304. Memorandum of Conversation1



  • Foreign Affairs Funding


  • The President
  • State

    • Secretary Shultz
    • Secretary Whitehead
    • Michael Deegan
  • White House

    • Howard Baker
  • OMB

    • Director Miller
  • Citizens Network for Foreign Affairs

    • John Costello
    • Leonard Marks
    • Randall Teague
    • Alexander Trowbridge
    • Lucy Wilson Benson
    • Andrew Goodpaster
    • Henry H. Fowler
    • Melvin Laird
    • Wallace J. Campbell
    • Saul Linowitz
  • NSC

    • Frank Carlucci
    • Robert Dean
    • Donald Tice


Frank Carlucci introduced the Citizens Network members as a group of distinguished Americans, all of whom have held positions of high responsibility in foreign affairs, who have undertaken a labor of love to help the President in the difficult task of obtaining adequate funding for the conduct of foreign affairs.

The President welcomed the opportunity to share his concerns about Congressional cuts in the foreign affairs budget. Congress has slashed foreign affairs programs by one third since 1985—far more than [Page 1397] other parts of the budget. In fact, our foreign affairs programs cost less than two cents out of each budget dollar.

Nearly all of our foreign grant and loan money is spent right back in the United States, creating jobs and bolstering our economy. And, our economic development aid goes to countries in the developing world which provide 40 percent of the market for our exports. Our money spent on military assistance means our allies and friends join us in defending our—and their—security. This certainly costs a lot less than having to send American boys over there.

At the present levels set by Congress, down 15 percent from my request, we will not be able to keep our commitments, to countries whose support is vital to our own national security.2 But I am preaching to the choir when I talk with this distinguished group. What I want to hear is more about your efforts and plans to carry the importance of funding our foreign affairs programs to the American people You know that in doing this you have both my gratitude and my support.

Melvin Laird said his delegation today is a group of citizens trying to alert the public to the problems of obtaining proper foreign affairs funding. Congress seems to think that because they don’t hear much from their constituents about this that it is not very important. The Citizens Network has a large number of organizations throughout the nation associated with it, and the objective is to activate these groups to provide active support to funding foreign affairs. The President referred to the 15 percent cuts below his request; in fact these cuts had been made even deeper by Congressional actions over the past few days.3 These are reductions which cannot be allowed to stand if the United States is to fulfill the world leadership role thrust upon it. Secretary Shultz has given selflessly of his time in support of proper funding, and the job of the Citizens Network is to bring in the broad support which will [Page 1398] assure the kind of funding which will allow us to play our proper role. Foreign affairs should be a part of the overall national security budget, because the proper conduct of foreign affairs is just as important to our national security as a strong military.

Henry Fowler said there is a very serious immediate problem in obtaining proper funding, but there is also a longer range problem as well. The people who have grown to maturity after the 1950s, which is a large part of our population and includes the people who are making many of the decisions in our society, have no personal experience with or knowledge of the immediate post World War II period when we funded the reconstruction of a war-torn Europe and Japan, when we formed the great organizations—like NATO and the OECD—and the international banks which contributed to making our world what it is today. Thus, they do not appreciate the responsibility which was thrust upon the United States after World War II. If they are properly informed of the vital importance to our security and economic well-being of the proper conduct of foreign affairs, they will demand that this part of our government be adequately financed so we can engage in those things which we must do in our own interest.

Henry Fowler then added, “We need your leadership, Mr. President,” to help us bring these issues before the American people. So, we ask that you highlight to the workers, to the farmers, and to business, the importance of providing this support. Second, we ask that you highlight the importance to all Americans of adequate foreign affairs funding by making this the subject of one of your Saturday morning broadcasts. And third, we ask that you meet with the full leadership of the Citizens Network in the fall when we formally inaugurate our nation-wide drive to enlist the support of the American people in pressing for a level of foreign affairs funding which will protect our national security.”

Carlucci said that Deputy Secretary Whitehead was playing a vital role in this effort as the spearhead, under Secretary Shultz, for obtaining proper funding. Secretary Whitehead said that the Citizens Network was doing a wonderful job, playing an active role in directing the attention of the American people to the importance of foreign affairs funding. The problem is a lack of natural constituency for foreign affairs, and the program the Citizens Network is developing will get across to the American people just how important it is that foreign affairs be properly supported.

Andrew Goodpaster said the same problem existed when he worked under President Eisenhower, and what the Citizens Network is doing now is very similar to what they did then. The term “network” is important, because what is needed is the stimulation of a wide network [of] people placed in positions where they can gain the support of the [Page 1399] American public. The American people must be convinced that foreign affairs programs provide the best return on investment in the budget dollar.

Lucy Benson said she wished to underline what Goodpaster had said about the importance of the term network, because it was only through tying together various segments of our society in united support that we would be able to obtain the kind of funding needed for our security.

The President spoke of the importance of educating people about foreign affairs, saying he was horrified about a year ago to find out that a large number of juniors at a major university did not even know which side Hitler was on in World War II.

Leonard Marks related having been told by President Eisenhower, after he left office, that one of his regrets was not having been able to do more in the area of public diplomacy. In this regard, statistics are revealing: in 1983 the Soviet Union distributed world-wide some 83 million books, 23 million of them in English; in the same period the United States distributed 571,000. In Spanish language alone, the Soviets printed 11.6 million books. Now, VOA broadcasts 800 hours a month; under the present budget levels 130 hours will have to be cut, meaning the complete elimination of broadcasts to Latin America. It is the hope of the Citizens Network that the President can use his communications ability to help make the case for foreign affairs funding.

Fowler said he recalled a statement by Orwell that Hitler burned books, but Stalin rewrote them.

The President thanked the Citizens Network representatives for their efforts and the meeting adjourned at 4:50 p.m.

  1. Source: Reagan Library, Donald Tice Files, Function 150—Citizens Network (08/06/1987–09/10/1987). No classification marking. The meeting took place in the Roosevelt Room. No drafting information appears on the memorandum. Also scheduled for publication in Foreign Relations, 1981–1988, vol. XXXVIII, International Economic Development; International Debt; Foreign Assistance. In his personal diary entry for that day, the President noted: “At 4:30 I met with the Citizens Network. This is a high powered group who involve other groups in a network to support our programs of foreign aid. This is a budget target for Cong. & they’ve slashed the h--l out of the new budget for our world wide program.” (Brinkley, ed., The Reagan Diaries, vol. II, November 1985–January 1989, p. 763)
  2. For the President’s message to the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President of the Senate transmitting the FY 1988 budget, see Public Papers: Reagan, 1987, Book I, pp. 3–11.
  3. In testimony before the Subcommittee on Foreign Operations of the Senate Appropriations Committee on August 7, Shultz indicated that he would discuss the administration’s FY 1988 foreign assistance request, adding “I want to convey to you my deep concern about the major foreign policy crisis we are creating for ourselves. There is a serious mismatch between our foreign policy goals, interests, and commitments on one hand, and, on the other, the resources at our command with which to pursue those goals and interests and honor our commitments.” Shultz criticized the FY 1988 budget resolution, asserting: “With the passage of the FY 1988 budget resolution, it is clear that resource constraints are by no means a thing of the past. I understand that this committee has been allocated approximately $13 billion for foreign assistance. That is about $900 million less than the inadequate amount appropriated in FY 1987 and $2.25 billion (or 15%) less than the President requested. The implications of cuts of this magnitude—coming as they do on top of sharp cuts in FY 1986 and 1987—could be devastating.” (Department of State Bulletin, October 1987, pp. 6 and 10)