The papers of James Rodney Schlesinger (1929- ) span the years 1863-1980, with the bulk of the material dating from 1969 to 1978. The papers are organized into the following series: Personal File, General Correspondence, Chronological File, Subject File, Briefing File, Classified, Top Secret, Restricted Data (Classified), Restricted Data (Top Secret), Secret Compartmented Information (Classified), Secret Compartmented Information (Top Secret), North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Oversize, and Artifact.
The Personal File contains appointment books and telephone logs covering Schlesinger's last year in the Department of Defense through his second year in the Department of Energy, a time that also includes his two-year hiatus from government service during which he wrote and spoke about national security issues. The mail logs and the travel files largely cover Schlesinger's years at the Atomic Energy Commission.
The General Correspondence contains correspondence and memoranda relating to Schlesinger's personal and professional life. Congratulatory letters to Schlesinger upon his various appointments are sometimes filed separately. Correspondents include Bruce C. Clarke, H. S. Clayman, Thomas Keith Glennan, Amrom H. Katz, Elliot L. Richardson, Francis J. “Bing” West, Richard J. Whalen, and Albert J. Wohlstetter. The Chronological File consists of correspondence and memoranda relating to Schlesinger's years at the Atomic Energy Commission and the Department of Energy.
The Subject File is focused on Schlesinger's career in various government and cabinet positions. Appointed by President Richard M. Nixon in 1969 as assistant director of the Bureau of the Budget, later Office of Management and Budget, Schlesinger left the Rand Corporation where he had served as the director of strategic studies working on the strategic analysis of nuclear weaponry, atomic energy issues, and nuclear proliferation. Many of his writings, and a large number of those of his colleagues at the Rand Corporation, traveled with Schlesinger to Washington, D.C., and are part of his Bureau of the Budget files. He apparently used these writings for reference as his new position involved national security issues, scientific and technical programs, and energy policy and its impact on the environment. His main effort was on defense issues. Other items in the Subject File include Schlesinger's speeches and congressional testimony. Charts, notebooks, and copies of transparencies used in briefing the president and others are located in the Briefing File.
On 17 August 1971, Schlesinger was sworn in as the chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission. That November the controversial Cannikin Project was carried out on Amchitka Island in Alaska. The project involved the underground detonation of a nuclear weapon, the largest underground test ever conducted by the United States. Material relating to Cannikin includes correspondence concerning permissions needed to carry out the project, congressional testimony by Schlesinger, a notebook of newspaper clippings for and against the detonation, and a notebook of photographs documenting Schlesinger's attendance at the detonation and Amchitka Island flora and fauna. As with the Cannikin Project, Schlesinger was involved with environmental issues that are represented in his congressional testimony, speeches and statements, and files on environmental organizations. Always a proponent of national security, he sought defense applications of nuclear power, and the papers reflect his involvement with nuclear weapons and naval nuclear propulsion.
Schlesinger served as the director of the Central Intelligence Agency from February through June 1973. The papers document his efforts during the Watergate Affair to turn over all information to congressional oversight committees regarding any agency involvement including his memorandum to agency employees to report to him any activities outside the Central Intelligence Agency charter. Although the memorandum was directed at Watergate, it lead to the discovery that the agency had opened mail sent by citizens of the United States to the Soviet Union. The subsequent leak of that information led to legal suits against the government of which Schlesinger was a defendant. Memoranda, briefs, and other legal papers relating to the suits are in the litigation files.
In July 1973 Schlesinger became secretary of defense. The action memoranda, comprised of memoranda and correspondence involving a myriad of topics including visits by foreign dignitaries, thank-you letters, military promotions, interactions with other departments, and documents requiring Schlesinger's approval or signature, provide an overview of the work carried out under his leadership at the Department of Defense. Schlesinger's concern that the Soviet Union not surpass the United States in defense matters is borne out in the papers through files on the Soviet Union, mutual and balanced force reduction, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty, various weaponry, and other files relating to national security. Notes for meetings with Henry Kissinger are included with background files kept on the then secretary of state. Of interest is a group of files concerning retired army colonel Richard R. Hallock who had been sent to Iran by Schlesinger as a special envoy to assist in the sale of American arms to Iran and to supervise contracts. Schlesinger's dismissal by President Gerald R. Ford on 2 November 1975 is covered in the news reports and letters from various persons in the General Correspondence.
In October 1977, Schlesinger became the first secretary of energy. The papers reflect his integration of the energy powers of more than fifty agencies under the Department of Energy. Covered also in the papers are Schlesinger's involvement with the comprehensive nuclear test ban, nuclear nonproliferation, and oil. Material related to oil, nuclear matters, and foreign countries is also located in the files of the Central Intelligence Agency. President Jimmy Carter replaced Schlesinger in July 1979.
The Briefing File contains charts, notebooks, and transparencies used by Schlesinger during briefings for the president, congressional committees, and others while serving at the Atomic Energy Commission, Bureau of the Budget, and Department of Defense. A majority of the material relates to the Department of Defense and budgets.