41. Editorial Note
In the midst of congressional impeachment proceedings stemming from the Watergate investigation, President Richard M. Nixon announced on August 8, 1974 that he would resign the presidency effective the next day. Vice President Gerald R. Ford was duly sworn in as President at noon on August 9. That afternoon, Ford met with Henry A. Kissinger, Secretary of State and Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs; Major General Brent Scowcroft, Deputy Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs; and Brigadier General Richard L. Lawson, the President’s Military Assistant. (Ford Library, Staff Secretary’s Office, President’s Daily Diary) Ford received a briefing on the Single Integrated Operations Plan from Lawson during that meeting, according to the minutes of the meeting of the Washington Special Actions Group also held on August 9 to discuss the presidential transition. (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, NSC, Box TS 81, WSAG, Apr. 1973–March. 1975) That day, President Ford also sent a memorandum to Secretary of Defense James R. Schlesinger that placed in effect certain instructions for the expenditure of nuclear weapons in the event of a national emergency, procedures first established during the administration of President Dwight D. Eisenhower. (Ford Library, National Security Adviser Files, Kissinger-Scowcroft West Wing Office Files, General Subject Files, Box 19, Nuclear Command and Control [8/1974])
On August 12, Ford gave an address, broadcast nationwide via radio and television, to a joint session of Congress in which he outlined his guiding principles and objectives as President. After discussing domestic and economic policy, he turned to foreign policy and defense issues:
“Now, let there be no doubt or any misunderstanding anywhere, and I emphasize anywhere: There are no opportunities to exploit, should anyone so desire. There will be no change of course, no relaxation of vigilance, no abandonment of the helm of our ship of state as the watch changes.
“We stand by our commitments and we will live up to our responsibilities in our formal alliances, in our friendships, and in our improving relations with potential adversaries.
“On this, Americans are united and strong. Under my term of leadership, I hope we will become more united. I am certain America will remain strong.
“A strong defense is the surest way to peace. Strength makes détente attainable. Weakness invites war, as my generation—my generation—knows from four very bitter experiences.[Page 199]
“Just as America’s will for peace is second to none, so will America’s strength be second to none.
“We cannot rely on the forbearance of others to protect this Nation. The power and diversity of the Armed Forces, active Guard and Reserve, the resolve of our fellow citizens, the flexibility in our command to navigate international waters that remain troubled are all essential to our security.
“I shall continue to insist on civilian control of our superb military establishment. The Constitution plainly requires the President to be Commander in Chief, and I will be.” (Public Papers: Ford, 1974, p. 11)