172. Minutes of National Security Council Meeting1


  • Semiannual Review of the Intelligence Community


  • The President
  • The Vice President
  • Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger
  • Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld
  • Director of Central Intelligence George Bush
  • Chief of Naval Operations James L. Holloway (Acting for Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff)
  • Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs Brent Scowcroft


  • White House
  • Richard Cheney, Assistant to the President
  • William G. Hyland, Deputy Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • NSC Staff
  • Samuel M. Hoskinson, Director for Intelligence Coordination
  • DOD
  • William Clements, Deputy Secretary of Defense
  • Robert Ellsworth, Deputy Secretary of Defense
  • Intelligence Community Staff
  • Fritz Ermarth, Office of Performance, Evaluation & Improvement

[Omitted here is discussion unrelated to national security policy.]

President Ford: I have read the NIE2 and Team B assessment.3 George would you comment for us.

Director Bush: The competitive analysis idea seemed good at the time and I certainly did not think it would go public. But now I feel I [Page 805] have been had. A former general officer has gone public, even before the experiment is finished. I have to recommend that the approach not be institutionalized. The Estimate itself presents certain dissents of the Air Force and others whose views parallel those of Team B.

Basically this was an experiment to see if one viewpoint could stand up factually and it worked well in some areas like ICBM accuracy. There was no question of intelligence analysts knuckling under to Team B. The estimators stood their ground. In short the original concept was valid but failed in practice.

President Ford: I understand that Allen Dulles4 made a similar process work. But now the climate has changed and you get credit for leaks. This is damned discouraging to me. I endorsed the PFIAB experiment. The leaks are a disparagement of the quality of those people involved and are unforgivable.

Vice President Rockefeller: The good side is that the American people have been educated.

Secretary Kissinger: I have no real problems with the estimate. However, I think an across the board alternatives approach is very risky. I could find a board of Nobel Prize winners to construct any alternative analysis conceivable. Unless you construct both the hard and soft lines it can be used by someone for their own self-benefit. The real problem in the future is not the hardliners, it’s the others.

Director Bush: I am against institutionalizing the alternative analysis approach. The issue has been caught up in a lot of polemics—some of which I don’t understand—but I recommend that the NSC not institutionalize.

President Ford: The most discouraging aspect is the character of the people who leaked. Unforgivable.

Secretary Rumsfeld: Bush’s idea of presenting differing views was good but like Henry says the scope must be more narrow. On some subjects it is useful to have differing views. The leaks must stop. They inhibit the whole intelligence process.

President Ford: In the present atmosphere leakers become martyrs. There isn’t much you can do.

Secretary Rumsfeld: The NIE is a good one. The only question I have is how we tie it to policy judgments or make it a basis for policy rather than using it as policy. There are some net assessment judgments involved and they should drive decisions. There should be a very serious live review of these matters in the future.

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General Scowcroft: We have done a quick comparison with the 1972 estimate5 and it has turned out to be very accurate.

President Ford: Are there any other comments?

Vice President Rockefeller: Only to say again that you did a superb job last night . . .6

Secretary Kissinger: The average person doesn’t understand the turmoil you faced in the world when you took over. Now we have total tranquility in the world and peace!

  1. Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, National Security Council Meetings File, Box 2, NSC Meeting, January 13, 1977. Top Secret; Sensitive. The meeting was held in the White House Cabinet Room. The entire minutes are scheduled for publication in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, Vol. XXXVIII, Part 2, Organization and Management of Foreign Policy; Public Diplomacy, 1973–1976.
  2. NIE 11–3/8–76 is the attachment to Document 170.
  3. See Document 171. Ford briefly discussed competitive analysis during his January 4 meeting with Kissinger and Scowcroft: “The President: I am concerned about what is happening. What is this NIE fracas about? [Scowcroft described how it had gotten started. The President and Secretary Kissinger were both critical of the way Team B had been set up.]” Brackets in the original memorandum of conversation, which is in the Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Memoranda of Conversations, Box 21, January 4, 1977—Ford, Kissinger.
  4. Allen Welsh Dulles, DCI from 1953 to 1961.
  5. NIE 11–8–72, Soviet Forces for Intercontinental Attack, is Document 225 in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, Vol. XXXIV, National Security Policy, 1969–1972.
  6. A reference to Ford’s State of the Union Message, see Document 132.