Rick Perry was named to the National Security Council in a memo released on Wednesday, putting the secretary of energy and longtime Texas governor into Donald Trump’s inner circle for national security decisions.
The decision was part of a larger reshuffling of the NSC announced in a notice published in the federal register that revamped the Principals Committee for the group. The Principals Committee is a body that considers policy solutions to national security issues, and the president has the power to change it at will.
Gone from the list was chief Trump political strategist Steve Bannon, the former chairman of Breitbart News, whose appointment to the NSC was controversial when it was announced Jan. 28. Critics of Bannon’s role were worried he would politicize a body traditionally viewed as a candid and nonpartisan source of national security information to the president.
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In addition to Perry, the new NSC lineup includes the director of national intelligence, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the director of the CIA and the ambassador to the United Nations. Those positions were conspicuously absent from Trump’s original Jan. 28 order.
The changes were directed by Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, who was named Trump’s national security adviser in February after Michael Flynn was forced to resign for misleading Vice President Mike Pence about his conversations with the Russian ambassador to the United States.
Perry will now participate in high-level meetings to determine policy positions on key national security issues such the recent chemical attacks in Syria and North Korea’s continued missile tests. Bannon still has the ability to sit in on meetings if invited.
“Steve Bannon’s removal from National Security Council is welcome news,” Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida said in a tweet after the decision was announced. Ros-Lehtinen was the first Republican in Congress to protest Bannon’s appointment in January.
The Principals Committee was first established by President George H.W. Bush as a mechanism to organize the NSC. Each subsequent president has re-formed the committee to suit his needs, but Bannon’s appointment was unprecedented because his position in the White House did not require Senate approval. Some of Barack Obama’s policy advisers sat in on NSC meetings on a limited basis.
Multiple White House officials, including Pence, insisted that Bannon’s removal from the NSC was not a demotion.
“They are going to continue to play important policy roles,” Pence said to Fox News, adding the move was “just a natural evolution to ensure the National Security Council is organized in a way that best serves the president in resolving and making those difficult decisions.”
As secretary of energy, Perry has responsibility for the nation’s nuclear weapons program and radioactive waste disposal. On Monday, the White House nominated Dan Brouillette as Perry’s deputy. Brouillette worked in the Energy Department under President George W. Bush and brings energy policy experience that Perry lacks.
Perry was confirmed as secretary of energy by the Senate on March 2.