Use of Special Presidential Authorities for Foreign Assistance

NSIAD-85-79: Published: May 20, 1985. Publicly Released: May 28, 1985.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the use of special presidential authorities to: (1) provide Department of Defense equipment and services to foreign governments in an emergency (waiver authority); (2) transfer foreign assistance funds between program accounts (transfer authority); (3) waive provisions of foreign assistance legislation (waiver authority); (4) provide Economic Support Fund assistance to West Germany, including West Berlin (Berlin authority); and (5) withhold information pertaining to foreign-assistance-related actions and their funding sources (cloaking authority).

GAO found that: (1) the Department of State and the Agency for International Development (AID) are responsible for administering the process to determine when the special authorities should be used; and (2) in some instances, the division of authority and responsibility between State and AID has led to uncertainty about the extent of use of the authorities and to the provision of erroneous information to Congress. GAO also found that: (1) the drawdown authority has been invoked 12 times for total expenditures of $862.1 million to provide a variety of military equipment to six countries; (2) interpretation of the drawdown authority has varied by situation and by administration; (3) while drawdowns have been reimbursed by specific appropriations in the past, drawdown reimbursements have not been made since 1979; (4) the transfer authority has been used at least 31 times for total transfers of $443.4 million between various foreign assistance program accounts; (5) the waiver authority has been used 117 times to authorize almost $1.6 billion in assistance, mostly to respond to emergencies, unforeseen events, or in situations where formal assistance was not possible; and (6) the executive branch has disclosed three instances of the use of the cloaking authority. In addition, GAO found that the Berlin authority has not been used since 1961 and its potential for future use has been overtaken by the economic recovery of West Germany and the potential use of the waiver authority.

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