislative Branch. As will be seen, the elected politicians and the appointed staff members serving them have the primary responsibility for formulating this policy. However, the governmental bureaucracies, including the military, which are charged with implementing the policy also have considerable influence in the formulation of it. Finally, the democratic form of government provides several non-governmental actors with opportunities to have influence on the formulation of policy.
In order to understand how national security policy is formulated, it is best to first consider the parameters established by the Constitution for its formulation. Article I grants Congress the power to make laws, while Article II grants the President the power to enforce these laws and to act as the head of state and the head of the government. Thus, Congress has a rather vague role in the formulation of national security policy and foreign policy (except insofar as it has the enumerated power of advising the President in negotiating foreign agreements and then consenting in these agreements). In contrast, the Constitution specifically grants the President the powers serve as Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces, to nominate and appoint ambassadors and other public ministers, and to make treaties. While these powers are relatively few and restricted, they explicitly grant the President the primary role in making national security policy (Great Decisions, 1996, pp. 1-5).
The vague role of Congress in foreign and national security policymaking is still very important. With its power to advise and consent in the making of foreign agreements, the Senate can reject policies embraced by the President. ...