129. Editorial Note

The Peterson Task Force Report (see Document 128) became the basis of the Nixon administration’s new foreign assistance strategy. The Peterson Report, not the study mandated in NSSM 45 ( Document 111) fulfilled the Javits Amendment reporting requirement to Congress (see Document 1). At the National Security Council, Fred Bergsten had the lead in staffing the report. Documentation is in the National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Agency Files, Box 193, AID Task Forces on AID, Volume II 1/70-8/10/70. Much of the documentation relating to the actual drafting of the September 15 Report to Congress is ibid., Box 194, AID, Volume III 8/11/70-9/10/70.

On January 15, 1970, Bergsten had sent a memorandum to Kissinger informing him of how the Peterson Task Force was coming out on the issues. Bergsten noted that an NSC meeting would be required in late March to get Presidential decisions on the basic aspects of the new foreign assistance program, and thought the Javits Amendment report to Congress might be delayed into April. That same day Peter Vaky sent a memorandum to Kissinger noting that Bergsten’s scenario and the prospective Task Force Report took no account of the Rockefeller Report and the need “to do things now for Latin America.” (Ibid., AID Task Forces on AID)

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The NSC meeting on aid was scheduled for April 1, postponed several times, and finally scheduled for April 27. A briefing book assembled for the President’s use at this meeting included, among other things, a detailed “Issues for Decision” paper prepared by the NSC Staff for the President. (National Security Council, Secretariat, Box 86, 4/27/70 NSC Meeting—US Assistance Program, (Peterson Report)) On April 27 Bergsten sent Kissinger a memorandum informing him that the NSC meeting had been canceled. He also set out a schema for meeting the Javits Amendment reporting requirement and Congressional hearings on the President’s aid proposals, which had been set for May 13 but postponed. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Agency Files, Box 193, AID, Volume II 1/70-8/10/70) During an August 25, 1997, interview with the editor of this volume, Bergsten recalled that the feeling was that the invasion of Cambodia in late April 1970 had so poisoned the foreign affairs climate in Congress that it would be fruitless to send forward foreign assistance reform legislation at that time.

In a May 12 memorandum, Bergsten informed Kissinger that he had not sent Richardson a copy of the draft foreign assistance message because it was not complete and assumed several Presidential decisions contrary to the State Department’s recommendations. Kissinger approved Bergsten’s not providing the draft at that time. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Agency Files, AID, Volume II 1/70-8/10/70)

On July 23 Bergsten sent a memorandum to Kissinger informing him that AID Administrator Hannah sought a copy of the draft aid message in order to know the direction of the President’s thinking. Bergsten reported Hannah’s comments that the State Department had also “grumbled” about the delay. Bergsten thought it would be a mistake to circulate the draft before the basic policy decisions had been made and, referring to Kissinger’s instruction on his May 12 memorandum, indicated that he would not circulate the draft foreign assistance message until the decisions were made. (Ibid.)