Mutual Defense Assistance Act

Updated About content Print Article Share Article
views updated

Mutual Defense Assistance Act (1949).Signed by President Harry S. Truman on 6 October 1949, the Mutual Defense Assistance Act (MDAA) was the first global U.S. military assistance legislation of the Cold War. Military officials began calling for the introduction of such legislation two years earlier, arguing that depleted inventories of surplus armaments, piecemeal planning, and restrictions on presidential authority threatened current and future efforts to arm foreign nations. New legislation became a necessity by mid‐1948 because of plans to negotiate a North Atlantic defense treaty and furnish arms aid to strengthen the connectional defenses and the will to resist Communist expansion of the signatories.

Truman sent the bill to Congress on 25 July 1949, the day he ratified the North Atlantic Treaty. Opposition from Senator Arthur H. Vandenberg (R‐Mich.) to the bill's broad executive powers forced submission of new legislation, which specified the recipients and the amounts of assistance. Controversy also arose over the omission of China, resulting in an unvouchered fund for the “general area” of China. Overall, the MDAA authorized $1.314 billion: $1 billion for NATO countries; $211.4 for Greece and Turkey; $27.6 million for Iran, the Philippines, and South Korea; and $75 million for the “general area” of China. Administration planners believed the MDAA's immediate effects were to raise the morale of friendly nations and prove U.S. reliability and resolve to meet Communist threats. The MDAA also institutionalized the military aid program, a result ensured by enactment of similar legislation in 1950 and an increase in annual spending on military aid to $5.222 billion after the outbreak of the Korean War.


Lawrence S. Kaplan , A Community of Interests: NATO and the Military Assistance Program, 1948–1951, 1980.
Chester J. Pach, Jr. , Arming the Free World: The Origins of the United States Military Assistance Program, 1945–1950, 1991.

Chester J. Pach, Jr.