827 West Franklin Street, Rm 318
PhD University of Pittsburgh
National Security, Presidential Decision Making, East Asian International Relations
William Newmann received his PhD in Public Policy from the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Pittsburgh in 1999. He earned an MA in Political Science from Drew University in 1985 and a BA Political Science from the University of Pennsylvania in 1983. He joined the Political Science Department at VCU in 1992.
Professor Newmann’s research focuses on the way presidents use their advisers when making decisions in national security affairs. The scholarly debate centers around two models. Many scholars see presidential decision making as completely idiosyncratic; each president is a unique individual who makes decisions based on his unique style of management. Other scholars believe that the all presidents are constrained by political and institutional pressures (constitutional limits and requirements, congressional pressure, the organizational design of the executive branch, and public opinion); decision making is a rational choice response to those constraints and therefore the character and style of individual presidents is only a minor factor in decision making. His research looks to bridge that gap by developing models of when idiosyncratic factors matter and when institutional pressures are decisive.
One model that he has developed, the evolution model, suggests that presidential use of advisors evolves over time. Presidents general begin their tenure in office with a formal structure based on the National Security Council (NSC), but eventually develop an informal structure (ad hoc committees and even standing committees outside the NSC process), and a confidence structure (one or two key advisors the president has learned to trust). Presidents use all three structures to make decisions; each structure satisfies certain decision making needs. The formal structure makes sure all the key departments and agencies have a role in the process. The informal structure allows advisers to break deadlocks, smooth over rivalries, and resolve arguments that inevitably slow down the formal process. The confidence structure gives the president private intellectual, analytical, and emotional support on a one-on-one basis.
His first book tested these ideas by researching case studies of decisions on nuclear strategy and arms control during the Carter, GHW Bush, and Reagan administrations. Currently, he is writing a book that refines these models using case studies of decisions on China during the Kennedy through Obama administrations.
He is also completing his grand tour of presidential libraries. He has done research at the Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, and GHW Bush presidential libraries.