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Special Message to the Congress Transmitting Proposed Legislation for Funding of Foreign Assistance Programs in Fiscal Year 1974

May 01, 1973

To the Congress of the United States:

One of the most important building blocks in erecting a durable structure of peace is the foreign assistance program of the United States. Today, in submitting my proposed Foreign Assistance Act of 1973, I urge the Congress to act on it with a special sense of urgency so that we may continue the important progress we have made toward achieving peace during the past year.

Perhaps the most persuasive reason for a strong foreign assistance program was set forth by President Roosevelt in the days shortly before World War II, when Britain needed help. "Suppose my neighbor's home catches fire," he said, "and I have a length of garden hose four or five hundred feet away. If he can take my garden hose and connect it up with his hydrant, I may help him to put out his fire."

Implicit in Roosevelt's analogy was the mutual benefit of giving assistance, for if the fire in question spread, both neighbors would be in danger. Those clear and simple assumptions underlaid our wartime assistance to our European allies and our post-war policy toward the nations of the Western Hemisphere.

Today, we see the wisdom of this policy on every hand. Western Europe is now a bulwark of freedom in the Atlantic Alliance. In the Pacific, Japan has emerged as a major economic power. The remarkable vigor and talents of her people and the dynamic efficiency of her industry are making significant and increasing contributions to other countries, so that Japan itself now plays an extremely important role in working toward a lasting peace in the Pacific.

In recent years, as we have sought a new definition of American leadership in the world, assistance to other nations has remained a key part of our foreign policy. Under the Nixon Doctrine of shared responsibilities, we have tried to stimulate greater efforts by others. We want them to take on an increasing commitment to provide for their own defenses, their security and their economic development. Most importantly, we hope they will assume greater responsibility for making the decisions which shape their future.

We must not, however, try to shift the full weight of these responsibilities too quickly. A balance must be struck between doing too much ourselves and thus discouraging self-reliance, and doing too little to help others make the most of their limited resources. The latter course would spell defeat for the promising progress of many developing nations, destroy their growing self-confidence, and increase the likelihood of international instability. Thus it is critical that we provide a level of foreign assistance that will help to assure our friends safe passage through this period of transition and development.

The sums I am requesting in the Foreign Assistance Act of 1973 represent the absolute minimum prudent investment which the United States can afford to make if we wish to help create a peaceful and prosperous world. Altogether, authorizations under this bill amount to $2.9 billion for economic and military assistance in the coming fiscal year. During the current fiscal year, some $2.6 billion has been appropriated for such purposes under the strictures of a continuing resolution passed by the Congress.

This new Foreign Assistance Act has several fundamental objectives:

--To help the developing countries achieve a greater measure of self-reliance in their struggle against hunger, disease and poverty;

--To respond swiftly to the ravages of natural disasters;

--To assist friendly governments in building and maintaining the military capability to protect their independence and security;

--And to help South Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos begin the task of rehabilitating and reconstructing their war-torn countries.

Let us look more closely at each of these objectives.


Hunger, poverty and disease are still widespread among developing countries, despite their significant progress of recent years. Their economic growth--averaging some 5.5 percent a year over the last decade-as well as rapid improvements in agricultural methods and in health care have not yet overcome many deep-seated problems in their societies. Their current needs represent a moral challenge to all mankind.

In providing assistance, however, we should not mislead ourselves into thinking that we act out of pure altruism. Successful development by friendly nations is important to us both economically and politically. Economically, many of the developing countries have energy resources and raw materials which the world will need to share in coming years. They also could represent larger markets for our exports. Politically, we cannot achieve some of our goals without their support. Moreover, if essential needs of any people go entirely unsatisfied, their frustrations only breed violence and international instability. Thus we should recognize that we assist them out of self-interest as well as humanitarian motives.

While development progress as a result of our aid has been less visible than some would like, I believe it is essential for us to persevere in this effort. I am therefore asking the Congress to authorize some $1 billion for development assistance programs during fiscal year 1974 and approximately the same amount for fiscal year 1975.


