Robert McFarlane

Last updated

Robert McFarlane
Robert Mcfarlane IAGS.jpg
13th United States National Security Advisor
In office
October 17, 1983 December 4, 1985
President Ronald Reagan
Preceded by William Clark
Succeeded by John Poindexter
12th United States Deputy National Security Advisor
In office
April 4, 1982 October 17, 1983
President Ronald Reagan
Preceded by James Nance
Succeeded by John Poindexter
Counselor of the Department of State
In office
February 28, 1981 April 4, 1982
President Ronald Reagan
Preceded by Rozanne L. Ridgway
Succeeded by James L. Buckley
Personal details
Robert Carl McFarlane

(1937-07-12) July 12, 1937 (age 83)
Washington, D.C., U.S.
Political party Republican
Spouse(s)Jonda Riley
Education United States Naval Academy (BS)
Geneva Graduate Institute (MA)
National Defense University
Military service
Allegiance United States of America
Branch/serviceFlag of the United States Marine Corps.svg  United States Marine Corps
Years of service1959–1979
Rank US-O5 insignia.svg Lieutenant Colonel
Battles/wars Vietnam War
Awards Navy Distinguished Service Medal
Bronze Star (with valor)
Meritorious Service Medal
Navy Commendation Medal (with valor)
Secretary's Distinguished Service Award
Navy Distinguished Public Service Award

Robert Carl "Bud" McFarlane (born July 12, 1937) is a retired Marine Corps officer who served as National Security Advisor to President of the United States Ronald Reagan from 1983 through 1985.


After a career in the Marines, McFarlane became part of the Reagan administration and was a leading architect of the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) for defending the United States against missile attack. [1] Subsequently, he was involved in, and pleaded guilty to charges for actions related to, the Iran-Contra affair, but received a pardon from President George H.W. Bush.

Early life and education

McFarlane is the son of former Texas Democratic Congressman William McFarlane. After graduating high school, McFarlane entered the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis in 1955, where he graduated in 1959. He was the third member of his family to attend the Academy, after his uncle Robert McFarlane (1925) and his brother Bill (1949). At the academy he graduated in the top 15 percent of the class and lettered twice in gymnastics. He received an honorary doctorate from the Institute of World Politics in Washington, D.C. in 2014. He sang in the Chapel Choir, and was a Brigade Administrative Officer and 14th Company Commander.

Marine Corps service

Following graduation from the Naval Academy in 1959, McFarlane was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Marine Corps, where he served as a field artillery officer.

As a Marine Corps officer, McFarlane commanded platoons, a battery of field artillery howitzers and was the Operations Officer for an artillery regiment. He taught Gunnery at the Army Advanced Artillery Course. He was the executive assistant to the Marine Corps' Operations Deputy from 1968–1971, preparing the deputy for meetings with the Joint Chiefs of Staff. During this assignment he was also the Action Officer in the Marine Corps Operations Division for Europe/NATO, the Middle East and Latin America.

McFarlane served two combat tours in the Vietnam War. In March 1965, he commanded the artillery battery in the first landing of U.S. combat forces in Vietnam. While deployed during his first tour, McFarlane was selected for graduate studies as an Olmsted Scholar. McFarlane received a master's degree (License) in strategic studies with highest honors from the Graduate Institute of International Studies (Institut de Hautes Etudes Internationales, HEI) in Geneva, Switzerland.

After attending the Graduate Institute of International Studies, McFarlane returned for a second tour in 1967–1968 as a Regimental Fire Support Coordinator for the 3rd Marine Division deployed along the Vietnamese Demilitarized Zone during the Tet Offensive. He organized all fire support (B-52s, naval gunfire from the USS New Jersey (BB-62) and artillery) for forces deployed at Con Thien, Cam Lo, Dong Ha, The Rockpile, Khe Sanh and points between. McFarlane received a Bronze Star and a Navy Commendation Medal, both with Valor device.

Following his second tour in Vietnam and a tour at Headquarters Marine Corps, in 1971 he was named a White House Fellow. He was the first Marine Corps officer selected for the program.

McFarlane was assigned to the Office of Legislative Affairs at the White House and at the conclusion of that assignment was selected as the Military Assistant to Henry Kissinger at the National Security Council. In this post, McFarlane dealt with intelligence exchanges with the People's Republic of China from 1973 to 1976, giving detailed intelligence briefings to China at the time of the Sino-Soviet split. He also accompanied Kissinger on his visits to China. In addition, McFarlane dealt with other aspects of foreign policy, including the Middle East, relations with the Soviet Union and arms control. McFarlane was appointed by President Gerald Ford as his Special Assistant for National Security Affairs while a Lieutenant Colonel and was awarded the Navy Distinguished Service Medal in 1976.

Upon leaving the White House, McFarlane was assigned to the National Defense University, where he co-authored a book on crisis management while concurrently receiving a diploma from the National War College.

He ended his Marine Corps career on Okinawa as Operations Officer for the 12th Marine Regiment. McFarlane retired in 1979 with the rank of lieutenant colonel.

