Department of State Research Topics
Cold War Era Agencies
Records of the Agency for International Development (RG 286)
This agency was established in November 1961 to administer the nonmilitary U.S. foreign assistance programs. Records of predecessor agencies are in RG 469. The records include files from headquarters regional and functional offices as well as United states Overseas Missions (USOMs). While the majority of the records in this record group are dated after 1961, the files may contain some documentation predecessor organizations.
AID did not maintain a central filing system. Instead, each operating bureau or office maintained its own records, often using a filing scheme similar to that used by the Department of State. Using published sources such as agency reports and telephone books, organization manuals, and references in the records, researchers must identify the office or offices that dealt with the subject of research in order to locate documentation of interest.
On November 3, 1961, President John F. Kennedy signed the Foreign Assistance Act reorganizing the structure of U.S. foreign assistance programs and, together with an executive order, created a new agency, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The records transferred to the National Archives from USAID comprise Record Group 286.
USAID unified existing aid efforts from its predecessor agency, the International Cooperation Administration (RG 469), in addition to the work of the Development Loan Fund, some functions of the Export-Import Bank, and distribution activities of the Food for Peace Program.
The agency focused its early efforts on technical and capital assistance and shifted, in the 1970s, to basic human needs: food and nutrition, population control and planning, health, education, and human resources development. Later, the focus turned to stabilizing free markets and economic growth channeling assistance through private voluntary organizations. In the last two decades, USAID has emphasized sustainability, democracy, and recovery from and rebuilding after war.
Records of the United States Agency for International Development
The records of USAID reflect its history and the changes to its organization that resulted from the various shifts in U.S. assistance focus. The major organizational changes to the agency came in 1972, 1977-78, and 1979 when USAID came under the supervision of the newly created International Development Cooperation Agency (IDCA) instead of the Department of State. Later, in 1998, IDCA was abolished and USAID became an independent agency.
USAID records fall into two main categories: those maintained at various overseas missions and those maintained at Washington, D.C. based headquarters. The bulk of the records held by NARA are from the period between the 1961 establishment of USAID and the 1980s, although there are some records as recent as the early 2000s.
There was no central filing system for USAID, though some of the early records follow Department of State filing schemes. Using published sources such as agency reports and telephone books, organization manuals, and references in the records, researchers must identify the office or offices that dealt with the subject of research in order to locate documentation of interest.
Mission records contain mainly subject or program records; records from the headquarters also contain records relating to projects overseen by the both program offices and the missions, and the administration of the entire agency.
Records for the predecessor agencies to USAID can be found in Record Group 469, Records of the Foreign Assistance Agencies. Some series in RG 286 contain records from those predecessors—the Economic Cooperation Administration, Mutual Security Agency, Foreign Operations Administration, and the International Cooperation Administration.
USAID maintains the Development Experience Clearinghouse containing important documents that researchers might not find in our holdings.
Strong regional bureaus based in Washington focused on regional and country development analysis and administration separate from functionally specialized bureaus. Less developed countries were the primary emphasis of these bureaus.
Through its history USAID focused roughly on Africa, Asia, the Near East and Latin America. Europe was paired with Africa in the 1960s, was abolished and then re-established as its own bureau as Europe transitioned after the fall of the Soviet Union. The Near East was at times paired with Asia or South Asia.
The series here are organized broadly around those categorizations:
Africa and Europe
- Bureau for Africa and Europe
- Bureau for Africa
- Bureau for Europe
- Bureau for Europe and Eurasia
- Bureau for Europe and New Independent States
[Note that this Bureau was merged with the Department of State bureau for Latin American issues in 1963.]
- Bureau for Latin America
- Bureau for Latin America and the Caribbean
Asia and the Near East
- Bureau for Far East
- Bureau for East Asia
- Bureau for Near East and South Asia
- Bureau for Vietnam
- Bureau for Supporting Assistance
- Office of East Asia Development Programs
- Bureau for Asia and Near East
- Bureau for Asia
- Bureau for Near East
The “functional bureaus” of USAID served either for program support or agency administration, including those dealing with congress, other US agencies, and public affairs. Program support functions were broadly based around technical and capital support for developing countries. Many of the offices dealt with development finance and sources of development support from private sources, foreign governments, and other organizations.
As USAID shifted its focus along with a shift in perception regarding foreign assistance outlined by the President in 1970 and 1971, the agency re-organized to reflect the new ideas. Broadly, the shift was away from the post war foreign assistance ideas and needs towards those of a changing world. There was a re-emphasis on private investment, technical assistance, and food production and population control. The changes also reflected a need for a combined effort by the developed nations of the world to aid the under-developed with greater input from the developing countries.