Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Statement by the President Upon Signing the Foreign Assistance Act.

December 16, 1963

I HAVE today signed the Foreign Assistance Act of 1963. The economic and military aid programs authorized by this bill are indispensable to the security of the United States and the free world. This bill reflects this Nation's determination to maintain that security by helping those nations willing to help themselves.

It also reflects, unfortunately, the growing tendency to hamstring Executive flexibility with rigid legislative provisions wholly inappropriate and potentially dangerous in a world of rapid change. I wish to make clear now, for example, that--when a free and peaceful government is ever established in Cuba--I intend to exercise my authority to provide essential health, educational, and other assistance to the Cuban people, without waiting for a long and complex adjudication.

In addition, this bill reflects a dangerous reduction in funds and a consequent dangerous reduction in our security. We cannot oppose the spread of communism and promote the growth of freedom by giving speeches. A policy of weakness and retreat--which any further reduction at the appropriation stage would represent--cannot be justified by the needs of our security, the financial strength of our Nation, or the attitude of our citizens.

All of us desire greater efficiency in our aid programs--and, make no mistake about it, we are going to improve it--but in our pursuit of efficiency, let us not hamper the progress and safety of free men.

I have already directed Administrator Bell to put our foreign operations on a sounder basis--to insist on maximum effort by aid recipients--and to intensify our efforts to eliminate excess or ineffective personnel. We will resist reorganization for reorganization's sake--but we do intend to present to the Congress next year a more effective, efficient aid program.

Our cautious new hopes for a reduction in the risk of all-out war may only imply an increase in Communist efforts to prevail through economic, political, and conventional military means, particularly in the underdeveloped countries. The aid programs of Truman, Eisenhower, and Kennedy are needed now more than ever--this is no time to fail.

Note: The Foreign Assistance Act of 1963 is Public Law 88-205 (77 Stat. 379).

Lyndon B. Johnson, Statement by the President Upon Signing the Foreign Assistance Act. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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