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#HISTINT: The National Security Act of 1947

truman_histintOn July 26, 1947, President Harry S. Truman signed the National Security Act of 1947 (P.L. 80-235, 61 Stat 496), which later  became the charter of the U.S. national security establishment.  The National Security Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of December 2004 significantly altered the National Security Act, creating the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

This landmark legislation of 1947 reorganized and modernized the U.S. armed forces, foreign policy, and the Intelligence Community apparatus. It directed a major reorganization of the foreign policy and military establishments of the US government. It also created many of the institutions that U.S. presidents would find useful when formulating and implementing foreign policy, such as the National Security Council (NSC), the US Air Force, and the National Military Establishment(renamed the Department of Defense in 1949).  In the intelligence field, the act ratified President Truman's creation (in 1946) of the post of Director of Central Intelligence (DCI), and transformed the Central Intelligence Group into the statutory Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the nation’s first peacetime intelligence agency.

The proposed act generated sharp debates in the Executive Branch and Congress. Several compromises were struck in order for it to win passage. These compromises would have far-reaching implications for the Intelligence Community.

Once passed, the National Security Act established:

  • that CIA would be an independent agency under the supervision of the NSC;
  • that CIA  would conduct both analysis and clandestine activities, but would have no policymaking role and no law enforcement powers;
  • a line between foreign and domestic intelligence and assigned these realms, in effect, to the CIA and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, respectively;
  • that the DCI would be confirmed by the Senate and could be either a civilian or an officer on detail from his home service.

The National Security Act of 1947 went into effect on September 18, 1947.


Posted: Jul 24, 2014 11:10 AM
Last Updated: Jul 24, 2014 11:52 AM