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Many people and groups shape American foreign policy, including the following:

  • The president
  • Cabinet departments
  • Intelligence agencies
  • Congress and the courts
  • State and local governments
  • The military-industrial complex

The President

The president is the primary architect of American foreign policy. Article II of the U.S. Constitution names the president commander in chief of the armed forces and designates the president as the nation’s chief diplomat. This role expanded and carried new weight as the United States became more of a global power during the twentieth century.

The National Security Council

The National Security Council (NSC) is a collection of security policy experts who are part of the White House Staff. The NSC, led by the national security adviser, advises the president on security issues.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff

Although the Constitution names the president as the commander in chief of the armed forces, each branch of the military also has its own head, known as the chief of staff. Together, these chiefs form the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS), a group that helps the president make strategy decisions and evaluates the needs and capabilities of the military.

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