The Deputy Under Secretary of State (Humelsine) to the Chairman of the Appropriations Committee of the United States Senate (McKellar)1

My Dear Senator McKellar: I am writing for the purpose of consulting with the Senate Committee on Appropriations with respect [Page 170] to the position to be taken by the United States delegation to the Sixth Regular Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations on the subject of the scale of assessments for the calendar year 1952. A similar letter is being sent to the Chairman of the Committee on Appropriations of the House of Representatives.

At this fortcoming session of the General Assembly which convenes in Paris on November 4 [6], 1951, a prominent item in the agenda, as in past years, will be the question of the scale of assessments for the ensuing financial year. Originally, it had been hoped that a permanent scale of assessments might be adopted by this time, and the rules of procedure of the General Assembly in fact stipulate that general revisions in the scale of assessments not be made more frequently than once in every three years. However, this rule has been set aside each year, a procedure strongly supported by United States delegations in order that there might be annual progress toward the goal of a 33⅓ percent assessment for the United States.

The goal of an assessment of 33⅓ percent for the United States was set by the General Assembly at its Third Session, held in New York in the fall of 1948, when the organization had under consideration its scale of assessments for the calendar year 1949. This accomplishment was due in large measure to the unremitting efforts of United States representatives, in the Committee on Administration and Finance of the General Assembly, and in particular of the late Senator Vandenberg in 1946. It represented a substantial concession to the United States, which was thereby to be exempted from the full application of the “capacity to pay” standard upon which the scale is based. This same goal of a 33⅓ percent contribution for the United States was later adopted by the World Health Organization and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, the two specialized agencies whose scales of assessment are directly modeled after that of the United Nations.

In the case of WHO and UNESCO, the United States assessment has been gradually reduced until it now stands at the target figure of 33⅓ percent of assessments against all members in support of their budgets for the calendar year 1952. For WHO, this represents progress downward from an assessment of 38.77 percent in 1948, and for UNESCO from an assessment of 44.03 percent in 1947. In both instances, the successive reductions in the United States assessment percentage were made easier by the accession, each year, of new members who took up their share of the burden of contributions. At the same time, these reductions have represented the determination of the other members, most of whom are also members of the United Nations, to relieve the United States of some of the weight of its contribution responsibility.

[Page 171]

Following up the decision in 1948 to reduce the United States assessment to 33⅓ percent, the Fourth Session of the General Assembly reduced the United States assessment from 39.89 percent to 39.79 percent. Last year, the Fifth Session of the General Assembly voted a further reduction to 38.92 percent. The smallness of these reductions to date in the United Nations, as compared with WHO and UNESCO, is largely attributable to the fact that the accession of new members in any significant number has been blocked by the Soviet veto. Under the terms of the resolution of the Third Session, one of the principal means through which changes were to be brought about was an increase in membership.

Nevertheless, the United States has pressed strongly for substantial reductions which, it believed, could be achieved through a fuller recognition of the increased capacity to pay of certain other members. This position was advanced in 1949 by Mr. John Sherman Cooper, United States representative in the Committee on Administration and Finance and, last year, by Senator John Sparkman while serving in the same capacity.

This year, for the first time, the General Assembly will have before it a report of its Committee on Contributions which recommends a substantial reduction for the United States. This Committee, consisting of ten experts drawn from Member countries and serving in a private capacity, is one of the principal standing committees advisory to the General Assembly. The confidence placed in its expertness and judgment by Member governments has been such that its recommendations have been accepted each year without exception. Mr. James E. Webb, now Under Secretary of State and Mr. Frank Pace, now Secretary of the Army, have previously served as United States members of the Committee at a time when each was Director of the Budget. Mr. Elmer B. Staats, Assistant Director of the Bureau of the Budget, was the United States member of the Committee this year with Mr. Stuart A. Rice, Assistant Director for Statistical Standards, acting as his alternate.

In its current report the Committee on Contributions has recommended, for calendar 1952, a reduction in the United States contribution of 2.02 percentage points (from 38.92% to 36.90%). This is approximately one-third of the remaining distance downwards to 33⅓%, and the Committee indicates that it has in mind a three-year progression both for the United States reduction and for certain upward revisions elsewhere in the scale of contributions.

The proposed reduction of 2.02 percentage points for 1952 would be the largest the United States has yet received, and compares with a reduction for 1951 of 0.87%. Based upon the 1951 level of expenditure, a reduction of 2.02 percentage points would amount to a saving [Page 172] of some $800,000, and in addition there would be a credit to the United States in respect of its Working Capital Fund account of $400,000.

At the same time that it recommends this reduction for the United States, the Committee on Contributions also proposes adjustments, upwards or downwards, of the quotas of thirty-two other Member states. Among these states for whom increases are proposed is the Soviet Union with an increase of 2.87 percentage points, from 6.98% to 9.85%. Proposed increases for Byelorussia and the Ukraine are in the same proportion; the increase for Poland is slightly smaller, and there is a minor increase for Czechoslovakia. The United States has been a strong advocate of increased assessments for the Iron Curtain countries since their original quotas were heavily adjusted for war damage which has now been overcome. Although members of the Committee on Contributions sit in their individual capacity as experts, the Soviet member in the Committee discussions made a vigorous: attack on the Committee’s conclusions and voted against the proposed scale.

It is the Department’s proposal that the United States support the adoption of the report of the Contributions Committee as the best available basis for the 1952 scale, and as the course most consistent with our national interest. The Delegation would make clear the continuing determination of the United States to realize at the earliest possible date the objective that no one member of the United Nations. Organization should pay more than 33⅓% of its regular expenses. The Delegation would further indicate that it supports the quota assigned the United States in the 1952 scale only because the report of the Contributions Committee gives promise of a systematic reduction to 33⅓% in not more than two annual steps after 1952.

The Department stands ready to provide any further information which the Appropriations Committee may require in this matter and to meet with the Committee if it so desires.

Sincerely yours,

Carlisle H. Humelsine
  1. The same letter mutatis mutandis was sent to the Chairman of the Appropriations Committee of the House of Representatives. Deputy Under Secretary Humelsine delivered both in person on October 31.