149. Letter From Secretary of State Vance to the Director of the International Development Cooperation Agency (Ehrlich)1

Dear Tom:

During the next year and a half, I plan to devote more of my time to our foreign assistance policies and programs. In this regard, there are a number of specific issues which I believe deserve special study and possible action.

I am asking you, as the President’s and my principal advisor on international development matters, to take the lead in studying these issues jointly with relevant State Department bureaus.

The specific issues which I would appreciate your reviewing include:

The balance between our bilateral and multilateral assistance programs. I wonder whether we are striking the right balance in our aid resources between multilateral organizations and programs and our bilateral assistance. From both a development perspective and in terms of United States foreign policy interests we need to explore whether our bilateral or our multilateral assistance is most effective in the long run.

Because we are already committed to a fixed replenishment program for most of the multilateral development banks through the mid-1980’s, there is, of course, no question of reducing our multilateral bank contributions in the next few years—nor would I wish to do so. However, if we succeed in eliminating the full appropriation requirement on callable capital, there might be room in future budgets for a substantial increase in other types of aid flows. We will then have to weigh whether it best serves our interests to channel any new money for projects in areas such as energy, agriculture, health and population through international organizations, or directly through our bilateral assistance programs.

A general review of this type could provide valuable guidance for these future assistance policy decisions.

Simplifying our aid programs. Cumbersome legislative directives and administrative procedures severely reduce the flexibility and efficiency of our assistance programs. I would like to explore what can be done to eliminate restrictive legislative provisions and to simplify administrative practices with a view to improving the quality and [Page 585] flexibility of our aid. Perhaps a joint task force of staffers from the relevant Congressional committees and Executive Branch departments and agencies could be organized on an informal basis, to undertake the task, with an eye to reforms keyed to the FY 82 budget process.

Presenting foreign assistance to the Congress. Has the Executive Branch been as effective as it should be in building Congressional support for our foreign assistance programs, and particularly for our contributions to the multilateral development banks (MDBs) and UN organizations? I would hope that a study could result in specific recommendations on how we can improve our performance in this area.


  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Official Working Papers of S/P, 1977–1981, Box 5, S/PLake Papers—7/16–31/79. Confidential. Drafted on October 12 by Michael Feldstein (S/P). Cleared by Plantz (H), Marion Creekmore (IO), and David Dunford (EB).