Bureaucracy and mistrust: How the Obama White House runs foreign policy

Others fume that the NSC has taken over things that could and should be handled elsewhere in the government. Former CIA director and defense secretary Leon Panetta, who left the administration in February 2013, has spoken of the “increasing centralization of power at the White House” and a “penchant for control” that in his case included submission of speeches and interview requests for White House approval.

His predecessor at the Defense Department, Robert M. Gates, has said that “micromanagement” by the Obama White House “drove me crazy.”

Many inside Cabinet departments and agencies complain that their expertise and experience is undervalued and that they are subjected to the whims of less knowledgeable NSC staffers. With such a large structure that in some areas duplicates their own departments, senior officials see the NSC as usurping their responsibilities, leaving them feeling unappreciated and frustrated.

“If assistant secretaries, deputy assistants, don’t have a sense of authorship and accountability, they tend to get beaten down,” said a recently departed high-level administration official. “When large agencies — the Defense Department or State or others — don’t feel as much a part of the takeoff, implementation tends to suffer. It’s just human nature.”

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