In Memoriam: Brent Scowcroft

FALLS CHURCH, VA — Following is a statement on the passing of Lieutenant General Brent Scowcroft, USAF (Ret.).

Lieutenant General Brent Scowcroft, USAF (Ret.)

March 19, 1925 – August 6, 2020

Lieutenant General Brent Scowcroft passed away yesterday at the age of 95 of natural causes.  Brent Scowcroft was an American patriot and public servant of the highest order with an extraordinary military and government service career spanning over 60 years.  His entire professional life was devoted to how best to protect America and advance its interests. He mentored two generations of American public servants who revered him for his brilliance, integrity, humility and fundamental decency. He served the United States with great honor and distinction and is considered one of the most influential experts in international affairs.  General Scowcroft served as the National Security Advisor to both Presidents Gerald Ford and George H.W. Bush. He is the only man to have ever served two presidents as National Security Advisor.  Given his role as advisor to US Presidents Richard Nixon through Barack Obama, no individual has provided as many commanders-in-chief as much national security advice – irrespective of party lines.

Informed by the philosophy he called “enlightened realism,” General Scowcroft recognized the essential – though not limitless – role US 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, General 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 US international leadership to ensure that a world of national disorder does not become chaos, the importance of gaining domestic and international support for US leadership, and the utility of working through allies, coalitions, and international institutions.

Born in 1925 in Ogden, Utah, General Scowcroft was a 1947 graduate of West Point where he has been recognized as 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 his retirement from the military, he continued in public policy serving numerous Administrations.  General 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, General 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, General Scowcroft founded The Scowcroft Group, an international advisory firm, in which he was active until recently.

Brent Scowcroft 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.


Foundation Chairman GEN Edward C. Meyer, USA (Ret.), Former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, Goodpaster recipient Brent Scowcroft, and Foundation Vice Chair GEN Jack N. Merritt, USA (Ret.)

Foundation Chairman GEN Edward C. Meyer, USA (Ret.), Former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, Goodpaster recipient Brent Scowcroft, and Foundation Vice Chairman GEN Jack N. Merritt, USA (Ret.), December 4, 2008.

Lt. General Brent Scowcroft received the first George C. Marshall Foundation Goodpaster Award in December 2008 at a gala dinner in Washington. “George Marshall is a figure I always deeply revered,” he said, “both for the way he conducted World War II, but without the flamboyance, instead producing the strategy and executing it….Then putting his diplomatic gown on and producing some of the finest aspects that turned America from a world at war to reconstructing a world devastated by war.”

General Scowcroft epitomized a life of selfless devotion and service to the country he loved deeply.  A former trustee of the Marshall Foundation like his good friend and colleague Andrew Goodpaster, Brent Scowcroft served as National Security Advisor to Presidents Gerald Ford and George H. W. Bush. His extraordinary twenty-nine-year military career began with graduation from West Point and included numerous assignments addressing long-range military planning, international relations and national security issues.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates (left) congratulates former national security advisor Brent Scowcroft on receiving the Andrew J. Goodpaster Award, December 4, 2008.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates (left) congratulates former national security advisor Brent Scowcroft on receiving the Andrew J. Goodpaster Award, December 4, 2008.

Listen to audio of the event below: