83. Editorial Note

On March 4, 1982, Secretary of State Alexander Haig testified before the House Committee on Appropriations Subcommittee on Foreign Operations and Related Agencies in support of the Ronald Reagan administration’s foreign assistance budget request for fiscal year (FY) 1983. After Committee Chair Clarence D. Long (D–Maryland) welcomed him to the hearing, Haig indicated that he wished to deliver “a brief formal statement before submitting myself for your questions.”

Haig first noted his previous appearance before the committee in 1981 and the “constructive relationship” that had developed between himself and the committee in the effort to “reinvigorate American leadership abroad.” Recognizing that such progress should not stop, Haig stressed: “We must build on the progress that we have made. The competition we face is far too serious, and our own requirements too great to rest now. A first-rate American foreign policy simply cannot be run on second-rate resources.”

After emphasizing the importance of foreign assistance as one of several “broad and flexible assets” in conducting U.S. foreign policy, Haig stated that he would explain President Ronald Reagan’s request for increased security and economic aid. An absence of additional aid posed “risks to American national interests” he argued: “We would not be able to help reduce the economic misery in the Caribbean Basin that encourages domestic violence and external intervention.

“We would risk critical setbacks to our peace-keeping efforts in the Middle East and southern Africa.

“We might lose military facilities essential to the defense of Western interests in distant but vital regions of the world. Our access agreements to Kenya, Somalia, Oman and others help us to sustain a U.S. presence all along the vital oil routes to the Middle East.

“We would court the danger of further deterioration in the military capabilities and economies of key allies, such as Turkey.

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“We might encourage the subversive efforts by Soviet and Soviet proxy forces. Our assistance is vitally important to countries friendly to the West, such as Pakistan, Sudan, Yemen, Morocco, Tunisia, Somalia and Oman, all of which are under growing pressure from the Soviets or client states of the Soviet Union.

“We risk damage to important markets and commercial ties. Today, more than one-quarter of our agricultural and manufactured exports goes to the developing world.

“Finally, we might weaken valuable multilateral financial institutions which have contributed to economic growth and must continue their vital role in economic development.

“The President’s program of foreign assistance is not only a safeguard against all these dangers, but an integral element of the President’s foreign policy. It is absolutely necessary if our strategies are to succeed in achieving their objectives.”

Haig then discussed the ways in which foreign assistance helped the Reagan administration achieve its foreign policy objectives in specific geographical areas. He concluded his prepared remarks by reasserting the importance of increased aid in a time of austerity: “To assure the most effective use of our scarce resources, the President has realigned foreign assistance allocations with careful attention to priorities. The promotion of a truly lasting economic growth remains one of our key objectives. Our program recognizes that assistance alone will not guarantee economic development. Growth also requires proper economic incentives, national commitment, and a reliance on the creativity and resourcefulness of the individual.

“The program also responds to the pressing needs of key strategic nations for increased economic support and concessional military sales. Such nations must receive help in order to bolster their defense against outside subversion and to prevent economic crises at the same time.

“Our new focus on essential strategic and development objectives should not obscure our pride in the continuing American commitment to traditional humanitarian objectives. We remain a major source of assistance to refugees in Africa, Pakistan, Southeast Asia and the Middle East.

“We direct the bulk of our development and food aid to the world’s poorest nations. These countries, with limited access to private capital markets, depend on concessional assistance to support their development efforts. To meet these needs, President Reagan committed the United States at Cancun to maintaining assistance levels to these nations.

“Mr. Chairman, I recognize that approval of foreign assistance at this time of austerity will be very difficult. But we shall pay a greater [Page 312] price later if we do not act now. America’s most essential interests are under attack. The President firmly believes that the resources he has requested are crucial to defense of these interests and to the promotion of a more peaceful and secure world. Our nation’s security tomorrow requires that we make an investment in foreign assistance today.” (Foreign Assistance and Related Programs Appropriations for 1983: Hearings Before a Subcommittee of the Committee on Appropriations, House of Representatives, Ninety-Seventh Congress, Second Session, Subcommittee on Foreign Operations and Related Agencies, Part 1, pages 83–86)