70. Message From President Nixon to the Congress 1


Today, I am proposing a major transformation in our foreign assistance programs.

For more than two decades these programs have been guided by a vision of international responsibilities conditioned by the aftermath of World War II and the emergence of new nations. But the world has been changing dramatically; by the end of the ’Sixties, there was widespread agreement that our programs for foreign assistance had not kept up with these changes and were losing their effectiveness. This sentiment has been reflected in declining foreign aid levels.

The cause of this downward drift is not that the need for aid has diminished; [Page 241] nor is it that our capacity to help other nations has diminished; nor has America lost her humanitarian zeal; nor have we turned inward and abandoned our pursuit of peace and freedom in the world.

The answer is not to stop foreign aid or to slash it further. The answer is to reform our foreign assistance programs and do our share to meet the needs of the ’Seventies.

A searching reexamination has clearly been in order and, as part of the new Administration’s review of policy, I was determined to undertake a fresh appraisal. I have now completed that appraisal and in this message I am proposing a set of fundamental and sweeping reforms to overhaul completely our entire foreign assistance operation to make it fit a new foreign policy.

Such a major transformation cannot be accomplished overnight. The scope and complexity of such an undertaking requires a deliberate and thoughtful approach over many months. I look forward to active discussion of these proposals with the Congress before I transmit my new assistance legislation next year.

Reform No. 1: I propose to create separate organizational arrangements for each component of our assistance effort: security assistance, humanitarian assistance, and development assistance. This is necessary to enable us to fix responsibility more clearly, and to assess the success of each program in achieving its specific objectives. My proposal will overcome the confusion inherent in our present approach which lumps together these separate objectives in composite programs.

Reform No. 2: To provide effective support for the Nixon Doctrine, I shall propose a freshly conceived International Security Assistance Program. The prime objective of this program will be to help other countries assume the responsibility of their own defense and thus help us reduce our presence abroad.

Reform No. 3: I propose that the foundation for our development assistance programs be a new partnership among nations in pursuit of a truly international development effort based upon a strengthened leadership role for multilateral development institutions. To further this objective,

  • —The U.S. should channel an increasing share of its development assistance through the multilateral institutions as rapidly as practicable.
  • —Our remaining bilateral assistance should be provided largely within a framework established by the international institutions.
  • —Depending upon the success of this approach, I expect that we shall eventually be able to channel most of our development assistance through these institutions.

Reform No. 4: To enable us to provide effective bilateral development assistance in the changed conditions of the ’Seventies, I shall transmit legislation to create two new and independent institutions: [Page 242]

  • —A U.S. International Development Corporation, to bring vitality and innovation to our bilateral lending activities and enable us to deal with lower income nations on a businesslike basis.
  • —A U.S. International Development Institute to bring the genius of U.S science and technology to bear on the problems of development, to help build research and training competence in the lower income countries themselves, and to offer cooperation in international efforts dealing with such problems as population and employment.

Their creation will enable us to phase out the Agency for International Development and to reduce significantly the number of overseas U.S. Government personnel working on development programs.

Reform No. 5: To add a new dimension to the international aid effort insuring a more permanent and enduring source of funds for the low income countries, I have recently proposed that all nations enter into a treaty which would permit the utilization of the vast resources of the seabeds to promote economic development.

Reform No. 6: I propose that we redirect our other policies which bear on development to assure that they reinforce the new approach outlined in this message. Our goal will be to expand and enhance the contribution to development of trade and private investment, and to increase the effectiveness of government programs in promoting the development process. A number of changes are necessary:

  • —I propose that we move promptly toward initiation of a system of tariff preferences for the exports of manufactured products of the lower income countries in the markets of all of the industrialized countries.
  • —I am ordering the elimination of those tying restrictions on procurement which hinder our investment guarantee program in its support of U.S. private investment in the lower income countries.
  • —I propose that all donor countries take steps to end the requirement that foreign aid be used to purchase goods and services produced in the nation providing the aid. Complete untying of aid is a step that must be taken in concert with other nations; we have already begun discussions with them toward that end. As an initial step, I have directed that our own aid be immediately untied for procurement in the lower income countries themselves.

