Henry A. Kissinger will be named by President Reagan to head the administration's new blue-ribbon, bipartisan commission that will study a wide range of economic and military options for the United States in Central America, administration officials said last night.
Reagan is expected to refer to the creation of the commission, which has been proposed by a coalition of liberal and conservative congressmen, in a speech he is scheduled give today in Florida to the International Longshoremen's Association.
Officials said the commission may not be named until later in the week, pending further consultation with Congress. But they added that Reagan had decided to select the panel, which will be composed of academic, business, labor and Hispanic leaders, and to direct it to report its findings by the end of the year.
The new commission will be patterned after other bipartisan administration commissions that made recommendations intended to solve the problems of Social Security financing and MX missile deployment.
Kissinger met with high administration officials at the White House late last week. A formal proposal recommending his appointment was drawn up by National Security Adviser William P. Clark on Saturday and approved by the president over the weekend, administration sources said.
Kissinger, former secretary of state and national security adviser to presidents Nixon and Ford, has been used by the Reagan administration as an unofficial adviser on several occasions. But his appointment to head the Central America commission would be his first formal assignment from Reagan.
During the 1976 Republican presidential primary, Reagan was a bitter critic of Kissinger, whom he accused of masterminding the "giveaway" of the Panama Canal. Some conservative Reagan supporters still view Kissinger with marked distrust.
The move comes as a book highly critical of Kissinger--"The Price of Power: Kissinger in the Nixon White House," written by Seymour Hersh--has just been published.
However, Kissinger increasingly has gained stature among administration foreign policy advisers, including Clark and Secretary of State George P. Shultz. He has been consulted on issues such as the Middle East and the MX missile deployment.
The new commission, the outgrowth of an idea proposed by Sens. Henry M. Jackson (D-Wash.) and Charles McC. Mathias Jr. (R-Md.) and Reps. Michael D. Barnes (D-Md.) and Jack Kemp (R-N.Y.), will be empowered to consult with government and political leaders in Central America. Its broad mandate will include making a recommendation on whether the U.S. government should initiate a sort of Marshall Plan to aid economic development and ease poverty in Central America.
The Marshall Plan was the means by which the United States aided European reconstruction after World War II.