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United States military assistance in the Reagan administration: Political processes and policy outputs

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posted on 2023-09-06, 03:03 authored by Daniel Boyd O'Connor

This study examines two questions. Why was the Reagan Administration so successful in increasing military assistance in its first term and less successful in its second term? How did the executive branch and Congress make decisions regarding military assistance and how did this influence resource allocations?; The Administration's successes in the first term in increasing the military aid budget can be attributed to: its consistent, high priority, approach toward security assistance requests, including the placement of competent officials to direct the program; weak leadership on the House Foreign Operations Subcommittee; Republican control of the Senate; and the breakdown of the legislative process for handling foreign assistance (and other) legislation. Four supporting factors also played an important role in Reagan's first-term success: the results of the 1980 and 1984 elections, the low-cost nature of FMS loan guarantees, diffuse views of members of Congress on the subject of military aid, and the advantage that the executive branch generally enjoys over the legislature in the area of foreign policy. The primary reasons for the Administration's lack of second term success in increasing or even maintaining the overall level of resources and country programs were: budgetary pressures and the increasing urgency of reducing the budget deficit, more vigorous leadership in the House Foreign Operations Subcommittee, the loss of the Senate to the Democrats following the 1986 elections, and a thaw in superpower relations following the ascension of Mikhail Gorbachev to power in 1985. This study also reveals some of the difficulties of using foreign assistance to support foreign policy priorities. As a tool of foreign policy, military assistance suffers from (among other things) the following: difficulty in reacting to sudden developments, problems in the prioritization of recipients, and fostering unrealistic expectations among aid recipients. The Reagan approach damaged the foreign policy authorizing committees in Congress. The result of the authorization process breakdown was the emergence of a somewhat new legislative approach to managing foreign assistance in which the appropriations bills carried the policy provisions normally found in authorizing bills. That legacy remained long after the Reagan Administration had left office.







Ph.D. American University 1997.


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