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59. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski)1


  • The Secretary of State
  • The Secretary of the Treasury
  • The Secretary of Defense
  • The Secretary of Agriculture
  • The Director, Office of Management and Budget
  • The Administrator, Agency for International Development
  • The Chairman, Council of Economic Advisers
  • The Director, Office of Science and Technology Policy


  • Economic Assistance Strategy

The President has reviewed the interagency paper on foreign aid2 and made the following decisions.

1. Strategy #2 is approved. This strategy would concentrate on helping poor people in poor countries, with flexibility to reach poor people in middle-income countries as well. (The paper indicates that this strategy “would provide both bilateral development aid and PL–4803 to meet the basic human needs of poor people, primarily in [Page 277]poor countries, which would continue to receive top priority, but also in middle-income countries if enough aid were available. The dominant factor in allocating aid among countries would be where it would do the most good to help poor people; any aid to governments of middle-income countries would thus depend on the recipient’s commitment to helping its poor.” The paper also notes that Security Supporting Assistance will continue to be used to advance our political purposes; that global needs such as food, health, and population will be emphasized; that concessional aid will be provided for technological collaboration with both poor and middle-income countries; and that the international institutions’ hard-loan windows will aid middle-income countries while their soft-loan windows aid poor countries.)4


2. The moderate funding option is approved. This would raise bilateral and multilateral concessional development aid (including SSA) in FY 1982 to somewhat over $10 billion in current dollars and to around $8 billion in constant 1977 dollars, or an increase of about one-third in FY 1978 levels of concessional aid in real terms. (The paper notes that this could result (i) in an increase of 50% in real terms over the FY 1978 contributions to soft-loan windows of multilateral banks; (ii) in an increase of about 100% in real terms in bilateral development aid over FY 1978 levels; (iii) in SSA remaining about where it is now; and (iv) in an increase in PL–480 sales. The paper points out that this mix of programs is only one of a number that might be appropriate at this funding level.)5

ACTION: State, Agriculture, AID, OMB

3. The President has asked that a comprehensive program be developed to describe the need for development assistance to the American people, stressing both the conservative and idealistic implications of this assistance, and using well-known persons in a wide variety of fields for this purpose.6

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ACTION: State, Treasury, and AID should prepare a memorandum outlining such a program, and covering both multilateral and bilateral aid, by December 15.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Subject File, Box 16, Economic Assistance Strategy: 10/77–5/78. Confidential.
  2. Reference is a November 9 paper entitled “Concessional Economic Assistance Options,” prepared by Owen and Erb, which Owen transmitted to the President under a November 9 memorandum. Owen indicated that the PRC had directed the paper’s preparation in order to assist the President in his decisions related to foreign assistance strategies and funding levels “that will guide internal US planning.” (Ibid.) Under a November 11 memorandum, Brzezinski sent the President the OwenErb paper and Owen’s November 9 memorandum, suggesting that Carter focus on the pages containing the basic decision issues. (Ibid.) Brzezinski returned the paper to Owen and Erb under a November 14 memorandum, directing them to review the President’s comments that specified a program of action. (Ibid.) A draft of the OwenErb paper, which Owen and Erb circulated to recipients on November 2, is also ibid. Owen’s November 9 memorandum and Owen and Erb’s November 9 paper are printed in Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, vol. III, Foreign Economic Policy, Document 282.
  3. The Agricultural Trade Development and Assistance Act (P.L. 480), signed into law by Eisenhower on July 10, 1954, established the Food for Peace program. Under the provisions of the law, the United States could make concessional sales of surplus grains to friendly nations, earmark commodities for domestic and foreign disaster relief, and barter surplus for strategic materials. Eisenhower’s successors continued to support legislation extending P.L. 480 on a multi-year basis. With P.L. 480 scheduled to expire on December 31, 1977, Carter administration officials and members of Congress had begun drafting in early 1977 legislation both authorizing the extension of P.L. 480 and revising several of its provisions. The omnibus Food and Agriculture Act of 1977 (S. 275; P.L. 95–113, 91 Stat. 915) subsequently extended P.L. 480 through 1981, while the International Development and Food Assistance Act of 1977 (P.L. 95–88) placed a greater emphasis on nutrition, family planning, and the developmental aspects of aid.
  4. On the November 9 paper, Carter approved this option and added a handwritten notation: “Supported by Peter Bourne.”
  5. On the November 9 paper, Carter approved this option and added a handwritten notation: “Supported by Peter Bourne.”
  6. On the November 9 paper, Owen and Erb added the following postscript: “Whatever your choice among these strategies and funding levels, we face a difficult task in carrying it out—in making needed improvements in bilateral development aid, and in selling both bilateral and multilateral aid to the Congress. But we can address both these tasks more effectively if we have a clear sense of your long range goals.” Below the postscript, the President wrote: “Need to sell to people—Develop comprehensive PR effort. Needs to sound conservative & idealistic—let’s use popular persons from movies, sports, etc. Also we do not need to use World Bank measurements which minimize importance of PL 480.”