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:
- National Security
Adviser’s office suite: The National Security Adviser and his
immediate deputy kept some files in their office suite in the White House
west wing first floor. Henry Kissinger was National Security Adviser until
November 1975, when his deputy Brent Scowcroft succeeded him. Scowcroft
made William Hyland his deputy. By early 1976, military assistant Robert
McFarlane also had moved into the office suite, leaving the ground floor
office he had occupied since 1973. As nearly as archivists can determine,
the file systems were not disrupted when Scowcroft replaced Kissinger as
National Security Adviser.
- Ground floor of the west
wing: There was a special file storage area on the ground floor
(basement) of the White House west wing. NSC file manager Edward Roberts
worked there. The White House Situation Room was nearby, as were offices
for Peter Rodman, John Matheny, Kathleen Troia, and other assistants to the
National Security Adviser. Inactive files from the Kissinger/Scowcroft
office suite, file series designated as "Presidential" by NSC
Staff Secretary Jeanne Davis, and perhaps other files created by NSC
staff, were maintained by Roberts in this area.
- NSC staff offices in Old
Most NSC staff worked in the OEOB, today called the Eisenhower
Building, and they kept some
files in their offices. At the end of the Ford administration, some NSC
units packed and transferred materials that they labeled "Convenience
Files," apparently meaning that these were non-record working files
and reference files. There are no "Convenience Files" from some
NSC units, however, and the Library has not determined whether these units
retained their files for use in the Carter administration, removed them,
or incinerated them according to approved security procedures for
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
The relationships can be confusing.
The following explanation and the attached organization chart (White House
Study Project, Report No. 2, December 1976) may help:
- National Security Council.
The NSC was established by statute in 1947 as an advisory body composed of
the President, the Vice President, and the Secretaries of Defense and
State. Bureaucratically, it is part of the Executive Office of the
President, and it meets at the discretion of the President. The chairman
of the Joint Chiefs of Staff served the Ford NSC as military adviser, and
the Director of Central Intelligence served as intelligence adviser.
President Ford’s National Security Adviser was the supervisory
officer of the NSC, the NSC staff, and the NSC system. Others attended NSC
meetings as invited, according to the topic under discussion. NSC
deliberations were supported by several interagency subgroups.
- National Security Adviser:
The National Security Adviser was the supervisory officer of the Ford NSC,
NSC staff, and NSC system. He also was a principal adviser to the
President. During the first half of the Ford administration, Henry
Kissinger was both Secretary of State and National Security Adviser. In
November 1975, Kissinger was succeeded as National Security Adviser by his
deputy, Brent Scowcroft. Kissinger remained Secretary of State, however.
- National Security Council
Staff. The daily staff-level work for the President and the National
Security Adviser was performed by an NSC staff of approximately 40
professionals composed primarily of career officers detailed from foreign
affairs and national security agencies. NSC staff worked out of offices in
both the White House and the adjacent OEOB.
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Last Updated: February 7, 2006