Civilian posts

In 1979, he was appointed by U.S. Senator John Tower to the staff of the Senate Armed Services Committee, where he was responsible for staffing Senate consideration of the SALT II Treaty from 1979 to 1981. He also authored much of Ronald Reagan's foreign policy platform during the 1980 presidential campaign.

In 1981, President Reagan appointed and the Senate confirmed McFarlane as Counselor to the Department of State. [2] In this post he assisted Secretary of State Alexander Haig.

In 1982, Reagan appointed McFarlane as Deputy National Security Advisor responsible for the integration of the policy recommendations of the Departments of State, Treasury and Defense. In 1983, he was appointed by the president as his Special Representative in the Middle East responsible for Israeli-Arab negotiations. [3]

McFarlane has been criticized for involving the United States armed forces in the Lebanon Civil War with gunship bombardment of Lebanese opposition forces which may have led to the 1983 Beirut barracks bombing where 241 American servicemen were killed. [4]

Following that assignment, he returned to the White House and was appointed President Reagan's National Security Advisor. [5] In that post, he was responsible for the development of U.S. foreign and defense policy. He was a supporter of the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI or "Star Wars").

Iran-Contra affair and resignation

McFarlane in 1987 Robert McFarlane 1987.jpg
McFarlane in 1987

The Iran-Contra affair involved secretly selling arms to Iran and funneling the money to support the Contras in Nicaragua. As National Security Adviser, McFarlane urged Reagan to negotiate the arms deal with Iranian intermediaries, but McFarlane says that by late December 1985 he was urging Reagan to end the arms shipments. [6] McFarlane resigned on December 4, 1985, [7] [8] citing that he wanted to spend more time with his family; [9] he was replaced by Admiral John Poindexter. [10]

The Iran-Contra affair came to light in November 1986 and a political scandal ensued. Disheartened, feeling abused by his former colleagues and in depression over the embarrassment for the president that his actions had contributed to, McFarlane attempted suicide with an overdose of 25 to 30 valium tablets and was admitted into the hospital just two hours before his scheduled testimony before the Blue Ribbon panel appointed by President Reagan to investigate Iran-Contra known as the Tower Commission [11] on February 9, 1987, saying he had failed his country. [12]

In 1988, he pleaded guilty to four misdemeanor counts of withholding information from Congress as part of the Iran-Contra cover-up. [13] He was sentenced to two years' probation and a $20,000 fine but was pardoned by President George H.W. Bush on Christmas Eve 1992.

Other activities

McFarlane co-founded and served as CEO of McFarlane Associates Inc., an international consulting company.

He is also a Co-founder and Director [14] of IP3 International (short for "International Peace Power & Prosperity" [15] ), a consortium of firms wanting to build nuclear reactors in Saudi Arabia that is led by retired U.S. military commanders and former White House officials. [16] [17] Michael Flynn has described himself as an adviser to IP3, which the company denies. [18] In May 2019, McFarlane wrote an op-ed in The Washington Times advocating for developing nuclear power generation in the Middle East titled "The New Imperialism". [19] This proposal, dubbed "Middle East Marshall Plan" by its backers, [20] was detailed in a March 2017 White Paper [21] written by Tom Barrack, the chairman of Donald Trump's Presidential Inaugural Committee, a senior adviser to Trump's presidential campaign, and a middleman between Trump and Arab princes. [22]

McFarlane is a member of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP) Board of Advisors, is president of the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security, is on the Board of Advisors and is a founding member of the Set America Free Coalition. He is also an Advisory Board member for the Partnership for a Secure America, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to recreating the bipartisan center in American national security and foreign policy.

McFarlane serves on a number of boards including:

He was an advisor to John McCain's 2008 presidential campaign. Since 2009, McFarlane has been working in the southern region of Sudan and Darfur on intertribal relations and development projects. On September 30, 2009, the Washington Post published a story suggesting that McFarlane's contract for this work, which is supported by the government of Qatar, was the result of a request by Sudanese officials. McFarlane denied any improper contact with Sudanese officials or efforts to avoid disclosure of his work. The Washington Post article reported that some persons involved in peacemaking efforts in the southern Sudan region questioned the source and helpfulness of McFarlane's activities. [24] That article prompted FBI investigators to review McFarlane's activities in the Sudan. After an exhaustive probe that lasted three years and included search of his trash, email, and personal belongings, investigators concluded their search and did not file any criminal charges. [25]

In July 2011, McFarlane, in cooperation with former CIA director Jim Woolsey, co-founded the United States Energy Security Council, [26] sponsored by the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security.

