Longtime Public Servant Brent Scowcroft Dies
Lt. Gen. Brent Scowcroft — who dedicated six decades to government service and whose namesake is on the international affairs institute at the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University — passed away Thursday, Aug. 6.
The former national security advisor to both Presidents Gerald Ford and George H.W. Bush was regarded as an American patriot and public servant with an extraordinary military and government service career. Friends said his entire professional life was devoted to how best to protect America and advance its interests.
Admired for mentoring two generations of American public servants who revered him for his brilliance, integrity, humility and fundamental decency, Scowcroft is considered one of the most influential experts in international affairs.
He is the only man to have served two presidents as National Security Advisor. Given his role as advisor to U.S. Presidents Richard Nixon through Barack Obama, no individual has provided as many commanders-in-chief as much national security advice – irrespective of party lines.
Andrew H. Card Jr., interim CEO of the Bush Foundation, said though many will mourn his passing, “we can take heart that his legacy lives on in the fantastic work of the Scowcroft Institute of International Affairs within the George Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M.”
“He was a public servant of the highest order, always putting the good of the country ahead of other concerns,” Card said. “Nobody worked longer hours, nobody knew more about working the levers of international power, and in the end very few contributed more to the universal cause of freedom than Brent Scowcroft.
“It is altogether fitting that, while these two giants have left us, the life’s work of George Bush and Brent Scowcroft will be forever linked in Aggieland,” Card said.
“From his distinguished career in the U.S. Air Force to his many contributions to enhancing our national security under multiple U.S. Presidents, Brent Scowcroft led a legendary life of service,” said Texas A&M President Michael K. Young.
“As the namesake of the Scowcroft Institute of International Affairs, he helped bring some of the world’s leading minds to our campus to discuss and debate vital policies shaping the world of today and tomorrow. His impact and his influence at Texas A&M and around the world were immeasurable, and he will be greatly missed.”
Informed by the philosophy he called “enlightened realism,” Scowcroft recognized the essential – though not limitless – role U.S. power and leadership could play in making the world a safer and more prosperous place. His legacy is set apart not just by his worldview, but also by the way he operated in the world. Despite his military background, Scowcroft held the belief that although military force is an important tool of statecraft, it is not a substitute for policy and diplomacy.
His thinking, which placed a premium on strategy, was guided by key principles, including the importance of history in shaping international affairs, the necessity of strong U.S. international leadership to ensure that a world of national disorder does not become chaos, the importance of gaining domestic and international support for U.S. leadership, and the utility of working through allies, coalitions and international institutions.
Former President George W. Bush and his wife Laura were saddened to learn of his death.
“This patriot had a long career of distinguished service to our country,” Bush said. “As a retired Air Force general, he gave sound and thoughtful advice to several presidents. He was an especially important advisor to my father – and an important friend. Laura and I, and my family, send our condolences to Brent’s daughter, Karen, and the Scowcroft family.”
Born in 1925 in Ogden, Utah, Scowcroft was a 1947 graduate of West Point where he was a Distinguished Graduate. He received his master’s degree in 1953 and a doctorate in 1967 in international relations from Columbia University. He attended Lafayette College, Georgetown University School of Language and Linguistics, the Armed Forces Staff College and the National War College.
His Air Force service included professor of Russian history at West Point, assistant air attaché in Yugoslavia, head of the Political Science Department at the Air Force Academy, Air Force Long Range Plans, Office of the Secretary of Defense International Security Affairs, special assistant to the Director of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and military assistant to President Nixon.
His military decorations and awards include the Distinguished Service Medal (Air Force design), Legion of Merit with oak leaf cluster, and the Air Force Commendation Medal. He served through the rank of lieutenant general. He retired from this position to serve as national security advisor to President Ford.
Following retirement from the military, he continued in public policy serving numerous administrations. Scowcroft joined President George H.W. Bush’s administration as national security advisor during a period of historic change, which included the end of the Cold War, German reunification and the first Gulf War in response to Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait. He chaired or served on the President’s Advisory Committee on Arms Control, the Commission on Strategic Forces, the President’s Special Review Board (also known as the Tower Commission), the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, the Secretary of State’s Advisory Board, the Secretary of Defense’s Policy Board, and the Secretary of Energy’s Advisory Board. He also served on numerous corporate and nonprofit boards.
In 1991, Scowcroft was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, by President George H.W. Bush, and in 1993 was awarded an honorary knighthood – a Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire (KBE) – by Queen Elizabeth II. In 2009, he was presented the Grand Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany, and in 2015 the Grand Cordon of the Order of the Rising Sun.
In 1994, Scowcroft founded The Scowcroft Group. He is survived by his daughter, Karen Scowcroft, and his granddaughter, Meghan. He was preceded in death by his wife Marian, and sisters Janice Hinckley and Odette Scowcroft Cawley.
A private funeral service is being arranged.
In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to the Atlantic Council’s Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security, the Scowcroft Institute of International Affairs at the Bush School of Government and Public Service or the U.S. Military Academy’s Scowcroft Cadet Government Internship Endowment.