PFIAB (President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board)

PFIAB (President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board)


The President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board (PFIAB) provides unbiased monitoring of the overall intelligence effort of the United States by continually reviewing the activities of agencies and departments engaged in intelligence work. Through briefings and visits to intelligence installations, the sixteen board members seek to identify deficiencies in the collection, analysis, and reporting of intelligence while eliminating duplication. Created by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1956 as part of a reorganization of the executive branch, the board languished under President John F. Kennedy until the Bay of Pigs fiasco exposed the need for an objective evaluation of intelligence efforts. The board has served all subsequent presidents.

The PFIAB began when the 1955 Hoover Commission on Organization of the Executive Branch of the Government recommended that the president appoint a committee of knowledgeable private citizens to examine and report to him periodically on American foreign intelligence efforts. Accordingly, on February 6, 1956, Eisenhower issued an executive order establishing the President's Board of Consultants on Foreign Intelligence Activities (PBCFIA). The board focused on the quality of training and personnel, security, progress in research, effectiveness of specific projects, and general competence in carrying out assigned tasks.

Eisenhower left office in 1960 and Kennedy declined to appoint new PBCFIA members. Meanwhile, the new president had inherited a plan, approved by Eisenhower, for the invasion of Cuba. The CIA and most military advisors assured Kennedy that the plan was sound, but the Cubans anticipated the Bay of Pigs attack and defeated the American-backed forces within three days. Amidst widespread international condemnation and a humiliating loss of national prestige, Kennedy reinstituted the board, now named PFIAB, to prevent another embarrassing disaster. Kennedy placed Clark Clifford (1906–98), the man who had written the 1947 legislation establishing the CIA, upon the board and later made him chair. President Jimmy Carter replaced the board in 1977 with the smaller Intelligence Oversight Committee as part of a reevaluation of intelligence gathering. President Ronald Reagan brought the PFIAB back to life in 1982.

The activities and deliberations of the PFIAB have remained classified. However, it is known that the PFIAB expressed particular concern with the internal procedures of the CIA. It also examined the delay in receiving information about the installation of Soviet offensive nuclear missile sites in Cuba. These sites, which precipitated the Cuban Missile Crisis, had been discovered in 1962 by a U-2 spy plane that had been aided in development by the PFIAB. Technical collection programs, like the one that produced the U-2, are heavily monitored by PFIAB as part of its interest in ensuring that intelligence technology reflects the best technical capabilities of the nation. Lastly, it is also known that the board investigated the U.S. government's failure to predict the 1968 Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, which had been decided upon at a meeting of Warsaw Pact nations concerned about the threat that proposed Czech reforms posed to the preservation of the communist system. The board has very rarely addressed covert political action.

The PFIAB conducts deliberations every two months for two days. Chairs of the board have included Clifford; retired Army General Maxwell D. Taylor (1901–87), former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff who succeeded Clifford from 1968–70; retired Admiral George W. Anderson, Jr., Chief of Naval Operations under Kennedy, 1970–76; Anne L. Armstrong, former Ambassador to the United Kingdom, 1982–90; Warren Rudman, former U.S. Senator, 1997–2001, and current chair, retired Air Force Lieutenant General Brent Scowcroft. The history of intelligence disasters and the importance of good information to national security likely guarantees that the PFIAB will continue to monitor intelligence efforts.



Congressional Research Service. The United States Intelligence Community: A Brief Description of Organization and Functions. Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress, 1975.

Hoxie, R. Gordon. et al. The Presidency and National Security Policy. New York: Center for the Study of the Presidency, 1984.

Marchetti, Victor, and John Marks. The CIA and the Cult of Intelligence. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1974.


The White House. "President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board." < > (March 29, 2003).


Air Force Intelligence, United States
Aviation Intelligence, History
Carter Adminstration (1977–1981), United States National Security Policy
CIA (United States Central Intelligence Agency)
CIA, Formation and History
Cuban Missile Crisis
Eisenhower Administration (1953–1961), United States National Security Policy
Executive Orders and Presidential Directives
Johnson Administration (1963–1969), United States National Security Policy
Kennedy Administration (1961–1963), United States National Security Policy
President of the United States (Executive Command and Control of Intelligence Agencies)
Reagan Administration (1981–1989), United States National Security Policy
United States, Intelligence and Security
United States Intelligence, History

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