Brent Scowcroft (/ˈskoʊkrɒft/; born March 19, 1925) is a retired United States Air Force lieutenant general. He was the United States National Security Advisor under U.S. Presidents Gerald Ford and George H. W. Bush. He also served as Military Assistant to President Richard Nixon and as Deputy Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs in the Nixon and Ford administrations. He served as Chairman of the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board under President George W. Bush from 2001 to 2005 and assisted President Barack Obama in choosing his national security team.
Early life and education
Scowcroft was born March 19, 1925, in Ogden, Utah, the son of Lucile Scowcroft (formerly Ballantyne) and James Scowcroft, a grocer and business owner. He is a descendant of early 19th-century British immigrants from England and Scotland, along with immigrants from Denmark and Norway. He considers himself a "religious and cultural heritage" Mormon, if not a formal follower of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church).
Scowcroft received his undergraduate degree and commission in the U.S. Army Air Forces from the United States Military Academy at West Point in June 1947. With the establishment of an independent U.S. Air Force in September 1947, his commission transferred to USAF. Scowcroft also earned an M.A. in 1953 and PhD in International Relations in 1967 from Columbia University.
Before joining the Bush administration, Scowcroft was Vice Chairman of Kissinger Associates, Inc. He has had a long association with Henry Kissinger, having served as his assistant when Kissinger was the National Security Adviser under Richard Nixon, from 1969.
He is the founder and president of The Forum for International Policy, a think tank. Scowcroft is also president of The Scowcroft Group, Inc., an international business consulting firm. He is co-chair, along with Joseph Nye, of the Aspen Strategy Group. He is a member of the Trilateral Commission, Council on Foreign Relations, a board member of The Center for Strategic and International Studies, and Atlantic Council.
Following his graduation from the United States Military Academy at West Point and commissioning as a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force in 1947, he subsequently completed USAF pilot training in October 1948 and then served in a variety of operational and administrative positions from 1948 to 1953. In the course of his military career, Scowcroft held positions in the Organization of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Headquarters of the United States Air Force, and the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs. Other assignments included faculty positions at the United States Air Force Academy and the United States Military Academy at West Point, and Assistant Air Attaché in the American Embassy in Belgrade, Yugoslavia.
As a senior officer, General Scowcroft was assigned to Headquarters U.S.A. Air Force in the office of the Deputy Chief of Staff, Plans and Operations, and served in the Long Range Planning Division, Directorate of Doctrine, Concepts and Objectives from 1964 to 1966. He next attended the National War College at Fort McNair, followed by assignment in July 1968 to the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs. In September 1969, he was reassigned to Headquarters U.S. Air Force in the Directorate of Plans as Deputy Assistant for National Security Council Matters. In March 1970 he joined the Joint Chiefs of Staff organization and became the Special Assistant to the Director of the Joint Staff.
General Scowcroft was appointed Military Assistant to the President in February 1972, and in August 1973 he was reassigned as Deputy Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs. Scowcroft was promoted Lieutenant General in the U.S. Air Force on August 16, 1974, and he retired in that rank on December 1, 1975.
His military decorations and awards include the Air Force Distinguished Service Medal, Legion of Merit with oak leaf cluster, and the Air Force Commendation Medal.
Scowcroft has chaired or served on a number of policy advisory councils, including the President's General Advisory Committee on Arms Control, the President's Commission on Strategic Forces, the President's Blue Ribbon Commission on Defense Management, the Defense Policy Board, and the President's Special Review Board (Tower Commission) investigating the Iran-Contra affair. He also serves on the Guiding Coalition of the nonpartisan Project on National Security Reform. He was appointed Co-Chair of the Blue Ribbon Commission on America's Nuclear Future from 2010–2012 alongside Lee Hamilton.
On the morning of September 11, 2001, Scowcroft was in an E-4B aircraft, also known as the National Airborne Operations Command Center (NAOC), on the tarmac waiting to takeoff and fly to Offutt Air Force Base, when the first hijacked airliner hit the World Trade Center (WTC). Scowcroft's aircraft was en route to Offutt when the second hijacked airliner struck the WTC and Scowcroft was involved in observing the command and control operations of both President George W. Bush in Florida and Vice President Dick Cheney, who was in the White House.
Scowcroft was a leading Republican critic of American policy towards Iraq before and after the 2003 invasion, which war critics in particular have seen as significant given Scowcroft's close ties to former President George H.W. Bush. Despite his public criticism of the decision to invade, Scowcroft continued to describe himself as "a friend" of the Bush administration. He also strongly opposed a precipitous withdrawal, arguing that a pull-out from Iraq before the country was able to govern, sustain, and defend itself "would be a strategic defeat for American interests, with potentially catastrophic consequences both in the region and beyond." Scowcroft supported the invasion of Afghanistan as a "direct response" to terrorism.
In addition to his USAF aeronautical rating as a pilot and his numerous military awards and decorations and awards, President George H.W. Bush presented him with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1991. In 1993, he was created an Honorary Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace. In 2005, Scowcroft was awarded the William Oliver Baker Award by the Intelligence and National Security Alliance.
He co-wrote A World Transformed with former President George H.W. Bush. This book described what it was like to be in the White House during the end of the Cold War, as the Soviet Union collapsed in the early 1990s. Explaining in 1998 why they didn't go on to Baghdad in 1991: "Had we gone the invasion route, the United States could conceivably still be an occupying power in a bitterly hostile land."
His discussions of foreign policy with Zbigniew Brzezinski led by journalist David Ignatius were published in a 2008 book titled America and the World: Conversations on the Future of American Foreign Policy.
Scowcroft is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He is also a member of Honorary Council of Advisors for U.S.-Azerbaijan Chamber of Commerce (USACC). Critics have suggested that Scowcroft is unethical in his lobbying for the Turkish and Azeri governments because of his ties with Lockheed Martin and other defense contractors that do significant business with Turkey.
He is a member of the board of directors of the International Republican Institute. He is on the Advisory Board for Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs and for America Abroad Media.
Scowcroft was the inspiration and namesake for a special presidential award begun under the George H. W. Bush administration. According to Robert Gates, the award is given to the official "who most ostentatiously falls asleep in a meeting with the president." According to Gates, the president "evaluated candidates on three criteria. First, duration — how long did they sleep? Second, the depth of the sleep. Snoring always got you extra points. And third, the quality of recovery. Did one just quietly open one's eyes and return to the meeting, or did you jolt awake and maybe spill something hot in the process?" According to Bush himself, the award "gives extra points for he/she who totally craters, eyes tightly closed, in the midst of meetings, but in fairness a lot of credit is given for sleeping soundly while all about you are doing their thing." Scowcroft had gained a reputation for doing such things to the extent that it became a running gag.
Scowcroft married Marian Horner in 1951. His wife, a Pennsylvania native, trained as a nurse at St. Francis School of Nursing in Pittsburgh and graduated from Columbia University. They had one daughter, Karen. Marian Horner Scowcroft, a diabetic, died on July 17, 1995, at George Washington University Hospital. In March 1993, when Scowcroft was awarded by Queen Elizabeth with an Honorary KBE, his daughter was also received by the Queen.
- Presidential Medal of Freedom (1991)
- Honorary Knight Commander (KBE) of the Order of the British Empire, Military version (1993)
- Order of the Cross of Terra Mariana, 3rd Class (2006)
- Grand Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany (2009)
- Department of Defense Medal for Distinguished Public Service (2016)
- Grand Cordon of the Order of the Rising Sun (2016)