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Frequently Asked Questions

National Security Branch Frequently Asked Questions

What is the National Security Branch?

The National Security Branch (NSB) is, through the use of intelligence, focused on defeating national security threats directed against the United States. The NSB’s executives provide oversight for the FBI’s Counterterrorism Division, Counterintelligence Division, Directorate of Intelligence, and Weapons of Mass Destruction Directorate, as well as the Terrorist Screening Center and the High-Value Detainee Interrogation Group. The NSB combines the missions, capabilities, and resources of these components into a single, unified branch. The NSB is also accountable for enterprise functions—such as cyber, training, technology, human resources, and security—that directly support the national security mission.

Why did the FBI create the NSB?

The NSB was established by authority of a 2005 memorandum from the president directing the attorney general to implement the WMD Commission’s recommendation for the FBI to establish a “National Security Service.” The president instructed the attorney general to combine the missions, capabilities, and resources of the counterterrorism, counterintelligence, and intelligence elements of the FBI under the leadership of a senior FBI official. Congress approved the new structure in 2006.

When was the NSB established?

The attorney general implemented the president’s directive by standing up a new branch within the Bureau—the National Security Branch—on September 12, 2005. On June 5, 2006, the FBI received notification that Congress had officially approved the new structure.

Who heads the NSB?

The NSB operates under the authority of an executive assistant director (EAD-NSB).

How does the NSB fit into the structure of the FBI?

The FBI’s national security and intelligence missions are unified under the authority of the EAD-NSB, who reports to the deputy director.

The EAD-NSB has full operational and management authority over all FBI Headquarters and field national security programs, including the authority to initiate, terminate, or reallocate any of the investigations or other activities within the NSB.

The EAD-NSB has direct authority over the NSB budget, most of which falls under the National Intelligence Program (NIP).

The EAD-NSB is also responsible for the continued development of a specialized national security workforce and is the lead FBI official responsible for coordination and liaison with the director of national intelligence (DNI) and the intelligence community (IC). (The DNI is the head of the USIC and the principal adviser to the president, National Security Council, and Homeland Security Council on intelligence matters.)

What role does the FBI play in the intelligence community?

The FBI is the primary intelligence and law enforcement agency within the United States and the only member of the USIC with broad authority over acts on U.S. soil. The National Security Act of 1947, as amended, names the FBI as a member of the IC. Under Executive Order 12333 and the Attorney General Guidelines for Domestic Operations, the FBI has the lead domestic role in investigating international terrorist threats to the United States and in conducting counterintelligence activities. The FBI is also the lead intelligence agency responsible for coordinating the USIC’s domestic counterintelligence and counterterrorism activities. The Bureau also has the responsibility to analyze the information collected to inform its understanding of threats to the nation, and to share that information with the FBI’s intelligence and law enforcement partners.

The FBI collects, exploits, analyzes, and disseminates intelligence, in combination with investigations, to mitigate threats. Integral to this effort is the FBI’s engagement with other federal, state, local, and tribal partners to disrupt plots before they cause harm. The FBI’s collection and analysis complements that of IC partners, who are primarily focused on understanding broader networks of threats overseas.

What is the National Intelligence Program (NIP)?

National intelligence activities of the U.S. government are aligned to the NIP. The Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 (IRTPA) redesignated the National Foreign Intelligence Program as the NIP to illustrate the DNI’s responsibility for foreign and domestic intelligence. The responsibilities of the NIP as outlined in the ITPRA include:

  • Ensuring timely and objective national intelligence is provided to the president, the heads of departments and agencies of the executive branch, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, senior military commanders, and Congress;
  • Establishing objectives and priorities for collection, analysis, production, and dissemination of national intelligence;
  • Ensuring maximum availability of and access to intelligence information within the IC;
  • Developing and ensuring the execution of an annual budget for the NIP based on budget proposals provided by IC component organizations;
  • Overseeing coordination of relationships with the intelligence and/or security services of foreign governments and international organizations;
  • Ensuring the most accurate analysis of intelligence is derived from all sources to support national security needs;
  • Developing personnel policies and programs to enhance the capacity for joint operations and to facilitate staffing of community management functions; and
  • Overseeing the development and implementation of a program management plan for acquisition of major systems—doing so jointly with the Secretary of Defense for Department of Defense programs—that includes cost, schedule, and performance goals and program milestone criteria.

What authority does the DNI have over the FBI?

The DNI serves as the head of the IC and oversees and directs the implementation of the NIP resources. The DNI is also the principal adviser to the president, the National Security Council, and the Homeland Security Council for intelligence matters related to the national security. Through this role, the DNI is charged with implementing the mandates outlined above in the ITRPA. From the FBI perspective, the DNI has budget authority over the FBI's national intelligence activities, both at Headquarters and in the field, through the NIP budget and through the EAD-NSB’s authority over the whole of the intelligence, counterterrorism, counterintelligence, and weapons of mass destruction programs. The NSB executive staff collaborate routinely with the DNI and staff members across the IC in areas such as budget, performance metrics, training, human resources, communications, policy and legal matters, and information technology.

The DNI also has specified authority to concur in the appointment of the FBI's EAD-NSB. The Director of the FBI forwards his recommendation to the attorney general for the appointment of the EAD-NSB. The attorney general then seeks the concurrence of the DNI before making the appointment, consistent with IRTPA.

How is the NSB funded?

The FBI is funded by the Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies appropriations bill. A portion of the FBI’s resources are aligned to the NIP. The FBI also receives funding from other government agencies through reimbursable agreements.

The DNI provides guidance for developing the annual budget for the NIP. As part of this process, the FBI provides information to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. The DNI presents to the president for approval the annual consolidated NIP budget, including the FBI portion. The NIP budget is submitted to the congressional intelligence committees for review.

The EAD-NSB has budget oversight authority over the FBI's NIP resources, including those that fall outside of the NSB.

All efforts to manage the FBI NIP budget are directed at ensuring the DNI is able to exercise oversight for all national intelligence spending.

What is the National Intelligence Priorities Framework (NIPF)?

The NIPF is the DNI’s guidance to the IC on the national intelligence priorities approved by the president. The NIPF guides prioritization for the operation, planning, and programming of U.S. intelligence analysis and collection. The NIPF is updated semiannually.

The FBI and other members of the IC support the DNI in establishing national intelligence priorities within the NIPF. The FBI is expected to collect against NIPF requirements and integrate efforts with the DNI. All FBI national security intelligence requirements for collection align to the NIPF.

What are some of the NSB's recent accomplishments?

The NSB brochure highlights a number of our recent accomplishments, including thwarting a would-be bomber in Texas, disrupting an international plot to sell trade secrets, and foiling an attempted bombing of the U.S. Capitol.