This paper examines the operation of the presidential advisory system during the 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina crises in order to explain the marked differences in presidential crisis leadership performance during the acute phase of both crises. It first presents a conceptual framework for the systematic study of “crisis advisory configurations” around presidents, based on an integrated review of the advisory systems and crisis management literatures. Second, the framework is applied to George W. Bush's performance in three crucial crisis leadership task domains—sense making, decision making, and meaning making. The article concludes by identifying key challenges of building crisis management capacity around heads of government such as the U.S. president.