236. Minutes of Washington Special Actions Group Meeting1

    • Middle East; Cambodia and Vietnam
    • Chairman—Gen. Brent Scowcroft
    • State
      • Kenneth Rush
      • Rodger Davies
    • Defense
      • William Clements
      • Robert C. Hill
    • JCS
      • V/Adm. John P. Weinel
    • CIA
      • William Colby
      • Samuel Hoskinson
    • NSC
      • William Quandt
      • Jeanne W. Davis


It was agreed that:

[Omitted here is discussion unrelated to oil.]

… General Scowcroft would inquire as to the reasons for the separate energy R&D agency.

[Omitted here is discussion unrelated to oil.]

Gen. Scowcroft: (to Messrs Rush and Clements) Have you gentlemen had a chance to look at the latest draft of the President’s energy message?2 We have no great problems with it, although I don’t think it’s a barn burner.

Mr. Rush: It doesn’t set one on fire.

Gen. Scowcroft: Hopefully, they are going to punch it up a little.

Mr. Clements: I think they need more of the patriotic approach—that everyone needs to cooperate—than is in there now.

[Page 671]

Gen. Scowcroft: We are making that point to them to try to get some dynamism in it, but it solves our problem about references to the Arabs.

Mr. Clements: I want to get on the record with one thing. I think the President is on a bum wicket with the independent agency for research and development from the point of view of management and structure. He is asking for an agency—the Department of Energy and Natural Resources—which will bring a high degree of concentration to the energy matter. Some 32 groups, I think will be brought together in this agency. But to have this Department, plus a separate R&D agency outside of it, doesn’t make sense from the organizational standpoint. It would be breaking off the most important longer-term facet of what he is creating in the Energy Department.

Gen. Scowcroft: My guess is that this was done because OMB thinks it may be a long time before the Energy Department is created; this takes an act of Congress. They think they can get the R&D agency now.

Mr. Clements: OMB is human, too—they can make mistakes. Organizationally, it’s just a poor structure. You should have the best R&D people right in the agency itself.

Mr. Rush: A big part of R&D is the result of operational experience. To isolate them is just not feasible. You need the interplay.

Gen. Scowcroft: I’ll look into it. I think there was dissatisfaction with the idea of leaving R&D with the Atomic Energy Commission.

Mr. Clements: I agree with that.

Gen. Scowcroft: So, rather than wait for the Department to be created, which might take a long time, they decided to pull the R&D group out independently. I’ll find out about it, though.

Mr. Clements: It’s too late to bring up a major issue, but every time the President gives a speech and comes down hard on this, it gets more difficult for him to back out. He’s sticking himself in concrete.

Gen. Scowcroft: That’s a good point; I’ll find out about it.

Mr. Clements: I’d like to make two or three quick points about this oil situation. If we don’t solve this oil embargo situation by January 15 or February 1, I can’t emphasize too strongly the degree of trouble we’ll be in. We need to talk about some things in this group that we can’t talk about in the Energy Policy Group or the larger group. I tell you, from my experience, Watergate will be a tea-party compared to this thing by February 1.

Mr. Rush: I agree, and the Israelis will think it’s a tea-party, too. What happens in Europe and Japan has a very heavy impact here. As our allies start shedding us off, the impact here will be very serious.

[Page 672]

Mr. Clements: There has been nothing in my adult lifetime as serious as the next 90-day period in our energy situation.

Mr. Rush: Our recent problems with NATO are just the beginning.3 Wait until they start closing plants, schools, jobs.

Gen. Scowcroft: In the middle of winter.

Mr. Clements: Our economy will turn itself inside out. And the alternatives are as serious as the ones we are talking about. I have carefully avoided such a discussion up to now, but I want to get this on the record. To use a favorite word in this room, my perception is that the President doesn’t have any understanding of how serious the problem is. He has been preoccupied with other things, and understandably so, but compared to this, the naming of a new Attorney General and a new prosecutor are side issues.4 Ken (Rush), do you agree?

Mr. Rush: We have the reverse of the normal economic situation. The Arabs can increase their prices and cut back their production, and still have more money than they did before. There are no economic pressures on them.

Gen. Scowcroft: None.

Adm. Weinel: And the problem is exacerbated because people can’t identify the sacrifices they are being asked to make with any principle. If we could put it in the context of a maximum contribution to the millenium someone could make a speech in the UN about it.

Mr. Clements: Henry (Kissinger) is really on a pilgrimage to Mecca. There’s something ironic about that. I know what the problem is and I know what the solution must be, but how to get from one to the other, I don’t know. Henry (Kissinger) now understands the problem and the solution—the solution is Saudi Arabia. But how to get there, I’m not smart enough to know. That’s the Secretary’s (Kissinger) problem. But [Page 673] we can’t have any misunderstanding about this. There is no question of how strongly I feel about this, and I know I’m right. We’d better get our eye on the ball. Ken (Rush), do you agree?

Mr. Rush: Absolutely.

Gen. Scowcroft: (to Mr. Clements) I have relayed your views to the Secretary. I think this group should meet fairly frequently in the next week or ten days.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–117, Washington Special Action Group, WSAG Minutes (Originals), 10/2/73–7/22/74. Top Secret; Sensitive; Codeword. Printed in full in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XXV, Arab-Israeli Crisis and War, 1973, Document 322.
  2. Drafts of the President’s November 7 energy message are in a memorandum from Love to Kissinger, October 20 (National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, PET 17–1 US–ARAB), and in a memorandum from Love to Haig, November 1. (Ibid., Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–95, Washington Special Action Group Meerings, WSAG Meeting, Vietnam and Middle East, 11/2/73) The final text is in a November 7 memorandum from David Gergen to members of the President’s staff. (Ibid., NSC Files, Box 321, Subject Files, Energy Crisis, Nov 73–Feb 74) See Document 237.
  3. A reference to strained relations between the United States and NATO allies over the neutral stance taken by NATO countries during the war, including denial of base rights for refueling U.S. aircraft involved in the resupply of Israel. (The New York Times, October 27, 1973, p. 1) In his press conference of October 26, Nixon discussed assertions made in the Department of State “to the effect that our European friends hadn’t been as cooperative as they might have been in attempting to help us work out the Middle East settlement.” (Public Papers: Nixon, 1973, p. 902) Schlesinger discussed NATO’s response to the Middle East war with NATO Secretary General Luns, November 6. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 27 ARAB–ISR)
  4. A reference to the situation that existed after the so-called Saturday Night Massacre when both Attorney General Elliot Richardson and Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus resigned rather than carry out Nixon’s order to fire Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox, who was then investigating the Watergate scandal. Third in command at the Department of Justice, Solicitor General Robert Bork, carried out Nixon’s order and fired Cox October 20. Nixon appointed Edward Hirsch as Attorney General January 1, 1974.