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Statement on Signing International Security and Foreign Assistance Legislation

December 29, 1981

Today I am signing into law S. 1196, the International Security and Development Cooperation Act of 1981, and H.R. 4559, the Foreign Assistance and Related Programs Appropriations Act, 1982. S. 1196 authorizes appropriations for fiscal year 1982 and 1983 for security and development assistance programs and related activities and makes certain substantive changes in the statutory standards, procedures, and requirements governing such programs. H.R. 4559 makes appropriations for fiscal year 1982 for foreign assistance and related programs.

The programs and activities for which funds are authorized and appropriated by this legislation are vital to important United States foreign policy and national security interests. They are the principal means by which the United States contributes to the security and economic development needs of a wide range of countries less favored than our own.

Foreign aid suffers from a lack of domestic constituency, in large part because the results of the programs are often not immediately visible and self-evident. Properly conceived and efficiently administered, however, security assistance programs, an essential complement to our defense effort, directly enhance the security of the United States. Development assistance also contributes to this effort by supplementing the indigenous efforts of recipients to achieve economic growth and meet the basic needs of their peoples. Progress in both of these areas will contribute to regional stability and to a more peaceful world, both of which are central U.S. policy objectives.

It has been a major objective of this administration to subject all Federal programs to continuous and rigorous scrutiny to ensure that they directly serve United States interests and that each dollar is effectively used. My administration undertook a thorough and careful review of foreign assistance when we assumed office. We have worked closely with the Congress on this legislation. It reflects the considered judgment of both branches that our national interests are inextricably tied to the security and development of our friends and allies.

Last spring I proposed several major initiatives and substantive changes to the laws governing foreign assistance programs. My proposals were intended to restore needed flexibility to enable the United States to utilize foreign assistance in a timely and effective manner and to be able to respond to changes in the international environment. I am grateful that the bills I am approving today contain many of those proposals and that Congress generally shares my view that excessive rigidities in the law hamper the effectiveness of these programs. The authorization of a Special Defense Acquisition Fund to permit advance procurement in anticipation of foreign sales, the authority to begin a security assistance program for Pakistan, and the repeal of the absolute prohibitions on security assistance to Argentina and Chile are major steps forward in this regard. I regret, however, that H.R. 4559 does not contain language necessary to permit the Special Defense Acquisition Fund to begin operations. This will severely hamper our ability to meet the military needs of allies and friends on a timely basis, degrading U.S. force capabilities.

I welcome the authorization of appropriations for two fiscal years, 1982 and 1983. I shall, of course, transmit to the Congress in the near future any additional substantive or budgetary recommendations for fiscal year 1983 that I believe are necessary to promote or sustain our foreign policy interests. I must note, however, my deep concern about the 52-percent reduction from my request in the appropriated level for grant financing of foreign military sales to 14 countries. This level is inadequate to meet minimum requirements and will have a severe impact on those countries that have legitimate defense needs, but whose economies cannot sustain financing at or near commercial rates.

Finally, I have serious reservations about sections 109 and 737 of S. 1196, and the section of H.R. 4559 limiting use of Economic Support Funds for Special Requirements and section 514 of that bill.

Section 109 of S. 1196 permits the Congress to disapprove, by adoption of a concurrent resolution certain proposed leases of defense articles. Section 737 would permit the Congress, also by concurrent resolution, to disapprove a Presidential waiver necessary to continue certain foreign military and economic assistance following transfers of certain nuclear technology covered by sections 669 and 670 of the Foreign Assistance Act.

H.R. 4559 requires the prior written approval of the appropriations committees of both Houses before funds may be obligated or expended for the Special Requirements Fund. In addition, section 514 requires similar committee approval before funds may be transferred, pursuant to statutory authority, between appropriations accounts.

The Attorney General has advised me that these four provisions are unconstitutional in light of the express requirements of Article I, section 7 of the Constitution that legislative measures having the force and effect of law must be presented to the President for approval, and because of the potential for involving the Congress in the day-to-day implementation of the law, a responsibility allocated solely to the President under the Constitution. These provisions can be expected to inject an unnecessarily disruptive element by subjecting proposed programs to disapproval, congressional or even committee, even after they have been examined by the executive branch and found to be compatible with congressionally adopted standards and supportive of the national interests of the United States.

While I am signing S. 1196 and H.R. 4559 into law because of the overall importance to the foreign policy and national security of the United States of the programs for which funds are authorized and appropriated, I must express my deep concern about these provisions, and my action today does not imply my acceptance of their constitutional validity.

The ultimate importance to the United States of our security and development assistance programs cannot be exaggerated. The programs and activities provided for in these bills will enable the United States to continue its contribution to the achievement of a secure and stable international environment.

Note: As enacted, S. 1196 is Public Law 97113, and H.R. 4559 is Public Law 97-121, both approved December 29.

Ronald Reagan, Statement on Signing International Security and Foreign Assistance Legislation Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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