69. Memorandum From the President’s Special Assistant (Rostow) to President Johnson 1


  • Talking Points for your meeting with Messrs. Perkins, Black and Rockefeller—12:15 PM today2

This is a delegation from Jim Perkins’ General Advisory Committee on Foreign Assistance Programs (membership at Tab A).3 They will give you a memorandum proposing that the Perkins Committee do a complete [Page 194]restudy of foreign aid—problems, programs and presentations—with a report to you after next year’s election. If you want them to do the study, they will ask you to issue a press statement appointing them to this task, and they will ask then to direct the Bureau of the Budget to find $500,000 or so to finance the study operation.

You know my views on this proposal. I think this group is first-rate on all counts, professional and political. They would do at least as thorough a review as any blue-ribbon panel you could name and they are probably the only bipartisan group you are going to find which will be willing to look constructively at the aid program in an election year. Thus, I think it would be very useful for them to do the study.

But there is another side of the question. If you select them publicly as a chosen instrument to do your thinking on foreign aid, it could (1) cut down your flexibility on this issue during the campaign, (2) make the 1968 Aid Program a lame duck and a target for cuts even deeper than this year’s, and (3) get you into a public rather than a private argument with the Committee in January 1969 if you decide not to buy the recommendations. I am told that, with the Commission on Civil Disorders sopping up most of the money around town, the Budget Bureau would also have a problem dunning agencies for contributions to an independent budget for the study group.

Therefore, Joe Califano and I recommend you take the following line with the Perkins group:

You have enormous respect for the group and you want very much to have their views on foreign aid.
You hope that the Committee will proceed with the study immediately, and that it will be the most comprehensive job they can manage. The President will be an enthusiastic customer for their product, though of course he cannot guarantee he will accept the recommendations therein.
However, the public announcement aspect of the problem pre-sents real problems. It might well hurt the AID appropriation bill in the Senate, it might be used as an excuse to slash the aid appropriation even more deeply next year, and it would damage morale and operating efficiently in AID during the fourteen months between now and January 1969. (These gentlemen know how ICA and DLF suffered during the reorganization task force operation in 1961.)
There is a similar problem with setting up and announcing a separate budget for the study group in terms of both of the requirements (Commission on Riots) and the atmosphere on the Hill.
Moreover, the Perkins Committee is already established to do jobs precisely of this kind. It has a public mandate from the President. The beauty of it is that, unlike some other advisory committees, it can take on [Page 195]this big and difficult job without forcing the President to a public announcement which inevitably discredits the present program.
Therefore, you suggest that the Committee:
  • —Go ahead with the study. (You might promise to direct Gaud and Katzenbach to beg, borrow and steal the people and the administrative money necessary to run it. This should be workable for them.)
  • —Do so on a quiet, business-as-usual basis.
This low-key procedure does not represent any lack of Presidential interest in this enterprise. The Committee has the President’s absolute assurance that he will support the study while in progress and give a full and sympathetic hearing to the recommendations which emerge.
You know that this is not a decision the delegation can make on the spot—they will have to check with their cohorts. You hope they will let you know their decision.

W.W. Rostow 4
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Foreign Assistance Programs—President’s Advisory Committee on [Perkins Committee] [2 of 3], Box 17. Confidential. Drafted by Edward K. Hamilton.
  2. President Johnson met with Perkins, Black, and Rockefeller from 12:17 to 1:02 p.m. in the Oval Office. (Ibid., President’s Daily Diary) No formal record of this meeting has been found.
  3. Not found. For a list of the Committee members, see Document 32.
  4. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.