Nelson Aldrich Rockefeller (July 8, 1908 – January 26, 1979) was the 41st Vice President of the United States under Gerald Ford, and the 49th Governor of New York, as well as serving the Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower and Nixon administrations in a variety of positions.
In 1940, after expressing his concern to President Franklin D. Roosevelt over Nazi influence in Latin America, the President appointed him to the new position of Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs (CIAA) in the Office of Inter-American Affairs (OIAA). Rockefeller was charged with overseeing a program of US cooperation with the nations of Latin America to help raise the standard of living, to achieve better relations among the nations of the western hemisphere, and to counter rising Nazi influence in the region.
In 1954 he was appointed Special Assistant to the President for Foreign Affairs (sometimes referred to as Special Assistant to the President for Psychological Warfare). He was tasked with providing the President with advice and assistance in developing programs by which the various departments of the government could counter Soviet foreign policy challenges. As part of this responsibility he was named as the President’s representative on the Operations Coordinating Board, a committee of the National Security Council. The other members were the Undersecretary of State, the Deputy Secretary of Defense, the director of the Foreign Operations Administration, and the Central Intelligence Agency director. The OCB’s purpose was to oversee coordinated execution of security policy and plans, including clandestine operations.
Rockefeller broadly interpreted his directive and became an advocate for foreign economic aid as indispensable to national security. Most of Rockefeller’s initiatives were blocked by Secretary of State John Foster Dulles and his Under Secretary, Herbert Hoover, Jr., both traditionalists who resented what they perceived as outside interference from Rockefeller, and by Treasury Secretary George Humphrey for financial reasons. However, in June 1955 Rockefeller convened a week-long meeting of experts from various disciplines to assess the US position in the psychological aspects of the Cold War and develop proposals that could give the US the initiative at the upcoming Summit Conference in Geneva. The meeting was held at the Marine Corps school at Quantico, Virginia and became known as the Quantico Study. The Quantico panel developed a proposal called “open skies” wherein the US and the Soviet Union would exchange blueprints of military installations and agree to mutual aerial reconnaissance. Thus military buildups would be revealed and the danger of surprise attacks minimized. It was a counter proposal to the Soviet proposal of universal disarmament. The feeling was that the Soviets could not refuse the proposal if they were serious about disarmament.
In March 1955 Rockefeller proposed the creation of the Planning Coordination Group, a small high level group that would plan and develop national security operations, both overt and covert. The group consisted of the Undersecretary of State, the Deputy Secretary of Defense, the director the CIA, and Special Assistant Rockefeller as chairman. The group’s purpose was to oversee CIA operation and other anti-communist actions. However, State Department officials and CIA Director Allen Dulles refused to cooperate with the group and its initiatives were stymied or ignored. In September Rockefeller recommended the abolishment of the PCG and in December he resigned as Special Assistant to the President.
In 1956, he created the Special Studies Project, a major seven-panel planning group directed by Henry Kissinger and funded by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, of which he was then president. It was an ambitious study created to define the central problems and opportunities facing the U.S. in the future, and to clarify national purposes and objectives. The reports were published individually as they were released and were republished together in 1961 as Prospect for America: The Rockefeller Panel Reports.
- Cramer, Gisela; Prutsch, Ursula, "Nelson A. Rockefeller's Office of Inter-American Affairs (1940-1946) and Record Group 229", Hispanic American Historical Review 2006 86(4):785-806; DOI:10.1215/00182168-2006-050.
- Reich, Cary (1996). The Life of Nelson A. Rockefeller: Worlds to Conquer, 1908-1958. 1. New York: Doubleday. ISBN 978-0385246965.