About the Ford administration Chief of Staff documents
The day President Nixon resigned I flew back to the United States to help my friend from Congress, Gerald Ford, assume an unexpected presidency. Ford had not been elected vice president, let alone president—a circumstance that would have been difficult in the worst of times. But our country had just experienced the resignation of a president for the first time, was still in the throes of the Vietnam war and was experiencing a severe economic downturn. Social tensions were very high and trust in government was very low. That the country did not come apart at the seams in this crisis is a lasting tribute to President Ford. He managed to hold the ship of state together with his steady, honest and good-humored leadership. I was proud to serve in his administration.
The Ford years did see their share of turmoil, however. Being White House Chief of Staff for a Chief Executive who had never been an executive was daunting challenge. My archive provides many insights into how the White House functioned in the form of my “Memos of Meetings with President Ford,” and introduction to which can be found here.
In the second year of the administration, President Ford nominated me to be the 13th Secretary of Defense—as it turned out the youngest in our history (to date). I was plunged back into the Cold War issues I had dealt with while at NATO, and had my first encounters with the so-called “iron triangle” of the Pentagon bureaucracy, defense contractors, and relevant Congressional committees. An introduction to these papers can be found here.
It was a great disappointment when Ford lost to Jimmy Carter in the 1976 election. I had observed the President become a more confident and skilled executive in his two years in office, and believed he would have had an excellent full term in his own right. Still, it was quite an experience to have been part of his administration and serve with not only the President, but also with characters ranging from Dick Cheney, Alan Greenspan and Henry Kissinger to Nelson Rockefeller.