Susan Rice Becomes Third African American to Lead National Security

Rice was blocked as a contender for Secretary of State, but now she'll occupy the White House as chief security advisor to Obama.

By Brentin Mock Jun 05, 2013

This morning, President Obama announced that he would be assigning the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice to the role of national security advisor, a position left open when Tom Donilon resigned from the post. In her new role, Rice will work directly with President Obama from the White House as his senior advisor on national security matters, and operates from the White House’s "Situation Room" during times of crisis. 

Rice’s name was floated last year as a possible lead contender to become secretary of state when Hillary Clinton retired from the role. But Republicans in the Senate vowed not to confirm her for that position, citing perceived missteps in the Benghazi flap while other conservatives claimed that Susan Rice was a "black radical." Environmentalists also disapproved of Rice for State and accused her of being invested in creating the Keystone XL oil tar sands pipeline that they strongly oppose. She’s also been accused of enabling massive violence throughout Africa. 

As national security advisor to Obama, she does not need to be confirmed by the Senate nor win the approval of special interests. She’s expected to take up the West Wing of the White House in July. She is the third African American to assume this role. The first was Gen. Colin Powell, who served under Ronald Reagon in the late 1980s. Like Powell, Rice is of Jamaican lineage. She is also the second African-American woman for national security advisor, after Condoleezza Rice who served under George W. Bush. 

Rice will still have to contend with Republicans and conservatives who oppose her on sensitive national security issues like Benghazi. 

"She’s going to have her plate full, if she’s chosen," Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina told The Washington Post.  "I will not be petty. I will put my differences on Benghazi aside and work with her."

Filling Rice’s U.N. ambassador role is Samantha Power, who formally worked on Obama’s National Security Council and has been outspoken on genocide across the globe. Power’s nomination will have to be confirmed before the Senate.