PROVENANCE OF THE FORD NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER FILES
The files of the National Security Adviser (formally titled the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs) are part of the papers that President Ford deeded to the United States in December 1976. The files were identified, packed, and labeled by National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft’s immediate staff and by the staff of the National Security Council (NSC) in the closing weeks of the Ford administration. The packed files were assembled and held in a secure area of the White House west wing basement under the immediate control of Edward W. Roberts, an NSC file manager. National Archives staff took custody on January 19-20, 1977, when they shipped the files to Ann Arbor, Michigan and the future Ford Library. Two subcollections, the "Vietnam Information Group Files" and the "Graham Martin/Saigon Embassy Files Photocopies," were added later.
Numerous subcollections comprise what Ford Library archivists have chosen to call collectively the "National Security Adviser Files." These subcollections, their titles, and their internal arrangement reflect strenuous efforts by archivists to identify and preserve the provenance and original file scheme of the materials. In some cases the precise provenance of files was unclear, and in a few instances the received material was acutely disarranged or even folderless.
Where in the White House complex did the files originate?
Although archivists do not always know exactly where each subcollection originated, it appears that all came from one of the following locations:
What NSC files were left to the Carter White House?
Following long precedent, some Ford-era NSC materials remained in the White House complex for use by succeeding administrations. These were known as NSC "Institutional Files," in contrast to the NSC "Presidential Files" that were intended for removal and shipment at the end of an administration. In 1997, the U.S. Supreme Court let stand a lower court ruling to the effect that all NSC "Institutional Files" were subject to the Presidential Records Act of 1978. At the end of the Clinton administration the older Institutional Files, technically considered Clinton Presidential Records, were temporarily transferred to the custody of the National Archives in Washington, D.C. President Clinton directed that the Institutional Files of each administration eventually be deposited at their respective presidential libraries. In June 2004 the Ford Library received 47 feet of Ford-era NSC Institutional Files. Intelligence-related Ford-era files, however, remained with the National Archives in Washington.
How did Ford-era NSC "Presidential" and "Institutional" Files differ?
In November 1974, NSC Staff Secretary Jeanne Davis explained the difference to Watergate Special Prosecution Force investigators, "Basically, the distinction is one of whether the materials involved relate to the ongoing operations of the NSC, including NSC meetings, or whether they represent advice to the president which is separate from the NSC structure." (Memo to record by Barry Roth, 13 November 1974, folder "NSC Organization & Operation," Buchen Files, Box 27.) In the experience of Ford Library archivists, the NSC "Institutional Files" (those left in the White House complex for succeeding administrations) are more likely to include complete sets of formally numbered NSC documents, formal studies initiated by National Security Study Memoranda, and meeting minutes and other files of NSC subgroups such as the Washington Special Action Group, Verification Panel, Defense Review Panel, and Committee on Foreign Intelligence.
How did the National Security Adviser, NSC, and NSC staff fit together?
The relationships can be confusing. The following explanation and the attached organization chart (White House Study Project, Report No. 2, December 1976) may help: