President MIA on Daily Intelligence Briefings

by PETER BROOKES September 17, 2012

According to an article in The Washington Post by opinion writer Marc Thiessen, President Obama isn't attending his daily intelligence briefings all that often.

In fact, Thiessen asserts that the President is missing more than half his daily intelligence briefings, attending only around 38 percent of his Presidential Daily Brief (PDB) intelligence sessions during 2011 and through mid-2012.

If true, that's really troubling.

It's not like there aren't any high priority national security matters the Commander in Chief needs to get briefed on, right? By many accounts, the world is on fire and American interests are threatened in a whole raft of places around the globe.

Wouldn't it be nice to know that the President is keeping up on how the fight in Afghanistan is going, where 60,000 brave Americans are fighting the likes of the Taliban, Haqqani Network, and al-Qaeda?

Or maybe what's going on in Syria, where more than 20,000 people have now died over the last 18 months? Then again, what about Iran's nuclear program, which has observers especially nervous that Tehran's getting close to the "bomb"?

Things aren't going well in Asia, either. North Korea has a new leader, China is on the rise, and territorial disputes in the East and South China Seas have folks wondering if real trouble is around the corner.

And it's not like missing intelligence briefings is standard practice for an American President. Thiessen writes: "By contrast, Obama's predecessor, George W. Bush, almost never missed his daily intelligence meeting."

Not surprisingly, the White House refutes Thiessen's concerns, which are based on an investigation conducted by the Government Accountability Institute.

According to the article, the National Security Council (NSC) didn't seem to think the President missing a briefing-or briefings-was all that important as Obama is reported to read the PDB daily even if he didn't meet with the intelligence briefers.

But Thiessen makes a good point that the PDB document and the staff briefing complement one another. It gives the President an opportunity to discuss the PDB's contents, get background information, and ask what might happen next.

Of course, the President has an NSC and Cabinet secretaries that follow foreign policy and national security issues very closely. But the President needs to be a tireless student of international affairs, history, and the cultures of the nearly 200 countries and states that make up the international community.

Anything less is dangerous to the protection and advancement of American interests.

The state of affairs as outlined by Thiessen may also account to critics for some of the Administration's lackluster foreign policies, but most important is the potential cost of getting national security policy wrong-and that cost could be American lives.

Peter Brookes is a Senior Fellow for National Security Affairs at the Heritage Foundation and is a member of the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission. He writes a weekly column for the New York Post and frequently appears on FOX, CNN, MSNBC, CNBC, NPR and BBC. He is the author of: "A Devil’s Triangle: Terrorism, Weapons of Mass Destruction and Rogue States." Mr. Brookes served in the U.S. Navy and is now a Commander in the naval reserves. He has over 1300 flight hours aboard Navy EP-3 aircraft. He is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy; the Defense Language Institute; the Naval War College; the Johns Hopkins University; and is pursuing a Doctorate at Georgetown University.

Peter Brookes is a Heritage Foundation senior fellow and a former deputy assistant secretary of defense. 
peterbrookes@heritage.org

 
Twitter: @Brookes_Peter



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