White House Says Obama’s New National Security Strategy a ‘Compass’ Through ‘Shifting Security Landscape’

President Obama speaks with his national security advisor Susan Rice at the  Konstantinovsky Palace during the G20 Summit, in September 2013.

Pete Souza/White House

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President Obama speaks with his national security advisor Susan Rice at the Konstantinovsky Palace during the G20 Summit, in September 2013.

The White House previews Obama’s new national security strategy ahead of Susan Rice’s Friday unveiling.

President Barack Obama’s new national security strategy being unveiled on Friday will be a “compass” for how the commander-in-chief will lead in a world volatile with crises, a White House official told Defense One. The new direction comes as Republicans continue to criticize the Obama administration for what they call an unmoored foreign policy.

“It serves as a compass for how this administration, in partnership with the Congress, will lead the world through a shifting security landscape toward a more durable peace and a new prosperity,” said National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan.

National Security Advisor Susan Rice will launch the new strategy on Friday in an event at the Brookings Institution, which broke the news of the unveiling on Tuesday with its event announcement. Meehan gave further details and outlined what the administration is hoping to achieve.

The new National Security Strategy provides a vision for strengthening and sustaining American leadership in this still young century,” Meehan said, echoing the sense of potential and optimism Obama sought to convey in his recent State of the Union — and also his insistence on not being a lame duck in his last two years in office.

“It sets out the principles and priorities to guide the use of American power, and it affirms America’s leadership role within a rules-based international order,” she continued. “It reinforces our commitment to allies and partners and welcomes the constructive contributions of responsible rising powers.”

Then came the tougher talk: “It also signals our resolve and readiness to deter and, if necessary, defeat potential adversaries.”

The strategy document will not include a draft or outline of an Authorization for the Use of Military Force against the Islamic State, or ISIS, Meehan said. Members of Congress are waiting on language from the White House before weighing in on the war against the terrorist group in Iraq and Syria that has been ongoing for roughly half a year.

In his State of the Union, Obama again indicated that he would like to work with Congress to draft an AUMF, but he departed from the script to add, “We need that authority” — counter to the administration’s argument since last summer that they don’t need permission from Congress to conduct the military operation against the Islamic State. White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Wednesday to expect more news on a new AUMF “relatively soon.”

As displayed during Wednesday’s confirmation hearing for Ash Carter to be the next defense secretary, the administration has plenty of critics claiming the president is dragging his feet on ISIS because he doesn’t have a coherent national security strategy. It’s a claim administration leaders and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey frequently reject. And while the White House’s announcement may seem timed to answer opponents and reassure allies fighting the Islamic State, Obama is actually required by a nearly three-decade-old law to submit strategic guidance to Congress annually. Few presidents have followed that law — Obama’s predecessor George W. Bush only submitted two national security strategies in his two terms, in 2002 and 2006. Obama last released one in his first term, in 2010, but in 2012 the president came to the Pentagon to announce a new “defense strategic guidance.”

Rice will speak for an hour starting at 1 p.m. Friday and take questions afterward. She is a notable selection for the rollout. The current secretary of defense and his two predecessors have accused Rice and other National Security Council officials of “micromanaging” the Pentagon and U.S. national security policy.

The last time Obama rolled out his national security strategy, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was the one unveiling it at Brookings. On Friday, Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State John Kerry are scheduled to attend the Munich Security Conference in Germany.

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