Why National Security Advisor will not interfere with spy agency NIS

Both the NIS and NSA have a solid legal base for their establishment. [Denish Ochieng, Standard]

Disquiet among the public, academicians and security practitioners that the role of the National Security Advisor (NSA) recently established by President William Ruto would be in conflict with the roles of other security agencies; especially the National Intelligence Service (NIS) is not borne out of fact.

The apprehension arises from the reading of the functions of NIS Act 2012, as specified in Article 5 (c), which states as one of its functions; "advice the president and government of any threat or potential threat to national security". Likewise, article 9 (c) of the same Act on the functions of the Director General specifies that s/he is "the principal advisor to the president and government on national security based on security intelligence and counter-intelligence to enhance national security".

The uncertainty is heightened by lack of precedent due to the fact that this is the first time Kenya is establishing the office of the NSA. The critical question to ask is: Why did the president then establish the office of NSA when NIS is in existence and has a broad mandate of advising the president and government on the broad issues of national security?

First and foremost, both the NIS and NSA have a solid legal base for their establishment. NIS derives its powers from the Constitution and the NIS Act 2012, while the NSA is a lawful position created by the president through powers conferred on him by Article 132 (4) of the Constitution. Therefore the office of NSA is not established as an intermediary between the security agencies and, the president and the NSC. Each security agency has distinct roles in their operations and outlook as legally established in Article 238 of the Constitution and the NSC Act.

The establishment of the office would have been occasioned by fundamental changes in the political and security landscape arising from the 2022 General Election, which ushered in new political players leading to a new set of security goals as well as broadening the national security outlook. This has necessitated the need for change in the security management, establishment of new principles, firming of leadership imperatives and enhancement of the national doctrine as a basis for national security.

Broadly, the creation of the office of NSA is meant to enhance the operations within the national security architecture. The national security architecture consists of security committees established by security and civilian leadership from the National Security Council (NSC) down to the county level. The office of NSA is meant to bring efficiency and eliminate the bandwagon decision making effect as well as deal with issues of group think which are rife in the national security decision making infrastructure.

The office would therefore create a direct link between the president and, the NSC and its committees and security agencies. This would lead to a faster transmission of any tasks that are cross-cutting and their monitoring. The function would be achieved through the co-option of the NSA into the NSC as per article 5 (2) of the NSC Act.

The office of NSA would carry out among others security advisory, monitoring, coordination, and secretariat role. In its advisory role, it would utilise a wide range of both intelligence and non-intelligence inputs in order to ensure better decisions. The office would give direct advice by proposing short and longer-term courses of action, the consequences of the choices and alternatives, thereby narrowing choices for proper decision-making. It will ensure decisions are borne out of the national and security doctrine and the interest of the nation and the value which are fundamental in security management have been considered.

It would also provide a coordinating and monitoring mechanism to ensure that strategic security decisions are transmitted as expected and there are no matters conflicting between agencies. Additionally, the office of NSA would monitor the extent to which prioritised threats are being met and any need for strategic interventions. In its secretariat role, the office of NSA would be a repository of national security policies that would be implemented. It would provide technical support for the development and implementation of the overall national security policy and national security strategy.

In light of the above, the relationship between NIS and the office of NSA is not a linear one. The office of NSA is therefore not meant to replace NIS and neither does the office of the NSA become an intermediary between NIS, the president and the NSC. The existence of the office of NSA does not stop the intelligence agency from the routines within the intelligence agencies of producing and disseminating intelligence to the president and other customers, including the NSA.

The judgments on how to proceed with tasks would be the responsibility of the concerned security agency and the activities of the office of NSA would thus not interfere with the workings of security agencies in fulfillment of their strategic goals.

The security agencies should therefore appreciate that the working environment has changed and therefore embrace the office of the NSA as its establishment is meant to energise the national security system to the benefit of the nation. National security strategic leaders should grasp the opportunity and adjust their systems to make them responsive to the new order.