This article is from the Scouting FAQ, by Bill Nelson email@example.com, Soaring Golden Eagle firstname.lastname@example.org and Alan Houser email@example.com with numerous contributions by others.
Date: 16 August 1998
Q. Who sets policy in the BSA?
A. 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
(blkeagle@DYNASTY.NET) 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
There's another group, the National Council, that "radifies" the
actions of the Board.
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
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
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 professionals.
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 other issue.
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.