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Letter to Gordon Gray Regarding His Appointment as Special Assistant to the President

April 03, 1950

[Released April 3, 1950. Dated March 31, 1950]

My dear Mr. Gray:

I am highly pleased that you find it possible to undertake an assignment as Special Assistant to the President prior to assuming your duties later this year as President of the University of North Carolina. The task which you are undertaking is of major importance to this country.

Today the American people can look back with pride over our record in the field of foreign policy during the past five years. It is a record of achievement in creating a strong base for military defenses against the forces of aggression; in the development of international political institutions; and in creating economic programs designed to reinforce and expand the economic base for world peace.

It is hardly necessary to emphasize again that economic security is an essential element of political security. Our people adopted such programs as the European Recovery Program and aid to Greece, Turkey and Korea, in the belief that, as the free nations felt the surge of economic strength and the reassurance of normal economic relationships, hope and freedom would be revived, sustained, and strengthened. This assistance is essential to help not only Europe but other areas of the world to recover from the war and to strengthen their economies against communist subversion or aggression.

As the result of foreign efforts and American assistance, in many areas production has increased to the point where shortages have diminished and the central international economic problem has shifted to the field of trade. Most countries of the world are dependent upon foreign trade for their economic survival. Their problem is especially difficult because prewar trade patterns have been destroyed, sources of supply have shifted, and sources of foreign exchange income have changed.

The United States is at present helping to meet these difficulties by sending abroad much more of the product of American farms and factories than other nations are able to pay for from the sale of their own goods and services.

This extraordinary assistance is of course a temporary measure. Our basic purpose has been, and must continue to be, to help build a structure of international economic relationships which will permit each country, through the free flow of goods and capital, to achieve sound economic growth without the necessity for special financial aid.

We must be certain that we are taking every possible step to attain this objective. We have a vital economic interest in its achievement. The present unbalanced situation places a heavy burden upon our national Budget. We are now a creditor nation, and this fact has an important bearing on both our domestic and foreign policies. We cannot continue to sell our goods abroad, or receive a return on our public and private investments abroad, unless foreign countries can obtain the necessary dollars to make their payments.

This is of course not solely a United States problem. I am gratified that so many other countries are looking ahead and taking vigorous steps directed toward achieving their self-support. It is now time for us also to look ahead and assure ourselves that our own policies are those which will serve best to reinforce our economic strength and that of the other free nations of the world.

This complex problem, affecting as it does the interests of all segments of the American people, also involves many agencies of this Government. For some time I have been considering how best to mobilize the resources of the Government and the experience and thinking of our people in charting our course. To this end, I have decided to appoint you as Special Assistant to the President to assist in this task. Your principal role in this position will be to advise and assist in coordinating and stimulating the activities of the various Governmental agencies which can contribute to the solution of the problem. I shall also look to you to obtain the views of experts and interested groups outside the Government on particular aspects of the problem.

I feel that this task is above partisanship, and I am sure that your approach to it will make this abundantly clear. The first phase of our work is to determine the nature, dimensions, and significance of this problem. In the light of this understanding, we must develop the broad lines of policy which in turn must be laid before the people and the Congress. This approach must have as its final goal a practical and forward-looking course of action.

Sincerely yours,


[Honorable Gordon Gray, Secretary of the Army, Washington, D.C.]

Note: The text of Mr. Gray's letter, dated April 1, was released with the President's reply.

On April 3 the White House released a background paper on the balance of payments problem. Noting that the United States exported $16 billion worth of goods and services per year while importing only about $10 billion worth, the release stated that "the reduction and eventual termination of foreign assistance will create tremendous economic problems at home and abroad unless vigorous steps are taken both by the United States and foreign countries. If no offsetting measures are worked out, it may well be that United States exports will be sharply reduced, with serious repercussions on our domestic economy, and with equally serious effects on friendly areas of the world which are dependent on our goods."

In conclusion the release stated, "There is increasing recognition in the United States that we are a great creditor nation and that we cannot continue to sell our goods abroad, or receive a return on our investments and the credit obligations due us, unless foreign countries in some way or other can obtain the necessary hard currency to make these payments .... The goal toward which all nations must work is clear--one where international trade flows freely with as little arbitrary interference as possible."

The President's letter was released at Key West, Fla.

Harry S Truman, Letter to Gordon Gray Regarding His Appointment as Special Assistant to the President Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/230877

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