169. Editorial Note

President Ford met with the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board (PFIAB) for the final time on December 3, 1976. The Pre[Page 779]sident’s Assistant for National Security Affairs Lieutenant General Brent Scowcroft and the President’s Deputy Assistant for National Security Affairs William G. Hyland also attended the meeting, held in the White House Cabinet Room from 2:10 until 3:25 p.m., as did the following PFIAB members: Stephen Ailes, Admiral George W. Anderson, Leslie C. Arends, William O. Baker, William J. Casey, Leo Cherne, John S. Foster, Jr., Robert W. Galvin, Gordon Gray, Edwin H. Land, General Lyman L. Lemnitzer, Clare Booth Luce, Robert D. Murphy, Edward Teller, and Edward Bennett Williams. (Ford Library, Staff Secretary’s Office, President’s Daily Diary)

Although no record of the meeting has been found, Scowcroft advised Ford beforehand that the meeting was being held to give the PFIAB an opportunity to present its customary annual report to the President. According to Scowcroft’s briefing memorandum, December 3, Board members were expected to discuss the following specific issues during the course of their report: “They will inform you of their concern about certain new restrictions imposed on foreign intelligence collection activities, problems associated with economic intelligence collection and analysis, difficulties in the counterintelligence field and an experiment in competitive estimating on strategic topics. The Board will also present the results of a special study it has done for you concerning intelligence requirements for the future.” Scowcroft’s memorandum is ibid., National Security Adviser, KissingerScowcroft West Wing Office Files, Box 20, General Subject File, President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board Meeting, 12/3/76.

Cherne, the Board’s Chairman, presented Ford with a written report of the PFIAB’s yearly activities at the meeting. The report, dated December 3, discussed the Board’s activities relative to the Soviet Union’s intercept of U.S. telecommunication links, economic intelligence, legal and constitutional issues, counterintelligence, and the competitive analysis experiment. The portion of the report dealing with the experiment in competitive analysis reads as follows:

“Since its establishment in 1956, the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board has been concerned with the adequacy of strategic intelligence. This focus was sharpened in 1969 when President Nixon assigned the Board the task of annually reviewing the intelligence community estimates of Soviet forces for intercontinental warfare (NIE 11–3/8). The Board’s assessment of the strategic estimate for 1974 was conveyed to you in a letter dated 8 August 1975 [Document 155], in which we noted the following deficiencies:

“—the estimate is seriously misleading in the presentation of a number of key judgments and in projecting a sense of complacency unsupported by the facts;

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“—the estimate contains judgments in critical areas which are made with the force of fact, although the cumulative evidence is conflicting, often flimsy, and in certain cases does not exist; and

“—the NIE gives the appearance of a net assessment by encompassing judgments on the survivability of U.S. forces; yet such judgments have not been subjected to critical analysis in the estimating process. The letter also included proposals for correcting the deficiencies we had observed.

“At our meeting with you in August 1975 [Document 153], you requested us to follow up with specific proposals for implementing the suggestions outlined in our letter. These proposals were subsequently submitted to your Assistant for National Security Affairs and, through him, to the DCI, who rejected them [See Documents 156 and 159]. As a result, a subcommittee of the Board was established which undertook an intensive four-month review of the intelligence estimating process. This review sought to evaluate the purposes of National Intelligence Estimates; the extent to which these purposes are served; and the adequacy of the estimates as seen by principal users and their level of confidence in them. Further, at the committee’s request, the DCI’s National Intelligence Officer undertook a study of the intelligence community’s 10-year track record in strategic estimating. In the course of its review, the committee held discussions with approximately 40 authorities ranging from intelligence analysts and managers to intelligence consumers and private citizens well informed on U.S./Soviet strategic relationships. A detailed analysis of the committee’s findings was submitted to the full Board in April 1976. [Document 163] This report established that opinions of the NIE’s purpose, utility, and accuracy vary greatly, but were generally negative, thus underscoring the concerns expressed in the Board’s letter to you of 8 August 1975. The full Board endorsed the report and transmitted it to the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs with the notation that the members believed it could make an important contribution towards improving the NIE process, and urging that it be shared with the Committee on Foreign Intelligence at the earliest opportunity. Recognizing that the exchange of correspondence initiated by the Board’s 8 August 1975 letter contributed to a resentment of the views expressed rather than an acceptance of the helpful spirit in which they were tendered, the Board worked directly with the DCI’s chief National Intelligence Officer to implement the competitive assessment experiment—a principal recommendation in the report. This recommendation, in summary, is as follows:

“—With respect to certain key issues—Soviet ICBM accuracy, Soviet low-altitude air defense capabilities, and Soviet strategic policy and objectives—a competitive analysis should be conducted by [Page 781] persons inside or outside the intelligence community and the Government who have expert knowledge of the subjects in question, but who themselves are not engaged in the production of the NIE.

The experiment will not be completed before January 1977, at which time it will be evaluated by a senior review panel composed of people selected by your Assistant for National Security Affairs, in consultation with the DCI and the Board. At our meeting on 2 December 1976 we were briefed on the key issues by the three “A” Teams representing the intelligence community and, alternatively, by the three “B” Teams of outside experts; the DCI attended the presentations on Soviet strategic policy and objectives. While several steps in the experiment remain to be completed, the stimulative and beneficial effects of the extensive interaction between the teams were very evident. Although we would not wish to prejudge the final evaluation, the presentations confirm the Board’s judgment that the development of alternative and/or substantiating views by experts outside the intelligence agencies should continue in the production of National Intelligence Estimates.

Mr. President, we believe that the Board’s work with the National Intelligence Estimates will enhance their value to decision-makers, and that it is critically important that the work which we have begun be carried on.” PFIAB’s report is in the Ford Library, National Security Adviser, KissingerScowcroft West Wing Office Files, Box 20, General Subject File, President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board Meeting, 12/3/76. It is scheduled for publication in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, Vol. XXXVIII, Foundations and Organization of Foreign Policy, 1973–1976.