Research Study on the Civil Operations and Revolutionary Development Support (CORDS) Program

USAID, through the U.S. Global Development Lab, has identified a need for more knowledge of the operations and leadership function of USAID during the Vietnam War, specifically in the implementation of the hearts and minds initiative known as the Civil Operations and Revolutionary Development Support program – or CORDS. CORDS, one of the most successful US government interventions in conflict, was marked by interagency coordination and (while funded) significant successes in achieving its objectives.

Through executing an intensive research program and producing a comprehensive report based on the findings, ConDev is assisting USAID’s objective to learn more about the successes and failures of the CORDS program from a development perspective and from a whole-of-government perspective, in order to identify replicable components for future structure, programming and missions decisions.

This research project and comprehensive report will explore:

1) the CORDS program’s operational structure,
2) the design of its initiatives for the South Vietnamese and the effectiveness of these programs in achieving their goals of a) providing humanitarian relief and b) creating an environment opposed to insurgent forces,
3) the contextual circumstances in the area of operations,
4) USG management structure, and
5) engagement of political leaders/leadership buy-in, as well as other factors that led to its accomplishments. This examination of USAID’s too-little told story of success will be written to help practitioners replicate the most influential components of CORDS in future missions, and to inform policy makers seeking to enhance effectiveness of operations.

The CORDS program focused on stabilization and development in Vietnam during armed conflict and is therefore highly relevant to the current mission of the USAID/HESN Center on Conflict and Development at Texas A&M University.

CORDS representative Mike Benge at the 1967 opening of a Montagnard handicrafts center he helped create. Captured during the 1968 Tet Offensive, he managed to survive until released in 1973. He received Prisoner of War and Purple Heart medals from USAID in 2013.
Courtesy of Rufus Phillips

For more information on this research study, please contact ConDev’s Senior Advisor Anne MacDonald

Senior Advisor Anne MacDonald develops policies and partnerships that improve the lives of people in material poverty. 

Annemac@tamu.edu