USAID's history goes back to the Marshall Plan reconstruction of Europe after World War Two and the Truman Administration's Point Four Program. In 1961, President John F. Kennedy signed the Foreign Assistance Act into law and created by executive order USAID.
Since that time, USAID has been the principal U.S. agency to extend assistance to countries recovering from disaster, trying to escape poverty, and engaging in democratic reforms.
USAID is an independent federal government agency that receives overall foreign policy guidance from the Secretary of State. Our Work supports long-term and equitable economic growth and advances U.S. foreign policy objectives by supporting:
- economic growth, agriculture and trade;
- global health; and,
- democracy, conflict prevention and humanitarian assistance.
On September 4, 1961, the Congress passed the Foreign Assistance Act, which reorganized the U.S. foreign assistance programs including separating military and non-military aid. The Act mandated the creation of an agency to administer economic assistance programs, and on November 3, 1961, President John F. Kennedy established the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).
USAID became the first U.S. foreign assistance organization whose primary emphasis was on long-range economic and social development assistance efforts. Freed from political and military functions that plagued its predecessor organizations, USAID was able to offer direct support to the developing nations of the world.
The agency unified already existing U.S. aid efforts, combining the economic and technical assistance operations of the International Cooperation Agency, the loan activities of the Development Loan Fund, the local currency functions of the Export-Import Bank, and the agricultural surplus distribution activities of the Food for Peace program of the Department of Agriculture.
While some could argue that the creation of USAID simply represented a bureaucratic reshuffling, the agency, and the legislation creating it, represented a recommitment to the very purposes of overseas development. USAID was established to unify assistance efforts, to provide a new focus on the needs of a changing world, and to assist other countries in maintaining their independence and become self-supporting .