The Foundations of Reform

These are the most fundamental of the many far-reaching reforms I propose today. To understand the need for them now, and to place them in perspective, it is important to review here the way in which we have reexamined our policies in light of today’s requirements.

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Two steps were necessary to develop a coherent and constructive U.S. assistance program for the ’Seventies:

  • —As a foundation, we needed a foreign policy tailored to the 1970’s to provide direction for our various programs. For that, we developed and reported to the Congress in February the New Strategy for Peace.2
  • —Second, to assist me in responding to the Congress and to get the widest possible range of advice on how foreign assistance could be geared to that strategy, I appointed a distinguished group of private U.S. citizens to make a completely independent assessment of what we should be trying to achieve with our foreign aid programs and how we should go about it.

The Task Force on International Development, chaired by Rudolph Peterson, former President of the Bank of America, drew upon the considerable experience of its own members and sought views from Members of the Congress and from every quarter of U.S. society. In early March the Task Force presented its report to me, and shortly thereafter I released it to the public.3 The Task Force undertook a comprehensive assessment of the conditions affecting our foreign assistance program and proposed new and creative approaches for the years ahead. Its report provides the basis for the proposals which I am making today.

I also have taken into account the valuable insights and suggestions concerning development problems which were contained in the Rockefeller Report on our Western Hemisphere policy.4 Many of the ideas and measures I am proposing in this message in fact were foreshadowed by a number of policy changes and program innovations which I instituted in our assistance programs in Latin America.

The Purposes of Foreign Assistance

There are three interrelated purposes that the U.S. should pursue through our foreign assistance program: promoting our national security by supporting the security of other nations; providing humanitarian relief; and furthering the long-run economic and social development of the lower income countries.

The national security objectives of the U.S. cannot be pursued solely through defense of our territory. [Page 244] They require a successful effort by other countries around the world, including a number of lower income countries, to mobilize manpower and resources to defend themselves. They require in some cases, military bases abroad, to give us the necessary mobility to defend ourselves and to deter aggression. They sometimes require our financial support of friendly countries in exceptional situations.

Moreover, our security assistance programs must be formulated to achieve the objectives of the Nixon Doctrine, which I set forth at Guam last year. That approach calls for any country whose security is threatened to assume the primary responsibility for providing the manpower needed for its own defense. Such reliance on local initiative encourages local assumption of responsibility and thereby serves both the needs of other countries and our own national interest. In addition, the Nixon Doctrine calls for our providing assistance to such countries to help them assume these responsibilities more quickly and more effectively. The new International Security Assistance Program will be devoted largely to these objectives. I shall set forth the details of the proposed program when I transmit the necessary implementing legislation to the Congress next year.

The humanitarian concerns of the American people have traditionally led us to provide assistance to foreign countries for relief from natural disasters, to help with child care and maternal welfare, and to respond to the needs of international refugees and migrants. Our humanitarian assistance programs, limited in size but substantial in human benefits, give meaningful expression to these concerns.

Both security and humanitarian assistance serve our basic national goal: the creation of a peaceful world. This interest is also served, in a fundamental and lasting sense, by the third purpose of our foreign assistance: the building of self-reliant and productive societies in the lower income countries. Because these countries contain two-thirds of the world’s population, the direction which the development of their societies takes will profoundly affect the world in which we live.

We must respond to the needs of these countries if our own country and its values are to remain secure. We are, of course, wholly responsible for solutions to our problems at home, and we can contribute only partially to solutions abroad. But foreign aid must be seen for what it is—not a burden, but an opportunity to help others to fulfill their aspirations for justice, dignity, and a better life. No more abroad than at home can peace be achieved and maintained without vigorous efforts to meet the needs of the less fortunate.

