It was not so much changing conditions abroad as unchanging ones at home that gave rise to the Conference on Foreign Aspects of U. S. National Security. More precisely, the Conference did not stem from a desire to explore ways of improving the external operations of the foreign aid program, but from a desire to improve the chances of internal acceptance and support of the program. For a decade prior to 1958 --three years under the Marshall Plan and then seven years under the Mutual Security Act--both the public and the Congress had evidenced either apathy or antipathy toward the policy of giving economic assistance to foreign countries. While support had readily been given during this period to expenditures for military defense, the Congress had consistently refused to grant the President all the funds and authority he requested in order to administer the foreign aid program. Indeed, it became standard practice for Congress to cut the President's monetary requests by close to 10 per cent when it annually authorized the program and then to lop off an even larger amount when it subsequently appropriated the funds.
The unwavering persistence of this legislative pattern fostered the standard explanation, cited both in and out of government, that lack of public comprehension led Congress to be especially vigorous in its pruning of foreign aid requests. Voters were said to comprehend the need for military defense and thus did not object to the expenditure of huge sums for armaments. But, the theory went, the benefits of foreign aid, being more subtle and intangible, were not so easily understood by the electorate, so that Congressional reductions along this line were dictated by simple politics. Such reasoning was also used to account for Congress's tendency to make much larger cuts in the economic phases of the program than