Awards and decorations

Navy Distinguished Service ribbon.svg Navy Distinguished Service Medal
Valor device.svg
Bronze Star ribbon.svg
Bronze Star with Valor device
Meritorious Service Medal ribbon.svg Meritorious Service Medal
Valor device.svg
Navy and Marine Corps Commendation ribbon.svg
Navy Commendation Medal with Valor device
Army Commendation Medal ribbon.svg Army Commendation Medal
Combat Action Ribbon.svg Combat Action Ribbon
USA - DOS Distinguished Service Award.png Secretary of State Distinguished Service Award
US Navy Distinguished Public Service Award Ribbon.png Secretary of the Navy Medal for Distinguished Public Service
US - Presidential Service Badge.png Presidential Service Badge
Noribbon.svg Alfred Thayer Mahan Award for Literary Achievement (1979)
Noribbon.svg American-Swiss Friendship "Man of the Year" Award (1985)

See also


  1. Smith, R. "McFarlane Calls SDI Pitch Misleading", Washington Post (1988-09-15): "Robert C. McFarlane, a key architect of President Reagan's 'Star Wars' plan to develop sophisticated defenses against Soviet ballistic missiles, said he has concluded 'There is no current basis for confidence that a survivable defensive shield is within reach' and that Reagan's announcement of it was misleading and simplistic."
  2. The White House (January 29, 1981). "Nomination of Robert C. McFarlane To Be' Counselor of the Department of State" (Press Release). The American Presidency Project. Retrieved March 23, 2009.
  3. The White House (July 22, 1983). "Appointment of Robert C. McFarlane as the President's Personal Representative in the Middle East" (Press Release). The American Presidency Project. Retrieved March 23, 2009.
  4. Rosen, Nir (October 29, 2009). "Lesson Unlearned". Foreign Policy . Retrieved December 24, 2009.
  5. The White House (October 17, 1983). "Appointment of Robert C. McFarlane as Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs" (Press Release). The American Presidency Project. Retrieved March 23, 2009.
  6. Shenon, Philip. "Ex-Official Says Bush Urged End to Iran Arms Shipments", New York Times (1989-01-23): "Robert C. McFarlane, the former adviser, said in a telephone interview that although Vice President Bush rarely expressed an opinion at such meetings, he supported Mr. McFarlane in urging that the shipments be stopped....At the December 1985 meeting, Mr. McFarlane recalled, he advised Mr. Reagan to end the arms operation....Mr. Bush, he said, made a similar brief statement at a White House meeting after Mr. McFarlane went to Teheran in May 1986."
  7. "Letter Accepting the Resignation of Robert C. McFarlane as Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs" . Retrieved December 4, 2012.
  8. "United States v. Robert C. McFarlane". Independent Counsel for Iran/Contra Matters. 1993. Retrieved June 7, 2008.
    • Reagan, Ronald (1990). An American Life. New York: Simon & Schuster. p. 509.
  9. "Understanding the Iran-Contra Affairs".
  10. HighBeam
  11. Okie, Susan Okie & Spolar, Chris (February 10, 1987). "McFarlane Takes Drug Overdose;Iran Probe Figure Hospitalized Shortly Before Testimony Due". Washington Post.
  12. Pichirallo, Joe (March 12, 1988). "McFarlane Enters Guilty Plea Arising From Iran-Contra Affair; Former Reagan Adviser Withheld Information From Congress". Washington Post.
  13. "OUR TEAM - IP3 Int'l". July 31, 2019. Archived from the original on July 31, 2019. Retrieved July 31, 2019.
  14. "Whistleblowers: Flynn backed plan to transfer nuclear tech to Saudis". NBC News. Retrieved July 31, 2019.
  15. "Trump billionaire friend aimed to profit from Mideast nuclear deal..." Reuters. July 29, 2019. Retrieved July 31, 2019.
  16. Nast, Condé. "Report Accuses Trump Allies of Conspiring to Profit Off Saudi Nuclear Deal". Vanity Fair. Retrieved July 31, 2019.
  17. "Statement on Nuclear Energy from IP3 International | Business Wire". February 20, 2019. Archived from the original on February 20, 2019. Retrieved July 31, 2019.
  18., The Washington Times. "The new imperialism". The Washington Times. Retrieved July 31, 2019.
  19. "Whistleblowers: Flynn backed plan to transfer nuclear tech to Saudis". NBC News. Retrieved July 31, 2019.
  20. "Whistleblowers Raise Grave Concerns with Trump Administration's Efforts to Transfer Sensitive Nuclear Technology to Saudi Arabia Prepared for Chairman Elijah E. Cummings Interim Staff Report Committee on Oversight and Reform U.S. House of Representatives Appendix A" (PDF).
  21. "Thomas J. Barrack Jr.", Wikipedia, July 31, 2019, retrieved July 31, 2019
  22. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on July 27, 2014. Retrieved July 26, 2014.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  23. Eggen, Dan (September 30, 2009). "Former Reagan Aide Robert McFarlane's Dealings With Sudan Raise Questions". The Washington Post.
  24. Zapotosky, Matt (November 27, 2013). "Probe of former national security adviser's relationship with Sudan ends without charges". The Washington Post.
  25. United States Energy Security Council

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Further reading

Political offices
Preceded by
Rozanne L. Ridgway
Counselor of the Department of State
Succeeded by
James L. Buckley
Preceded by
James Nance
Deputy National Security Advisor
Succeeded by
John Poindexter
Preceded by
William Clark
National Security Advisor