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298. Memorandum From Secretary of Agriculture Bergland, the President’s Special Assistant for Health Issues (Bourne), the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski), the President’s Assistant for Domestic Affairs and Policy (Eizenstat), the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (McIntyre), and the Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers (Schultze) to President Carter 1


  • Presidential Commission on World Hunger


During the last session, the Congress passed a resolution calling on you to establish a Commission on Domestic and International Hunger and Malnutrition. Passage was unanimous in the Senate and 364 to 38 in the House.2 At a meeting on February 3 with key Congressional sponsors of the resolutions you announced that you planned to establish such a Commission.3 Following that meeting, you asked us to prepare an options paper on the subject.


The first and most important step in charting the course of the Commission is to identify its objectives as clearly and completely as possible. Most of the remaining decisions regarding the make-up and operation of the Commission are largely dependent on the task assigned the Commission. Commissions can and are called upon to serve a variety of different purposes ranging from issue definition and basic fact-finding to the promotion of public awareness through public relations activities.

We are persuaded that the Hunger Commission must be designed to pursue several related objectives including:

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• the development of a solid factual base that identifies the causes of the problem,4

• identify existing authorities and programs, public and private, and national and international, and

• assess the programs to determine which are working, which are not, and why.

These objectives are generally consistent with those in the Congressional resolutions. Such data gathering and analysis has not been done on a comprehensive basis. Until it is, there will be no clear view of the problem nor will we know the magnitude of present world-wide efforts and how the problem can be dealt with more effectively. Before launching an aggressive effort, we must know where we are and how we got here. Much of the analysis has already been done through the World Hunger Working Group, and their report, a summary of which is being sent to you separately today, can serve as a basis for their work.5 This Commission provides a unique opportunity to assemble free of institutional constraints, a comprehensive and in-depth review in a thorough and integrated way.

Once the factual base is developed, we hope this could be accomplished during the first 6 to 9 months, the Commission would then prepare an options paper on actions to be taken. Any initiatives requiring legislation should be prepared in time for possible inclusion in the Administration’s 1979 legislative package. At that point, we would see the Commission turning to the promotion of improved public understanding and awareness of the issue and the role of the United States in helping alleviate the problem.

The key decision then, as we see it, is the extent to which we rely on the Commission to help develop hunger policies and design programs or whether the Commission is used primarily to promote public awareness and generate support. The major argument in favor of using the Commission as a principal means of fashioning policies and programs is that the assembly and assessment task requires concentrated effort by a staff unencumbered by other duties. The central drawback to using the Commission in this capacity is that given its independent status vis-a-vis Presidential control, its conclusions and recommendations will not necessarily correspond with those of the Administration. In fact, to the extent we succeed in obtaining a dynamic, well-balanced membership, one can almost guarantee there will be strong differences of opinion and dissension within the Commission. But this can be [Page 929]useful and requesting an options paper minimizes the risks. We recommend that you look to the Commission as one mechanism for identifying and assessing hunger policies and programs and presenting options for consideration. Certainly it will provide an important information base whether or not you accept all their recommendations.

Bourne and Brzezinski feel the emphasis of the Commission should be primarily on building public attention and support for this issue rather than too heavy a focus on conducting additional studies.


Focus primarily on conducting study and policy formulation.

Focus primarily on building public support with policy formulation secondary.6

As described in the Resolutions, the Commission would focus on hunger in the United States as well as internationally. We question the advisability of attempting to deal with the fundamentally different issues of domestic and world hunger within the confines of a single commission. For this reason, we recommend that the Commission concentrate on world hunger,7 but that domestic policies and programs be assessed so this experience can, where applicable, be brought to bear. Some of us feel (Bourne and Brzezinski) that the Commission should informally8 broaden its scope to serve as a vehicle for building support for foreign assistance in general, consistent with your decision memo on that subject,9 and the evolving program to gain public support in this area. This broad approach might not be acceptable to some of the Congressional sponsors, if it was explicit. However, the choice of chairman can be an important factor in the focus the commission adopts.


Emphasis on world hunger (Bergland, Eizenstat, Schultze)10

International and Domestic Hunger

World Hunger and General Foreign Assistance (Bourne, Brzezinski)

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Two choices exist for establishing the Commission

(1) Executive Order

A Commission authorized by Executive Order can be initiated immediately with a prescribed membership; be given carefully prescribed responsibilities; and operate under a statutory base for agency funding and manpower sharing. This approach would clearly define Presidential interest, allow more direct control over the Commission by the White House, and provide a test of public reaction and interest before the Administration modifies programs or requests legislation. Such authorization, however, would still require an appropriation from the Congress. To enable the Commission to be established immediately, some money could be allocated from the President’s Discretionary Account while an appropriation was being sought.

