5. Action Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon 1
- NSC Meeting on Foreign Aid2
The U.S. foreign aid program is in major crisis. Public support has virtually disappeared and President Johnson’s last two budget requests were cut by 25 and 50 percent. We have fallen behind most other developed countries in the percentage of GNP provided in aid. Our aid objectives are uncertain and have been poorly articulated. The problem cannot be blamed solely on Vietnam and our budgetary stringencies.
Aid is central to our relations particularly with key regions and countries such as Latin America and India. It is also central to our leadership in the industrialized world, which will not move decisively to bridge the North-South gap unless we show the way.
The basic requirement is to reverse the sharply downward trend of appropriations for AID. They fell to $1.2 billion last year—the lowest since World War II, at a time when our GNP was growing rapidly.
President Johnson asked for $2.2 billion for FY 1970. Given budget pressures, you may not be able to avoid some cut in his proposal. At the same time, a cut in your AID request greater than the cut for most other agencies would be interpreted as a further deceleration of U.S. interest in the less developed world. But if you were prepared to support vigorously a request of $2.0 billion—holding the inevitable cuts to $0.2-$0.3 billion—and announce an intention to increase your requests in the future as budgetary pressures eased, you would reverse the trend. You would have both reduced the Johnson proposal and gained a larger appropriation—a major achievement that would serve both domestic and foreign policy objectives.
The organizational chances discussed in the paper are of marginal usefulness, at best, in a substantive sense. Economic development will occur only through hard work on the part of the LDCs and resource transfer on our part. However, there is widespread feeling that these [Page 12] changes will help you buy budget figures along the lines proposed above. And all agree that almost any budget request you make will be emasculated without them.
At the heart of the problem is a need for clear articulation of our aid objectives and strong Presidential leadership in implementing them. A constituency for aid must be built and it will take time and your personal direction to do so. We will not know much more about the problem a year or two into the future. So I recommend that we start now.
- Source: National Security Council, Secretariat, Schedule of NSC Meetings, Box 83, 3/26/69 NSC Meeting-Foreign Aid. Confidential. This memorandum is the lead item in the President’s briefing book for the March 26 NSC meeting.↩
- The March 26 NSC meeting was held in the Cabinet Room from 10:05 to 11:58 a.m. Appendix A of the President’s Daily Diary lists the following attendees: Agnew, Rogers, Laird, Kennedy, Lincoln, Wheeler, Helms, Kissinger, Richardson, Hannah, Poats, Mayo, DuBridge, Goodpaster, Bergsten, and Haig. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Central Files)↩
- Confidential. This paper is the fourth item in the President’s briefing book for the NSC meeting; the second and third items are talking points for the President’s use and talking points for Kissinger’s use.↩
- “The Choices in Foreign Aid”; see Document 4 and footnote 2 thereto.↩