264. Memorandum From Secretary of State Vance to President Carter1


  • Aid Assessment

During the campaign, you pledged an outside assessment of U.S. foreign aid. I believe that the time is at hand to carry out this pledge. We need a concerted foreign aid strategy and efficient means of carrying it out. This requires rigorous analysis of U.S. aid purposes and programs, to see how they should be reshaped in the coming period.

That analysis should focus on both bilateral and multilateral aid; it should include capital assistance, technical assistance, P.L. 480, and guarantees of private investment. It should address not only development aid but also security assistance, insofar as it affects our development objectives. It should take into account broad political and security factors, including our concern for human rights, as well as economic considerations.

The assessment should be carried out by persons outside the executive branch not only because of your campaign pledge but also because this would ensure—and would make clear to the Congress and the public—that the assessment was not shaped by executive branch preconceptions. The study should, however, take account of on-going studies of aid in the executive branch, including the study of multilateral aid now underway in the Treasury Department.

There are various ways of commissioning an outside assessment. One individual might be asked to take on the job; I doubt any single person could accomplish such a large task. A commission of distinguished citizens might be created; the trouble is that there have been too many of these in the aid field in the past, and one more might not be well received. I would suggest, therefore, that an independent research institution be asked to take on the task. Brookings is a natural candidate, in view of its strength and experience in this field. There is a precedent of sorts: In 1948, when President Truman proposed the Marshall Plan to Congress, Senator Vandenberg, as Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, asked Brookings to study the question and the resulting study played a significant role in decisions as to how to organize the European Recovery Program.

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The assessment should be completed in time to influence next year’s aid budget requests.

The assessment should involve close consultation with members of the Congress to ensure that their concerns are taken fully into account. Brookings’ close links with people on the Hill should facilitate this.

The assessment might be assisted by an advisory committee of distinguished private citizens both to ensure that a wide variety of views are brought to bear and to lend its conclusions added weight.

The State Department’s Office of External Research may be able to make a contribution to funding the study, which I am told would cost less than $100,000. If this contribution is not feasible or not sufficient, we could support Brookings’ requests for funding from the National Science Foundation and private foundations.

Since it would address the operations of several U.S. agencies, the request for this study should come from the President. Contract relationships and coordination of governmental support activities can be handled through the Department of State.

I attach a draft letter from you to Mr. MacLaury, President of Brookings.2

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Agency File, Box 17, State: 6/77. No classification marking.
  2. The draft letter to Bruce MacLauray, President of the Brookings Institution, is not attached. In a June 3 memorandum to Vance, Brzezinski wrote: “Further to your memorandum to the President of May 20, and our subsequent conversations concerning the desirability of the Brookings Institution carrying out a study of U.S. foreign aid strategies, it would be preferable for you to request the study on behalf of the President. In my view it is unnecessary and undesirable for the President or members of the White House Staff to become directly involved in arranging a contractual relationship with Brookings. Though the choice of Brookings is the Department’s decision, there should be no doubt that the President initiated the idea of the proposed study. To this end, you may wish to note in your letter to Bruce MacLaury that the President wants the project to be undertaken.” (Ibid.) No letter from Vance to MacLaury was found.