Agency for International Development

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AGENCY FOR INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT. In 1961, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) was created to coordinate bilateral nonmilitary assistance to foreign countries as part of a global campaign to counter the appeal of communism. At first, USAID focused on large-scale infrastructure projects. During the 1970s, however, emphasis shifted to addressing the basic needs of the poorest members of society by promoting health, nutrition, rural development, and family planning programs. In the 1980s and 1990s, the agency turned many of its operations over to private, for profit contractors, and channeled aid programs into development of the private sector.

Throughout its existence USAID had to respond to critics from the right, who complained that foreign aid was a waste of taxpayers' money, and those from the left, who argued that the agency was guided more by ideological anti-communism than by the need to alleviate poverty. USAID officials responded by pointing out that four-fifths of the agency's funds for foreign assistance were spent on goods and services provided by American businesses, and that the total amount of U.S. foreign aid was low, falling below 0.2 percent of the gross national product in the 1990s, placing the United States last among major donor countries. Ideological concerns were often apparent in the selection of recipients. For example, South Vietnam alone absorbed more than 25% of USAID's worldwide budget in the 1960s.


Berríos, Rubén. Contracting for Development: The Role of For-Profit Contractors in U.S. Foreign Development Assistance. Westport, Conn.: Praeger, 2000.

Porter, David. U.S. Economic Foreign Aid: A Case Study of the United States Agency for International Development. New York: Garland, 1990.

Ruttan, Vernon W. United States Development Assistance Policy: The Domestic Politics of Foreign Economic Aid. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996.

Max PaulFriedman

See alsoForeign Aid .

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Agency for International Development (AID), federal agency created (Sept., 1961) to consolidate U.S. nonmilitary foreign aid programs. Originally an agency in the State Department, it has been a component part of the U.S. International Development Cooperation Agency, along with the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, since 1979. AID administers bilateral assistance to more than 80 countries as development assistance and as economic support funds. Development aid targets agriculture, rural development, nutrition, health, education, population planning, and market-oriented development. Economic support funds are flexible grants to sustain or restore economic activity. AID also administers Food for Peace (with the Department of Agriculture), disaster assistance, a housing guaranty program, scientific and technical aid, and the Women in Development program. In the 1980s and 90s AID stressed the development of open, democratic societies, and promoted the dynamism of free markets and individual initiative in developing countries, including the newly independent states of the former Soviet Union. Other principles governing AID's programs include concern for individual economic and social well-being, responsible environmental policies, and management of natural resources.

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Agency for International Development (AID) US government agency that carries out assistance programmes designed to help less-developed countries develop human and economic resources and increase production capacities.