The approaches I am outlining today provide a coherent structure for foreign assistance—with a logical framework for separate but interdependent programs. With the cooperation of Congress, we must seek to identify as clearly as possible which of our purposes—security, humanitarianism, or long-term development of the lower income countries—[Page 245]to pursue through particular U.S. programs. This is necessary to enable us to determine how much of our resources we wish to put into each, and to assess the progress of each program toward achieving its objectives.

There is one point, however, that I cannot over-emphasize. Each program is a part of the whole, and each must be sustained in order to pursue our national purpose in the world of the ’Seventies. It is incumbent upon us to support all component elements—or the total structure will be unworkable.

Effective Development Assistance—The Changed Conditions

The conditions that surround and influence development assistance to lower income countries have dramatically changed since the present programs were established. At that time the United States directly provided the major portion of the world’s development assistance. This situation led to a large and ambitious U.S. involvement in the policies and activities of the developing countries and required extensive overseas missions to advise governments and monitor programs. Since then the international assistance environment has changed:

  • First, the lower income countries have made impressive progress, as highlighted by the Commission on International Development chaired by Lester Pearson, the former Prime Minister of Canada. They have been helped by us and by others, but their achievements have come largely through their own efforts. Many have scored agricultural breakthroughs which have dramatically turned the fear of famine into the hope of harvest. They have made vast gains in educating their children and improving their standards of health. The magnitude of their achievement is indicated by the fact that the lower income countries taken together exceeded the economic growth targets of the First United Nations Development Decade. These achievements have brought a new confidence and self-reliance to people in communities throughout the world.

    With the experience that the lower income countries have gained in mobilizing their resources and setting their own development priorities, they now can stand at the center of the international development process—as they should, since the security and development which is sought is theirs. They clearly want to do so. Any assistance effort that fails to recognize these realities cannot succeed.

  • Second, other industrialized nations can now afford to provide major assistance to the lower income countries, and most are already doing so in steadily rising amounts.

    While the United States remains the largest single contributor to international development, the other industrialized nations combined [Page 246] now more than match our efforts. Cooperation among the industrialized nations is essential to successful support for the aspirations of the lower income countries. New initiatives in such areas as trade liberalization and untying of aid must be carried out together by all such countries.

  • Third, international development institutions—the World Bank group, the Inter-American Development Bank and other regional development organizations, the United Nations Development Program, and other international agencies—now possess a capability to blend the initiatives of the lower income countries and the responses of the industrialized nations. They have made effective use of the resources which we and others have provided. A truly international donor community is emerging, with accepted rules and procedures for responding to the initiatives of the lower income countries. The international institutions are now in a position to accelerate further a truly international development effort.
  • Fourth, the progress made by lower income countries has brought them a new capability to sell abroad, to borrow from private sources, and to utilize private investment efficiently. As a result, a fully effective development effort should encompass much more than government assistance programs if it is to make its full potential contribution to the well-being of the people of the developing nations. We have come to value the constructive role that the private sector can play in channeling productive investments that will stimulate growth. We now understand the critical importance of enlightened trade policies that take account of the special needs of the developing countries in providing access for their exports to the industrialized nations.

Effective Development Assistance—The Program for Reform

To meet these changed international conditions, I propose a program for reform in three key areas: to support an expanded role for the international assistance institutions; to reshape our bilateral programs; and to harness all assistance-related policies to improve the effectiveness of our total development effort.

My program for reform is a reaffirmation of the commitment of the United States to support the international development process, and I urge the Congress to join me in fulfilling that commitment. We want to help other countries raise their standards of living. We want to use our aid where it can make a difference. To achieve these goals we will respond positively to sound proposals which effectively support the programs of the lower income countries to develop their material and human resources and institutions to enable their citizens to share more fully in the benefits of worldwide technology and economic advance.

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[Omitted here is a detailed exposition of the proposed program for reform.]

  1. Source: Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Richard Nixon, 1970, pp. 745-756. President Nixon signed the message for transmittal to Congress in a ceremony in his office attended by the members of the Presidential Task Force on International Development.
  2. See Document 60.
  3. See footnote 4, Document 53.
  4. See footnote 5, Document 35.