Who sets policy in the BSA?
Date: 16 August 1998
The BSA owns two organizations: Learning for Life/Exploring and the BSA
traditional Scouting programs. Learning for Life/Exploring holds
all of the vocational training programs within the BSA effective
August 1, 1998 (e.g., Law Explorer Posts) as well as its program
for school aged youth. The following is a description of the BSA
traditional Scouting organization.
Taken heavily from a letter by settummanque, or blackeagle
There are three groups that actually *make* BSA policy at the national
level. These groups are the various national-level committees, the National
Executive Board, and in the case of Exploring and the Order of the Arrow,
the Council of Chiefs and the National Exploring Cabinet, which I'll lump
together as "youth boards".
There's another group, the National Council, that "radifies" the actions of
The BSA has 31 standing and 14 ad-hoc National Committees. Each of those
committees are chaired by and staffed by volunteers from all over the
nation. Many of these volunteers serve as Council and/or
unit-level volunteers in addition to their national service.
Committee members serve typically for a one-year period and are selected by
national professional staff advisors and/or volunteer committee chairs.
This includes those serving on one of the ad-hoc or task force committees
formed to address specific issues within the BSA.
Each Committee also has one to two National staff advisors, whose jobs are
twofold: one, to serve as the professional day-to-day manager of that
committee and the other, to monitor and "corral-in" those committees that
somehow stray from what "will fly in Peoria", program speaking. Each
National staff advisor has been carefully selected by senior national staff
members, attend regular "sharing and discovery" meetings during the week,
and therefore know more about what's going on within the various committees
outside his or her as well as his own.....
Depending on the personality of the National staffer, the committee runs
really smoothly, or roughly, or not at all. This creates problems whereby
some committees will have loads of programming and support recommendations
and policies, and others are not productive at all.
National staffers are "graded" on their ability to "keep the group together
and focused" as well as "practical outcomes which will enhance the programs
of the BSA".
Some policies are immediately put into practice throughout the BSA from the
Committee (and it is the professional that "lobbies" on behalf of the
committee to get it approved by the Program, Administration, Finance, Council
Support or Membership/Relationships Group Director whom has the final
responsibility for sending those changes and improvements to "the field").
Those are the ones that come directly to your Council from the Director of
the various programs or from the appropriate Group Director.
Other policies require changes to the BSA's Rules and Regulations or to the
Charter and Bylaws, which is the reason why they have to go before the BSA's
National Executive Board. The NEB is composed of between 48 and 52 adult
members and three to five youth members. This board meets every other month
to discuss and finalize recommendations made by the various Group Directors,
their volunteer Committees, or by individual Board members or the Chief
Scout Executive. There are seven professionals whom are members of this
board: the Chief Scout Executive, the four Regional Directors (whom also
serve as Associate Chief Scout Executives), the National Director of
Operations and the National Director of Support Services. These
professionals do NOT have a vote but they are, as you can guess, very
influential in the decision-making ability of this body. The rest of the
Board is composed of volunteers whom are key business, industry, civic and
religious leaders from all parts of the nation and all walks of life. To
keep a youth slant on the actions, the National Chief of the Order of the
Arrow, the National Explorer President, and up to three other youth leaders
(selected by their peers or through a national competition of some sort) are
voting members of the NEB.
The Chief Scout Executive serves as the "secretary" to the Board and his or
her performance is tied to overall program success. The National Executive
Board "hires" and "fires" the CSE and all other national-level senior
Youth boards also make a significant impact on the adoption of national
policies and procedures. The Assembly of Chiefs, the section and regional
chiefs along with the National Chief and National Vice-Chief of the Order of
the Arrow (assisted by two professionals and six adult volunteers) make
policy and recommendations for the Order of the Arrow, Scouting's national
honor camping society.
Finally, the National Council of the Boy Scouts of America serves as the
final "stamp of approval" on all significant changes to the program of the
BSA. The National Council is composed of at least three representatives from
each of the BSA's local Councils: The Council President, Council
Commissioner, and one other elected representative.
The Council Executive is not a member.
Two or more (depending on size of the local Council)
volunteers are elected yearly to serve as National Council Representatives,
a job that nowadays carries more weight than it used to.
The National Council meets as a whole body once a year.
As you can probably figure out by all of this, whatever the National Exec
Board approves, more than likely will be approved by the National Council
after it has already been implemented in their local Councils. This is also
the reason why when new programs are announced, SOME local Councils
delay implementing it until a national vote is taken on the program change or
Those are the bodies that make up the decision-making ability of the BSA.
While we're talking about professional management of various committees and
boards, we're also talking about volunteers --you and me-- making up those
boards and committees, with a larger say than the professionals and
reflecting our Council's make-ups and population.