281. Memorandum From Secretary of State Rusk to all Assistant Secretaries of State, Assistant Administrators of the Agency for International Development, and Other Bureau Heads1


  • Policy and Programs on Population Matters

The President in his State of the Union Message has again declared that next to the pursuit of peace, “the really greatest challenge to the human family is the race between food supply and population increase”—a race now being lost. He again stressed the need for concerted action to produce more food and for the developing nations, especially the growing number with food deficits, to undertake voluntary family planning programs.2

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The President’s statement underscores the urgency of the policy guidelines and instructions on this subject I have recently approved (attached).3 These state that for countries threatened by the effects of rapid population growth—either because of danger of famine or burden on economic progress—the Department and Missions must give population matters the high priority, quality and magnitude of attention we are now undertaking to give to food production.

I would appreciate it if you would assure that all Country Directors, program officers and others in your bureau dealing with problems of developing nations be fully familiar with these instructions and give their attention to means by which they can be effectively carried out in their areas of responsibility.

In view of the increasing urgency of this matter, I hope it will be possible for Missions to have available for me within the next two or three months outlines of their plans for carrying out the President’s policy and their instructions in ways appropriate to the circumstances in their country, and their indication of assistance they may need from Washington for this purpose. I anticipate questions from the Congressional Committees on this subject during testimony on the Foreign Aid Bill a few months from now.

I would also like a report on what effective contribution we can expect—or arrange for—international organizations and private organizations to make to this task.

I have asked Mr. Claxton to be available to consult with you and your staffs on appropriate means to accomplish these purposes and to help arrange necessary assistance from other agencies and private organizations.

Dean Rusk
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Records of the Department of State, Central Files, 1967–69, SOC 13. Confidential. Submitted by Claxton to the Secretary for signature under a January 12 covering memorandum.
  2. For text of the January 10 State of the Union message, see Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Lyndon B. Johnson, 1967, Book I, pp. 2–14. The quoted passage is on p. 11; it reads: “Next to the pursuit of peace, the really greatest challenge to the human family is the race between food supply and population increase. That race tonight is being lost.”
  3. Not printed; see Document 280.