Contents and Arrangement Expanded View

Collection Overview

Aaron, David (1938-)
David L. Aaron Papers
Public Policy Papers
Permanent URL:
1960-1999 (mostly 1976-1981)
16 boxes
Storage Note:
  • Mudd Manuscript Library (scamudd): Box 1-16


David Laurence Aaron (1938-) served as Deputy National Security Advisor from 1977–1981. The collection mostly documents Aaron's service under Jimmy Carter's administration, though records dating from his time working for Walter F. Mondale and in the private sector are also present.

Collection Description & Creator Information

Scope and Contents

The David L. Aaron Papers primarily document Aaron's service as Deputy National Security Advisor under Jimmy Carter's administration, although records pertaining to his work for Walter F. Mondale and his activities in the private sector are also present. Aaron's chronological files, speeches, subject files, and writings from his White House years provide insight into the national security issues that dominated his term, especially U.S. relations with the Soviet Union. Of particular note are briefing papers, speech drafts and talking points, correspondence, and other materials created in the course of Jimmy Carter's 1980 re-election campaign. Materials that are more administrative in nature are also present in the form of invitations Aaron received, his schedules and appointments, and his telephone memorandums.

To a lesser extent, the collection includes records related to Aaron's work for Walter F. Mondale, both in his position as Mondale's legislative assistant in the U.S. Senate and as a foreign policy advisor for Mondale's 1984 presidential campaign. There is also a small amount of documentation on Aaron's tenure with Oppenheimer and Company and a number of his speeches and writings that postdate his tenure in the Executive Office, including a typescript of his first novel. Researchers should note that the collection contains almost no documentation of Aaron's career in the Foreign Service.


This collection is arranged into two series.

Collection Creator Biography:


David Laurence Aaron (1938-) served in several prominent positions in the U.S. Foreign Service and as Deputy National Security Advisor for Jimmy Carter's administration. Born in Chicago, Aaron earned his bachelor's degree from Occidental College in Los Angeles. In 1962, he graduated from Princeton University with a master's degree in public administration from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. That same year, he started his first position in the U.S. Foreign Service, working as a political and economic officer in Ecuador. Aaron continued to work for the Foreign Service for over ten years. He served as a member of the U.S. Delegation to NATO, and in this capacity he was part of the organization's Nuclear Planning Group and worked on the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. Aaron also worked for the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, serving as a key member of the U.S. Delegation to the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT) with the Soviet Union.

From 1972 to 1974, Aaron worked for the National Security Council under Richard Nixon's administration, focusing on arms control and strategic doctrine. He took on a new position as Senator Walter Mondale's legislative assistant in 1974. The following year, Aaron became a Task Force Director for the Senate Intelligence Committee and was influential in shaping the Committee's recommendations.

Aaron served as Deputy National Security Advisor to President Jimmy Carter from 1977 to 1981. In this position, Aaron chaired sub-Cabinet committees related to arms control and served as a trusted presidential representative to Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Latin America, and China. Aaron is particularly known for his discussions with Israeli military leader and politician Moshe Dayan, which laid the groundwork for the Camp David Accords, and for his role in negotiating the deployment of U.S. Pershing Missiles and Ground Launched Cruise Missiles in Europe.

With the end of Jimmy Carter's presidential term in 1981, Aaron moved into the private sector, becoming Vice President for Mergers and Acquisitions at Oppenheimer and Co. and Vice Chairman of the board of Oppenheimer International. Though he left Oppenheimer in 1985 to focus on writing and lecturing, Aaron would later return to the company to serve on the board of directors of Oppenheimer's Quest for Value Dual Purpose Fund. He also remained involved in national politics, serving as senior consultant on foreign policy and defense for Walter Mondale's 1984 presidential campaign and as part of the foreign policy team for Bill Clinton's 1992 campaign.

Aaron served as Ambassador to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in Paris during the Clinton administration, where he negotiated the Convention to Prohibit Bribery in International Business Transactions. In 1996, he was appointed the Clinton administration's special White House envoy for cryptography, charged with developing international guidelines for encryption technology in trade and communications. Aaron was also appointed Undersecretary of Commerce for International Trade in 1997, responsible for policies and programs that promote world trade and strengthen the international trade and investment position of the United States.

Upon his retirement from government service in 2000, Aaron became Senior International Advisor to the law firm Dorsey LLP. In 2003, he was appointed Senior Fellow at the RAND Corporation, where he currently serves as the Director of the Center for Middle East Public Policy. He is also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and several other organizations related to international affairs.

Aaron is the author of three novels, State Scarlet (1987), Agent of Influence (1990), and Crossing By Night (1993). His nonfiction work In their Own Words: Voices of Jihad was published by the RAND Corporation in 2008.

Collection History


This collection was donated by David L. Aaron in January 2015. The accession number associated with this donation is ML.2015.002.

Two additions to the collection, Aaron's 1976 campaign journal (Box 10) and his copy of the 1960 presidential transition briefing book (Box 13), were donated by David L. Aaron in December 2015. The accession number associated with this donation is ML.2015.040.

Two more additions to the collection, a copy of the foreign policy briefing book used for Carter's debate against Reagan (Box 16) and a proposal for an economic security council (Box 13), were donated by David L. Aaron in September 2017. The accession number associated with this donation is ML.2017.028.


Approximately two linear feet of materials unrelated to David Aaron's professional career were removed from the collection during processing in 2015.

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Rachel Van Unen in 2015 at the time of accessioning. Some materials were placed into archival housing and all materials were arranged into series and described in a finding aid. Materials from the December 2015 accession were added by Rachel Van Unen in December 2015.

Access & Use

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research use.

Conditions Governing Use

Single copies may be made for research purposes. To cite or publish quotations that fall within Fair Use, as defined under U. S. Copyright Law, no permission is required. For instances beyond Fair Use, any copyright vested in the donor has passed to The Trustees of Princeton University and researchers do not need to obtain permission, complete any forms, or receive a letter to move forward with use of donor-created materials within the collection. For materials in the collection not created by the donor, or where the material is not an original, the copyright is likely not held by the University. In these instances, it is the responsibility of the researcher to determine whether any permissions related to copyright, privacy, publicity, or any other rights are necessary for their intended use of the Library's materials, and to obtain all required permissions from any existing rights holders, if they have not already done so. Princeton University Library's Special Collections does not charge any permission or use fees for the publication of images of materials from our collections. The department does request that its collections be properly cited and images credited. More detailed information can be found on the Copyright, Credit and Citations Guidelines page on our website. If you have a question about who owns the copyright for an item, you may request clarification by contacting us through the Ask Us! form.

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

For preservation reasons, original analog and digital media may not be read or played back in the reading room. Users may visually inspect physical media but may not remove it from its enclosure. All analog audiovisual media must be digitized to preservation-quality standards prior to use. Audiovisual digitization requests are processed by an approved third-party vendor. Please note, the transfer time required can be as little as several weeks to as long as several months and there may be financial costs associated with the process. Requests should be directed through the Ask Us Form.

Credit this material:

David L. Aaron Papers; Public Policy Papers, Department of Special Collections, Princeton University Library

Permanent URL:
Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library
65 Olden Street
Princeton, NJ 08540, USA
(609) 258-6345
Storage Note:
  • Mudd Manuscript Library (scamudd): Box 1-16