Ronald Reagan picture

Statement on Signing the International Security and Development Cooperation Act of 1985

August 08, 1985

Today I am signing into law S. 960, the International Security and Development Cooperation Act of 1985. This act authorizes appropriations for security and development assistance programs and related activities and makes certain substantive changes in the statutory requirements governing these programs.

S. 960 is the first foreign assistance authorization bill since 1981 to be passed by both Houses of the Congress and presented to me for signature. I am pleased that the authorization process on foreign aid is back on track. Enactment of foreign assistance legislation is never easy, and I appreciate the tough decisions Members made in their support of it. In helping our allies and friends meet their security, development, and humanitarian needs, we directly support U.S. interests and objectives. Our foreign assistance programs, despite any perceptions to the contrary, are manifestly in our own national interest.

S. 960 authorizes appropriations for both fiscal years 1986 and 1987. I understand the desire of the Congress to enact a 2-year authorization, and I support it. I will, of course, assess the requirements for foreign aid programs in preparing the fiscal year 1987 budget and will transmit to the Congress any additional authorizations that are required to support our national interests.

I am concerned about the sizable reductions made in S. 960 to my fiscal year 1986 requests for security assistance programs. Security assistance enables us to help our friends deter aggression, deepen bilateral ties, build forces which are more compatible with our own, and develop the confidence necessary for advancing peace and stability. These reductions, coupled with legislated ear-markings of numerous programs for individual countries and international organizations, will necessitate severe cuts in other programs that are critical to U.S. security interests. I will review the impact of these reductions and determine whether additional funding in fiscal year 1986 will be required in support of these interests.

Security assistance is, quite simply, the most effective instrument we have for helping to shape a more secure international environment. And yet since the decades of the fifties and sixties, the resources committed to these programs have shrunk drastically in real terms. I invite the Congress to work with us to see how we might best go about reinvigorating this important area. We need to strengthen our security assistance partners so as to give them the confidence and the capability to better defend our common interests. Foreign assistance resources are essential to a successful foreign policy. One of our highest national security priorities in the years ahead must be to reinvigorate our foreign assistance program. At a time of defense reductions, we must pay particular attention to our most compelling international security needs.

I am pleased that S. 960 contains many of the substantive legislative provisions that I proposed over the past 2 years; in particular, the main policy recommendations of the National Bipartisan Commission on Central America. Although it has required extensive debate and compromise on all sides, I believe that this bill sets forth a viable policy framework for Central America, which enjoys strong bipartisan support. It will guide our assistance programs as we seek the goals of peace, democracy, and development in that region of such great importance to the United States. The reductions in security assistance levels, however, will inhibit our ability to achieve these goals in fiscal years 1986 and 1987.

Equally important, S. 960 authorizes vital humanitarian assistance for the democratic resistance in Nicaragua. This aid is an important element in our overall efforts to assist neighboring countries in their defense against Nicaraguan attack and subversion. Unfortunately, the provision unduly and unnecessarily restricts efficient management and administration of the program. Nevertheless , I will continue to work with the Congress to carry out the program as effectively as possible and take care that the law be faithfully executed.

I am gratified by the assistance authorized in this bill for the Afghan people and the non-Communist opposition in Cambodia who are resisting foreign aggression and occupation groups. The repeal of the Clark amendment relating to Angola is also welcome, eliminating a symbol of unnecessary and inappropriate restrictions in the conduct of U.S. foreign policy.

On the other hand, I do have serious reservations about sections 717 and 1302 of S. 960. In spirit both sections are consistent with my foreign policy. Section 717 directs the Secretary of State to enter into negotiations with the Government of Mexico over certain trade issues. I am deeply committed to efforts to facilitate international commerce and welcome congressional attention to this matter. Similarly, section 1302(a) correctly describes U.S. policy not to recognize or negotiate with the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) so long as the PLO does not recognize Israel's right to exist and does not accept United Nations Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338. This administration reaffirms that policy and welcomes congressional support for it.

I am compelled, however, as a matter of principle, to reiterate my refusal to accept any congressional effort to impose legislative restrictions or directions with respect to the conduct of international negotiations which, under article II of the Constitution, is a function reserved exclusively to the President. I will therefore consider sections 717(b) and 1302(b) as constituting only nonbinding expressions of congressional views on these issues.

I also wish to mention the new certification requirement relating to arms sales to Jordan. I believe that this requirement is unnecessary and inappropriate in light of King Hussein's recent public statements confirming Jordan's commitment to the recognition of Israel and to negotiate promptly and directly with Israel under the basic tenets of United Nations Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338. Furthermore, the King has made and is continuing to make significant and courageous efforts in putting these principles into practice by moving Jordan toward direct negotiations with Israel.

Finally, I would note that the bill contains a number of other restrictions and requirements that the administration must meet in carrying out its foreign affairs programs; for example, tieing security assistance for Greece and Turkey to an arithmetic formula ignores the changing conditions in the region and unnecessarily limits our flexibility to respond. None of these restrictions by itself is unacceptably onerous, but in the aggregate, they seriously constrain my ability to carry out foreign policy, particularly in rapidly changing situations. I believe that rigid, detailed, prescriptive provisions of law can also frustrate the desires of the Congress. Thus, I plan to work with the Congress to minimize such constraints in the future.

The programs authorized by S. 960 are central to attaining U.S. foreign policy objectives and to promoting international security and stability by helping our allies and friends to achieve economic growth, to deal with problems requiring humanitarian assistance, and to deter and defend against military threats. It is therefore imperative that we join in a mutual effort with Congress to ensure the success of these programs during the years ahead.

Note: S. 960, approved August 8, was assigned Public Law No. 99-83.

Ronald Reagan, Statement on Signing the International Security and Development Cooperation Act of 1985 Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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