Robert Carl "Bud" McFarlane (born July 12, 1937) was National Security Advisor to President of the United States Ronald Reagan from 1983 through 1985.
After a career in the Marine Corps he 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. Subsequently, he was involved in the Iran-Contra affair.
Early life and education
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.
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. 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.
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.
Following that assignment, he returned to the White House and was appointed President Reagan's National Security Advisor. 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
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. McFarlane resigned on December 4, 1985, citing that he wanted to spend more time with his family; he was replaced by Admiral John Poindexter.
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 on February 9, 1987, saying he had failed his country.
In 1988, he pleaded guilty to four misdemeanor counts of withholding information from Congress as part of the Iran-Contra cover-up. 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.
McFarlane co-founded and served as CEO of McFarlane Associates Inc., an international consulting company.
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:
- Aegis Defence Services – Non-executive director
- Partnership for a Secure America – Advisory Board
- Fuel Freedom Foundation – Advisory Board
- Myriant Incorporated – Advisory Board
- Member of the Committee on the Present Danger
- Alphabet Energy – advisory board
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. 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 that McFarlane was innocent of all allegations.
In July 2011, McFarlane, in cooperation with former CIA director Jim Woolsey, co-founded the United States Energy Security Council, sponsored by the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security.
Awards and decorations
|Navy Distinguished Service Medal|
|Bronze Star with Valor device|
|Meritorious Service Medal|
|Navy Commendation Medal with Valor device|
|Army Commendation Medal|
|Combat Action Ribbon|
|Secretary of State Distinguished Service Award|
|Secretary of the Navy Medal for Distinguished Public Service|
|Presidential Service Badge|
|Alfred Thayer Mahan Award for Literary Achievement (1979)|
|American-Swiss Friendship "Man of the Year" Award (1985)|