52. Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for Legislative Affairs (Abshire) to Secretary of State Rogers1


  • Congressional Consultations on New Foreign Assistance Legislation by Rudolph Peterson—Chairman of the President’s Task Force on International Development

Last week Rudolph Peterson participated in a dozen meetings on the new foreign assistance proposals. The message is that Congress will not vote to abolish what it considers to be its effective oversight function over foreign assistance and will insist that there be a central coordinating authority accountable to the Congress.

Mr. Peterson’s meetings included one with the President and his principal White House staff,2 a lunch with Jack Irwin and Congressman Mailliard, and nine-calls on the Hill attended by sixteen of the Chairmen and senior members of the Foreign Relations, Foreign Affairs and Appropriations Committees. Clark MacGregor participated in two of the meetings on the Hill. A complete list of Members consulted is attached.3

General Views. At this stage there is certainly no enthusiasm for new foreign assistance legislation. The malaise which has characterized Congressional attitudes on foreign assistance is believed to continue, accentuated by the disaffection of former supporters disenchanted by the war and/or by what they consider to be competing domestic requirements.

However, the general philosophy behind the new concepts as presented by Mr. Peterson was invariably well received. Chairman Morgan said that without a new rationale he wasn’t sure there would be another aid bill. Nevertheless, there are serious, probably crucial, reservations concerning specific aspects of the new approach. The principal issues which arose during the discussions on the Hill are set forth below.

Congressional Oversight. Crucial to the entire program from the Congressional viewpoint is the issue of whether the new legislation will provide what key Members consider to be effective Congressional oversight of the new development assistance programs. The President recognizes [Page 126] this and at the White House meeting instructed Clark MacGregor to come up with the answer.

Central Point of Coordination and Accountability. Essential to effective Congressional oversight but also advocated because all Members consulted feel very strongly there must be such coordination, including in particular foreign policy guidance, at the operating level.

Coordination and Accountability Provided by Statute. To assure adequate Congressional leverage, most Members consulted advocate the creation of the coordinating unit by statute at the agency level, i.e. not in the White House. They expect the heads of the individual agencies to be accountable to the Congress but this is not enough. They want a meaningful overall connection at the operating level.

New Spigots Not New Barrels. Motivated strongly but not exclusively by their concern for effective centralized leverage, every Member consulted advocates the retention or creation of an overall body in which all of the development assistance agencies—OPIC, IDC, IDI, ISDI—could be located. Some Members, Senator Fulbright in particular, don’t understand why all the changes contemplated couldn’t be achieved within the present AID organization. Most find the new plan providing for proliferation instead of a retraction as advocated in the Congress. Others may be more concerned with the prospect of a Republican regime abolishing one agency (established in its present form by the Democrats) and creating in its place three or four new ones. Members of the Foreign Relations Committee asked whether the new setup would strengthen the State Department’s role in foreign assistance. Every Member consulted evidenced deep concern that the new units be established by statute rather than by Executive Order.

Multilateral Institutions. In general the House Members were cool to the concept of greater reliance on international financial institutions as channels for development assistance, but this change was welcomed by Senators consulted. Senator Fulbright thinks this is the best way to expend whatever funds we allocate to this purpose but has reservations regarding the level of funding. Passman and Moss (not consulted this trip) lead the opposition in the House. Once again, Congressional oversight is a basic element in the reaction of the critics.

Multi-Year Funding. Some opposition as fallout from general concern that Congressional oversight over foreign assistance is threatened, but Morgan would welcome three or four-year authorizations.

Separation of Security and Development Assistance. All Foreign Affairs Committee Members consulted and Chairman Mahon (House Appropriations) are convinced that the separation will result in a loss of votes for Development Assistance, a prospect they consider dangerous in the light of recent votes wherein four or five switches would have [Page 127] prevented passage of the AID authorization bill. (We believe the Speaker shares this view.) Chairman Morgan has no objection to the Administration sending up two bills, recalling that the Committee combined them when a previous Administration sent up economic and military assistance bills.

Morgan, Fulbright and all other Members of the Foreign Affairs and Foreign Relations Committees are concerned that the separation of the two bills might result in their Committees losing jurisdiction over Security Assistance. However, once they were assured on this point—Mr. Peterson said he strongly advocates that the present division be retained and that he is supported by influential advisors to the President—the Senators had no objection to separation.

Advance Funding. Mailliard and his Republican colleagues on Foreign Affairs and Otto Passman strongly advocate that the Administration move promptly for a simple annual authorization on the basis of the present legislation and then send up the reorganization proposals. Passman warned that Congress was reluctant to enact continuing resolutions which would provide funds not regularly appropriated beyond sine die adjournment. No Senator raised this point, nor did Doc Morgan who said he would be ready and willing to move on the new legislation as soon as it is sent up. As Passman indicated, advocates of this unusual procedure appear to want to reduce pressure to get the new bills through in this session.

Consultation. There is a strong feeling in both Committees (HFAC and SFRC) that the Administration has reneged on a promise made by Mr. Kissinger when he briefed the leadership after the President’s aid message last September and assured them that there would be complete consultations before the new legislation is sent up. This issue did not arise during the Peterson conversations but surfaced in other conversations before, after and during the Peterson visit.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970-73, AID (US) 1. Confidential. Drafted by Schnee (H). Copies were sent to interested officials in the State Department and AID, to MacGregor at the White House, and to Bergsten at the NSC.
  2. See Document 50.
  3. Not found.