118. Memorandum NSC–U/DM–130 From the Chairman of the National Security Council Under Secretaries Committee (Ingersoll) to President Ford, Washington, December 14, 1974.1 2

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December 14, 1974


Subject: Implications of Worldwide Population Growth for U.S. Security and Overseas Interests

In response to NSSM 200, I am forwarding for your consideration the enclosed study on worldwide population growth and U.S. interests.


The study looks to the year 2000 and beyond on the basis of alternative projections for population growth:

-- Part One examines the nature of the problem in its demographic, economic, resource and national security aspects;

-- Part Two sets forth a comprehensive global population strategy and policy recommendations.

The executive summary at the beginning of the study presents an overview of the problem and the proposed strategy.

Population Growth and Its Implications

The UN medium population projection -- the projection used for anticipating food requirements-- forecasts world population growth from 3.9 billion today to 6.4 billion by the year 2000 and over 11 billion y 2050. This is a relatively optimistic projection. Holding growth within these limits will require expanded population growth control programs.

Regional imbalances of growth will be very severe. There is a sharp differentiation between rich countries and poor, the latter growing at 2.0 to 3.5 percent compared to developed countries at 0 to 1.5 percent. The population of some developing areas will more than double by the year 2000. The enormous built-in momentum of population growth resulting from the extreme youthfulness of populations in developing countries makes the development of population growth control programs a matter of urgency.

Such growth rates have already generated serious problems for most developing countries, especially the poorest, fastest growing; these problems will become worse as populations continue to expand.

Perhaps the most serious challenge from both a humanitarian and a national interest viewpoint will be adequacy of world food supplies for the developing countries as populations press against limits of available land, water, capital and resources inputs. Crop faiures anywhere will raise the possibility of massive famines in parts of the developing world. The resulting disruption and instability can threaten economic growth and world order. The Department of Agriculture estimates that, if the population of the developing countries increases at the rate of the UN medium projection for the year 2000, their annual import requirement for cereals will rise to more than 100 million tons by that year, even if by great efforts they also increase their indigenous food production by the amounts likely. This quantity of imports will be well beyond their ability to purchase and will exceed any practicable capacity for transportation and distribution. Their only alternative will be to abandon any improvement in nutrition over present levels, to accept a marked rise in death rates (particularly of infants and children), to increase their food production by amounts greater than now believed practicable, or to reduce their population growth more rapidly than the UN medium projection. A global replacement level of fertility (a two-child family on the average) by the year 2000 would hold developing country populations 500 million below the UN medium projection by 2000 and 3 billion below it in 2050, thereby reducing developing country food import requirements by an equivalent amount.

Excessive population growth holds back economic development and seriously affects per capita incomes and social progress. Thus failure of developmental goals can bring mounting frustrations, increase North-South tensions, and lead to political instability, violence, and conflict within individual countries and among the developing countries.

While we do not foresee serious problems of availabi ity of non-renewable minerals as a result of population growth alone such growth will make it increasingly difficult for the poorest developing countries to pay for needed raw materials and energy. Their requirements for vital imports could affect the U.S. both through their requests for financial support and their efforts to obtain higher prices for their exports.

Proposed Strategy

The study recommends a comprehensive strategy focusing on:

a) Support of the UN World Population Plan of Action adopted at the Bucharest Conference, plus a global target of replacement fertility levels by the year 2000.

b) The engagement of the developing countries themselves and their political leaders in efforts to moderate population growth, since success is only possible from internal commitment. We must be constantly aware of resistance by the leadership of some countries and by vocal elements in other countries to US activities in this field.

c) A bilateral and multilateral assistance strategy emphasizing:

(1) priority to 13 key countries which contribute almost half of the present population growth;

(2) delivery of family planning information and services to all fertile couples at the earliest possible time;

(3) within our general social and economic program those elements which are most conducive to reducing fertility; and

(4) increased funding for AID population programs.

d) Increased funding and support for a worldwide effort for research in human reproduction and development of low-cost, efficient and acceptable fertility control methods.

e) US participation with other donor countries and UN agencies in a-cooperative endeavor to develop systems for the delivery of basic health services including family planning to poorer developing countries.

f) A major worldwide effort of education about population growth and family planning.

g) Increased provision for food aid, stockpiling for shortages and agricultural assistance as a vital element in any successful population strategy. Increases in food availability and improved nutrition are equally important in any total strategy aimed at solving future population and food imbalances. Our food policy is being actively addressed separately in the follow-up to the World Food Conference.


Population growth and related factors require both high level attention and continuing review and updating. There are no simple solutions. Added funding will be required to make a significant impact.

The study’s recommendations in this respect are subject to changing circumstances. Above all, however, the problem must be recognized by the developing countries themselves.

All U.S. efforts should be undertaken in such a way as to minimize criticism that they are directed against the interests of the developing countries. Therefore, the proposed stresses the development of the well-being and economic progress of the poorest countries It may, however, be necessary to weigh conflicting U.S. interests in the case of particular countries.

Taking the foregoing consideration into account, the Under Secretaries Committee recommends that you endorse the proposed global population strategy presented above and amplified in the attached study.

Because this strategy involves complex and difficult questions, including questions related to our political and security interests, and because a number of different agencies of the government have an interest in this matter, the Under Secretaries Committee, with the exception of AID, also recommends that you assign to the Committee responsibility for monitoring policy aspects of implementation of the strategy for conducting an annual review of progress, and for ecommending to you any significant changes which ma be needed.

The Agency for International Development believes that, when established, the Development Coordination Committee (DCC) chaired by the AID Administrator should be assigned this responsibility. AID believes this will ensure that population policy is addressed in a development context, which in its view, based on its experience, is the best way to minimize the political sensitivities of many countries on this issue.

These alternatives are discussed in the Executive Summary of the attached study.

As Chairman of the Under Secretaries Committee, I believe that the continuing review of population strategy in relation to our overall national interests, which this Committed is prepared to undertake if you so desire, could assist in providing a broad policy framework within which interested bodies might most effectively pursue their responsibilities respecting specific aspects of this major task.

[signed] Robert S. Ingersoll Chairman

Attachment: As stated

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–204, National Security Study Memoranda, NSSM 200 [1 of 2]. Confidential. The 198-page attached report is not published. The 13 key countries identified in the report as comprising almost half (47%) of the present population growth were India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nigeria, Mexico, Indonesia, Brazil, the Philippines, Thailand, Egypt, Turkey, Ethiopia, and Colombia. NSSM 200 is published as Document 113.
  2. Ingersoll summarized the recommendations of the NSSM 200 report on the implications of worldwide population growth.