Future of the Peace Corps

June 15, 1979

Report Outline
Recent Problems, Controversies
Peace Corps Programs Since 1961
Directions for the Eighties
Special Focus

Recent Problems, Controversies

Questions Raised About Agency Performance

The Peace Corps, the federal agency that sends American volunteers abroad to help developing nations, faces an uncertain future. Congress is debating whether to remove the Peace Corps from its parent organization, ACTION, a move that could have a significant impact on the agency's administrative machinery and its operations abroad. The House of Representatives voted April 10 to make the Peace Corps an autonomous unit within the new International Development Cooperation Agency (IDCA) — the foreign aid super-agency proposed by President Carter in January at the urging of Congress. The full Senate has yet to take up the issue. The Senate Governmental Affairs Committee voted May 22 to recommend against the breakup of ACTION. But the issue will probably be the subject of a tough fight on the Senate floor, according to committee Chairman Abraham Ribicoff, D-Conn.

President Carter signed an executive order May 16 giving the Peace Corps more autonomy — a move many observers saw as an attempt to head off further congressional action. The executive order transferred authority for running the agency from the director of ACTION, Samuel W. Brown Jr., to the director of the Peace Corps, Richard Celeste, who previously reported to Brown. Carter's order also gave the Peace Corps director control of and responsibility for the money that Congress appropriates for the agency — control that had been in the hands of ACTION's director. The executive order followed an administration review of the reorganization question ordered by Carter earlier this year. After the review was completed in April, Carter wrote: “I have reviewed carefully the option of placing the Peace Corps within IDCA …. But I am reluctant to reverse the precedent established by President Kennedy that the Peace Corps' overseas functions should not be directly linked to other U.S. overseas operations.”

The debate over the Peace Corps' administrative future comes in the wake of criticism that the agency in recent years has failed to match its early success. “I think we all recognize that the Peace Corps over its history has had some ups and downs,” Rep. Edward J. Derwinski, R-Ill., said April 10 on the House floor. “The present period would have to be a down period.” One observer recently characterized the Peace Corps as “an agency that is floundering, unsure of itself and its role, searching for some kind of direction.” Former New York Times foreign correspondent Terence Smith wrote that the Peace Corps “is alive but virtually invisible, a pale, bureaucratic shadow of one of the most original ideas to come out of the turbulent 1960s.”

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Peace Corps, National Service, and Volunteerism
Mar. 12, 2021  The Boy Scouts' Future
Jan. 11, 2013  Peace Corps Challenges
Jun. 30, 2006  National Service
Dec. 13, 1996  The New Volunteerism
Jun. 25, 1993  National Service
Jan. 25, 1991  Peace Corps' Challenges in the 1990s
Oct. 31, 1986  Blueprints for National Service
Jan. 25, 1985  International Relief Agencies
Dec. 12, 1980  Volunteerism in the Eighties
Jun. 15, 1979  Future of the Peace Corps
Apr. 03, 1963  Domestic Peace Corps
Nov. 28, 1962  Peace Corps Expansion
Jan. 04, 1961  Government Youth Corps
Civil Service
Humanitarian Assistance