(2) Executive Order Accompanied by a Message on World Hunger to the Congress

This variation of the Executive Order mechanism offers the advantage of option (1), but also provides an opportunity to communicate the recommendations of the World Hunger Working Group, to broaden the framework within which the Commission will conduct its work and offers an opportunity to make near-term changes in existing programs. Perhaps most important it provides a very appropriate opportunity to lay out your overall world hunger policy, without having to wait until the Commission completes its report. To wait that long without any major statement from you might be too long. Such a message could also contain a request for an appropriation for the Commission.


Executive Order Only

Executive Order and Message to Congress11


We recommend a budget of $2 to 2.5 million per year for each year of the Commission’s operation. There are three options for funding:

(1) Funding by the Agencies

Utilizing funds from agency budgets is difficult because most funds are already committed. In addition, present interagency conflicts might be aggravated as the agency contributing the bulk of the support could feel it had a preemptive right over the work of the Commission. [Page 931]A small amount of funds from the agencies might, however, be added in the early months to those from the Presidential Discretionary account to allow the rapid implementation of the Commission.

(2) Congressional Appropriation

Members of Congress who have sponsored the resolutions could be asked to sponsor legislation to provide funds for the Commission. However, this would open the opportunity for Congress to specify the form and operation of the Commission more narrowly than we prefer.

(3) Supplemental Appropriation Submitted by the Administration

This option is favored by OMB. While it might be slower than option (2), it would allow us to maintain control over the Commission as a Presidential initiative. We recommend this option with a funding level at $2 to 2.5 million12 per year for 2 years. Approximately $100,000 would be sought from the Presidential Discretionary Account and from existing agency budgets to allow the Commission to begin operating until Congressional action is completed.


Funding by the Agencies

Congressional Appropriations

Supplemental Appropriations (recommended)13


The Congressional resolutions call for the Commission to have a life of two years. This is probably reasonable. A shorter period of time would make it difficult to staff-up and carry out the kind of activities planned.


2 years (recommended)14

1 year



The Congressional resolution recommends that “the Commission shall be a balanced membership composed of fifteen persons appointed by the President from individuals who represent diverse background.” [Page 932]You are free, however, to create a Commission of any size, selected on any basis, and with or without Congressional representation.

We recommend a Commission of twenty people selected to represent a broad cross-section of interests including business, humanitarian groups, technical experts, entertainers with demonstrated interest in world hunger, with appropriate ethnic and geographic diversity. Because of the intense Congressional interest in this Commission, we recommend that inclusion of four Congressional members (two from each House and party).

Given the widespread interest in this issue and the many groups that would like to be represented on the Commission a careful selection process is required. This is particularly true with regard to the chairmanship of the Commission. Since the members depend upon the objectives of the Commission, they cannot now be selected. We suggest that the signers of this memo serve as a nominating committee15 and that we provide you with a list of candidates within 7 days.




  1. Source: Carter Library, Donated Material, Papers of Walter F. Mondale, National Security Issues, Box 87, National Security Issues—World Food [6/30/1977–12/17/1979]. No classification marking. Bergland did not initial the memorandum, Rubenstein initialed for Eizenstat, and Bourne initialed for McIntyre. A stamped notation at the top of the page reads: “The President has seen.”
  2. The House of Representatives passed H.Res.784 on November 1, 1977, while the Senate passed S.Res.271 on October 27, 1977.
  3. The meeting, which began at 9:47 a.m. and ended at 10:10 a.m., took place in the Cabinet Room. (Carter Library, Presidential Materials, President’s Daily Diary) No memorandum of conversation was found.
  4. Carter made a checkmark in the margin adjacent to each of these bulleted points.
  5. The summary of the report of the World Hunger Working Group, established under Bourne’s chairmanship in September 1977 (see footnote 4, Document 293), is printed in Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, vol. II, Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs, Document 245.
  6. Carter indicated his approval of this option and wrote: “Collate studies already done.”
  7. Carter underlined the words “world hunger.”
  8. Carter underlined the word “informally.”
  9. See Document 282 and footnote 35 thereto.
  10. Carter indicated his approval of this option and wrote: “will obviously have to include a) domestic food & hunger plus b) assistance.”
  11. Carter indicated his approval of this option.
  12. Carter underlined the words “$2 to 2.5 million” and wrote “seems high” in the adjacent margin.
  13. Carter indicated his approval of this option.
  14. Carter indicated his approval of this option.
  15. Carter underlined the words “nominating committee” and wrote “ok” in the adjacent margin.
  16. Carter indicated his approval of this option and wrote “I prefer 15” in the adjacent margin. Executive Order 12078, issued on September 5, established the Presidential Commission on World Hunger. For the text, see Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Jimmy Carter, 1978, Book II, pp. 1498–1499. Documentation on the Commission’s activities under the chairmanship of Sol Linowitz is in Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, vol. II, Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs.