Politics

Robert OBrien: More Cuts Coming for National Security Council Staff

More cuts are coming soon at the White House National Security Council, National Security Adviser Robert OBrien said, as part of an effort to make the council streamlined and efficient and to make sure the council staffers are dedicated to carrying out policies chosen by President Donald Trump.

OBrien, 53, said at a Feb. 11 Atlantic Council talk that officials were bringing the council “back to a manageable size.” The “right-sizing” of the council, which is almost complete, would take the total number of staffers from 175 to 110 by the end of February, he said. The downsizing would target “the bloat and inefficiency that can sometimes creep in.” Some cuts would be complete by the end of the week.

The new cuts come after the removal last week of Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, 44, and Vindmans brother, Yevgeny Vindman, from the council. Alexander Vindman, who was detailed from the Department of Defense, testified during the impeachment inquiry against Trump; his brother was a lawyer for the council who was also detailed from the army.

The Vindmans, who served in their details for over a year, “werent fired,” OBrien said, echoing previous comments from White House counselor Kellyanne Conway. “Their services were no longer needed,” he said. The removals werent retaliation for the testimony during the impeachment efforts. Trump did not tell officials to remove the Vindmans.

“Its really a privilege to work in the White House. Its not a right,” OBrien added. “At the end of the day, the president is entitled to staffers that want to execute his policy, that he has confidence in, and I think every presidents entitled to that.”

“Were not a banana republic where a group of Lt. Colonels get together and decide what the policy is or should be,” he said.

Army Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman
Army Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman
Army Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, a military officer at the National Security Council who testified during the impeachment hearings on Capitol Hill, lower right, walks down the steps of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the White House complex in Washington on Jan. 27, 2020. (Susan Walsh/AP Photo)

The reorganization was consistent with the “Scowcroft model” used by Brent Scowcroft, who served as national security adviser for Presidents Gerald Ford and George H. W. Bush, according to OBrien. The model emphasizes that the national security adviser shouldnt “be an advocate for one policy or another.” Instead, the adviser should “ensure that the president is well served by the cabinet, departments, and agencies in obtaining counsel and formulating his policies.”

The policies are then decided on by the president and the adviser makes sure theyre carried out.

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