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 Executive Office Building (OEOB): Most NSC staff worked in the OEOB, today called the Eisenhower Executive Office 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 non-record materials.

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:

  • 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.

February 2002