John F. Kennedy photo

The President's Special News Conference at Hyannis Port on the Mutual Security Program

August 30, 1963

THE PRESIDENT. Good morning, ladies and gentlemen.

General Clay and Mr. Bell, the director of the mutual security program, and I have met this morning to consider what actions we could take to strengthen the mutual security programs to be sure that they are adequately financed and to make every possible effort to assure that the security of the United States and the effectiveness of its foreign policy will be maintained in the coming months.

This matter is now before the Congress but, in a very real sense, it is before all of the American people.

This program of mutual security has helped protect the independence of dozens of countries since 1945. Most importantly, it has protected the security and the best interests of the United States. This effort is by no means over. We are going to have a difficult struggle in the 1960's. The peaceful coexistence which is frequently talked about will be very intense in Asia, Africa, the Middle East, Latin America. This struggle is going on every day, and I think that the United States has a part in it, as do other free countries, and I am confident the American people will recognize this effort involves their security, the maintenance of freedom, and our peace.

I am particularly glad General Clay came up this morning, as he studied this program very carefully and he continues to be head of the committee which oversees the aid program and advises with us on it. He might have a word to say on the matter.

General Clay: We are, of course, fully aware of the action that has been taken with respect to the foreign aid bill. We on the committee are greatly concerned in two fields particularly. It has endangered the whole program, and that is in the reduction of the funds available for our military aid and, further, in the reductions in the Alliance for Progress. We think these reductions in the authorization have gone too far and that they could seriously endanger these programs.

We are certainly most anxious that these programs continue; that there be sufficient authorization for the appropriations to permit the jobs to be done. Above all, we hope that they will be considered as in the best interests of the American people on a nonpartisan basis. It is to this end that certainly we on the committee are going to work, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT. Thank you very much, General.

Q. Mr. President, what strategy are you going to try to use to get the total amount increased now?

THE PRESIDENT. It is not a question of strategy. We are trying to point out very clearly how significant these programs are.

General Clay has already pointed out the effect of these cuts on Latin America, which is perhaps the most critical area in the world today, the effects on our military assistance programs in Greece, Turkey, Iran, Pakistan, South Viet-Nam, Thailand, South Korea.

I think that it is important that the American people understand that this is a matter which involves the security and the balance of power all over the world. So we are going to continue to work with the Congress.

General Clay and his committee will continue to make an effort to bring this home to the American people as well as to the Members of Congress.

This is a matter which involves very greatly the security of our country. This is the same view that was held by President Eisenhower, the same view that was held by President Truman, and it is no accident that three Presidents in a row, sitting where they do and bearing particular constitutional responsibilities for foreign policy, should all feel that this program is most important, most effective, most essential, and we hope that the American people will come to share that view.

Q. Mr. President, do you feel there has been a significant swing in the public's move away from support for foreign aid?

THE PRESIDENT. I think people don't enjoy carrying this burden. I never thought they did. I always thought in the forties, and the fifties, and the sixties that there were reservations about it. I think that is quite obvious, but I think in the final analysis most of them realize that it is as essential a part of our effort as the appropriations for national defense. This money is spent, nearly all of it, in the United States, and it helps keep the freedom of this country of ours. It represents much less of a percentage of our wealth than it did during the Marshall plan days. I think the American people realize that freedom does not come cheaply or easily.

Q. Mr. President, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has not completed its action on the authorization bill. Is there any possibility of getting a higher figure and then out of conference getting a fairly reasonable floor?

THE PRESIDENT. We hope so.

Q. Mr. President, are you going to seek the restoration of the entire amount cut by the House from the Senate, or is there some new figure that you gentlemen have agreed upon?

THE PRESIDENT. No, we are going to try to get a figure as close to the recommendations. Obviously we won't get all the recommendations, but as close to the recommendations as we can in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and in the Senate. Then there must be a conference. After that, there must be consideration by the Appropriations Committee. So, I think it is important that the Senate give us as much help as it can in this program.

Q. Mr. President, does this program look different to you now that you are in the White House than it did when you were in Congress?

THE PRESIDENT. No. I supported it very strongly in the Congress as a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Obviously, a President has a particular responsibility in the field of foreign policy, as I have said, constitutionally. Therefore, as I see very clearly how vital this program is in all of the countries of Latin America-you can see it week in and week out--as well as in these other countries, I perhaps feel it more strongly in the same sense that General Eisenhower did. But I supported this program in the Senate, and I think it is essential. I think it is essential. I think, as I say, I put it right alongside of our defense appropriation.

Q. Mr. President, in your meeting this morning, was there any discussion of revamping the program in terms of what the House has done?

THE PRESIDENT. No. This program we set up. Then General Clay and his group, which included Mr. Eugene Black of the World Bank, Mr. Lovett, and others, looked at it. They made some proposals. We reduced our request of the authorization after their report came in. They recommended a figure of over $4 billion. This figure now, of course, in the House is almost $600 million less than that.

As I say, we have not even gone through the appropriating procedure, which is usually less than the authorization. This will mean, as Mr. Bell pointed out, that the United States will not fulfill its commitments under the Alliance for Progress, and we are going to say to the Latin American people that we are not going to do what we said we were going to do. It will mean that we will have to cut back on our military assistance to countries which are right on the firing line, and it will mean that a good many of these programs in countries of long-term development loans will come to an end. I think it will limit very much our ability to influence events in these areas. That is why I am very anxious to see the program restored.

Reporter: Thank you, Mr. President.

Note: The President spoke to the reporters on the lawn of his summer home at Hyannis Port after meeting with his advisers on the cut in foreign aid funds (see also Item 333).

Gen. Lucius D. Clay was Chairman of the Committee to Strengthen the Security of the Free World of which Eugene R. Black and Robert A. Lovett were members. The Committee's report, dated March 20, 1963, is discussed in the President's letter of March 22, 1963, to General Clay (Item 111 above).

In the course of his remarks the President also referred to David E. Bell, Administrator, Agency for International Development.

John F. Kennedy, The President's Special News Conference at Hyannis Port on the Mutual Security Program Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/237351

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