America's fund of goodwill in the world is substantial, precisely because we have traditionally given substance to our concern and compassion for others. In times of major disaster, American assistance has frequently provided the margin of difference between life and death for thousands. Our aid to victims of disasters--such as the earthquake in Peru and floods in the Philippines--has earned us a reputation for caring about our fellowman.

No nation is more generous in such circumstances. And the American people respond with open hearts to those who suffer such hardship. I am therefore asking the Congress to authorize such amounts as may be needed to meet emergency requirements for relief assistance in the case of major disasters.


Security assistance has been a cornerstone of U.S. foreign policy throughout the last quarter century. Countries whose security we consider important to our own national interest frequently face military challenges, often prompted by third countries. In order to maintain a stable international order, it is important that these threatened countries not only be economically developed but also be able to defend themselves, primarily through their own resources.

The United States can rightly claim a number of successes in this regard during recent years. Our programs to help South Vietnam and South Korea build capable forces of their own, for instance, have permitted us to withdraw all of our forces--over 500,000 men--from South Vietnam and 20,000 men from South Korea.

It is unrealistic to think we can provide all of the money or manpower that might be needed for the security of friendly nations. Nor do our allies want such aid; they prefer to rely on their own resources.

We can and should, however, share our experience, counsel and technical resources to help them develop adequate strength of their own. It is for this reason that I ask the Congress to authorize $652 million in grant military assistance, $525 million in foreign military sales credits, and $100 million in supporting assistance funds for fiscal year 1974.

This year's foreign aid bill includes for the first time separate authority for a foreign military education and training program. We want to strengthen this program so that we can help friendly governments better understand our policies, while they develop a greater sense of self-reliance and professional capability in their own military services.


The signing of cease-fire agreements in Vietnam and Laos marks the beginning of a trend toward a peaceful environment in Indochina. This change will permit us to turn our attention to the considerable post-war needs of Southeast Asia. To ignore these needs would be to risk the enormous investment we have made in the freedom and independence of the countries of Southeast Asia.

The legislation I am presenting today would authorize the continuation of our economic assistance to South Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia and would provide for a sound beginning in the process of rehabilitation and reconstruction there. I anticipate other nations will join in this effort, as they have elsewhere, to solidify the foundations for a new era of reconciliation and progress in Southeast Asia.

Relief assistance for refugees of the war in Southeast Asia is vital to this effort. These refugees number in the hundreds of thousands. In addition to their resettlement, this Administration proposes a major effort to help ,restore essential community services in areas which have suffered because of the war.

In this bill, I ask the Congress to authorize $632 million for the reconstruction effort in Indochina in fiscal year 1974.

My present request does not include any assistance for North Vietnam. It is my hope that all parties will soon adhere fully to the Paris agreements. If and when that occurs, I believe that American assistance for reconstruction and development of both South and North Vietnam would represent a sound investment in confirming the peace.

Representatives of the United States have recently been holding discussions with representatives of the Government of North Vietnam to assess economic conditions there and to consider possible forms of United States economic assistance. This assessment has now been suspended, pending clarification of North Vietnam's intentions regarding implementation of the cease-fire. Once Hanoi abandons its military efforts and the assessment is complete, the question of aid for North Vietnam will receive my personal review and will be a subject for Congressional approval.

For a quarter century, America has borne a great burden in the service of freedom in the world. As a result of our efforts, in which we have been joined by increasing numbers of free world nations, the foundation has been laid for a structure of world peace. Our military forces have left Vietnam with honor, our prisoners have returned to their families, and there is a cease-fire in Vietnam and Laos, although still imperfectly observed.

Our foreign assistance program responds to the needs of others as well as our own national needs--neither of which we can afford to ignore.

For our own sake--and for the sake of world peace--I ask the Congress to give these recommendations prompt and favorable consideration.


The White House,

May 1, 1973.

Note: Prior to transmitting the special message, the President met with the bipartisan leadership of the Congress to discuss its contents.

Richard Nixon, Special Message to the Congress Transmitting Proposed Legislation for Funding of Foreign Assistance Programs in Fiscal Year 1974 Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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