Marshall Plan Commemorative Section: In the Halls of the Capitol: A Memoir

Courtesy Reuters

Once the Europeans had begun to respond to the Marshall initiative, Congress and the executive branch sprang into action. On June 19, 1947, just two weeks after George Marshall spoke at Harvard, the State Department's Policy Planning Staff under George Kennan proposed the establishment of several economic and political committees to flesh out the speech's vague proposal. President Truman and the congressional leadership agreed on this course of action on June 22. Three days later, they found me on the lower floors of the State Department laboring over what remained of the German economy and named me executive secretary of the department's working committee on the Marshall Plan. Our first charge was to estimate the assistance needs of the 16 participating European countries -- after the Soviet Union and its satellites had dropped out -- for the next four and one-quarter years, from April 1948 to June 1952.

Under Secretary for Economic Affairs Will Clayton was dispatched to Europe to explain America's intentions. Throughout his meetings with statesmen in London and Paris, he emphasized that any program designed in Europe and approved by the president still had to meet with congressional approval, and this last step of the process would require political subtlety and patience. Clayton advised his European colleagues first to prepare a detailed plan; American officials would then render "friendly assistance," which would not imply endorsement, in revising the proposal for submission to Congress. The Foreign Relations and Foreign Affairs Committees in the two houses would then consider the aid bill and recommend its passage to Congress, followed by approval of a congressional authorization bill for the program. And, finally, the Finance and Appropriations Committees would appropriate the funds.

By early September, the European working group, the Committee of European Economic Cooperation (CEEC), had drawn up a program that called for almost $30 billion of American assistance over four years -- $19.9 billion for the European debt to the United States and $8.3 billion for net imports from the rest of the American continent. Clayton had to make

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