|Peace Corps logo|
|Annual budget||US$ 340 million (FY 2009)|
|Agency executives||Aaron S. Williams, Director
Vacant, Deputy Director
The Peace Corps is an American volunteer program run by the United States Government, as well as a governmental agency of the same name. Each program participant, or Peace Corps Volunteer, is an American citizen who commits to working abroad in an assignment for the organization for a period of twenty-seven months. Generally, the work to be performed is related to international development. Specialties include education, business, information technology, agriculture, and the environment. In addition to its mandate of providing technical assistance in these areas, Peace Corps is also charged with increasing mutual international understanding. The mission of the Peace Corps includes three goals, which are providing technical assistance, helping people outside the United States understand the culture of the United States, and helping United States people understand the culture of other countries.
It was established by Executive Order 10924 on March 1, 1961, and authorized by Congress on September 22, 1961, with passage of the Peace Corps Act (Public Law 87-293). The Peace Corps Act declares the purpose of the Peace Corps to be:
“To promote world peace and friendship through a Peace Corps, which shall make available to interested countries and areas men and women of the United States qualified for service abroad and willing to serve, under conditions of hardship if necessary, to help the peoples of such countries and areas in meeting their needs for trained manpower.”
Since 1961, nearly 200,000 Americans have joined the Peace Corps, serving in 139 countries.
The Peace Corps sends American volunteers around the globe, to more than 70 countries, to work with governments, schools, non-profit organizations, non-government organizations, and entrepreneurs in the areas of education, business, information technology, agriculture, and the environment.
The program officially has three goals:
The Peace Corps works by first announcing its availability to foreign governments. These governments then determine areas in which the organization can be involved. The organization then matches the requested assignments to its pool of applicants and sends those volunteers with the appropriate skills to the countries that first made the requests.
Following the end of the Second World War, various members of the United States Congress proposed bills to establish volunteer organizations in Developing Countries. In 1952 Senator Brien McMahon (D-Connecticut) proposed an "army" of young Americans to act as "missionaries of democracy." Privately funded nonreligious organizations began sending volunteers overseas during the 1950s.
While President John F. Kennedy is credited with the creation of the Peace Corps, the first initiative came from Senator Hubert H. Humphrey, Jr. (D-Minnesota), who introduced the first bill to create the Peace Corps in 1957—three years prior to JFK and his University of Michigan speech. In his autobiography The Education of a Public Man, Hubert Humphrey wrote: "There were three bills of particular emotional importance to me: the Peace Corps, a disarmament agency, and the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. The President, knowing how I felt, asked me to introduce legislation for all three. I introduced the first Peace Corps bill in 1957. It did not meet with much enthusiasm. Some traditional diplomats quaked at the thought of thousands of young Americans scattered across their world. Many senators, including liberal ones, thought it silly and an unworkable idea. Now, with a young president urging its passage, it became possible and we pushed it rapidly through the Senate. It is fashionable now to suggest that Peace Corps Volunteers gained as much or more, from their experience as the countries they worked. That may be true, but it ought not demean their work. They touched many lives and made them better."
Only in 1959, however, did the proposal for a national program of service abroad first receive serious attention in Washington when Congressman Henry S. Reuss of Wisconsin advanced the ideas of a "Point Four Youth Corps". In 1960, he and Senator Richard L. Neuberger of Oregon introduced identical measures calling for a nongovernmental study of the "advisability and practicability" of such a venture. Both the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee endorsed the idea of a study, the latter writing the Reuss proposal into the Mutual Security legislation then pending before it. In this form it became law in June 1960. In August the Mutual Security Appropriations Act was enacted, making available US$10,000 for the study, and in November ICA contracted with the Maurice Albertson, Andrew E. Rice, and Pauline E. Birky of Colorado State University Research Foundation to make the study.
John F. Kennedy first announced his own idea for such an organization during the 1960 presidential campaign, at a late-night speech at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor on October 14, 1960. A few weeks later on November 1 in San Francisco, California, he dubbed this proposed organization the "Peace Corps". Critics of the program (including Kennedy's opponent, Richard M. Nixon) claimed the program would be nothing but a haven for draft dodgers. Others doubted whether college-age volunteers had the necessary skills. The idea was popular among college students, however, and Kennedy continued to pursue it, asking respected academics such as Max Millikan and Chester Bowles to help him outline the organization and its goals. During his inaugural address, Kennedy again promised to create the program: "And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country".
President Kennedy in a speech at the White House on June 22, 1962 "Remarks to Student Volunteers Participating in Operation Crossroads Africa" acknowledged that Operations Crossroads for Africa was the basis for the development of the Peace Corps. "This group and this effort really were the progenitors of the Peace Corps and what this organization has been doing for a number of years led to the establishment of what I consider to be the most encouraging indication of the desire for service not only in this country but all around the world that we have seen in recent years". 
The Peace Corps online on 10/2/2003 on the question "Who Inspired the Creation of the Peace Corps?", acknowledged that the Peace Corps were based on Operation Crossroads Africa founded by Rev. James H. Robinson.
On March 1, 1961, Kennedy signed an Executive Order 10924 that officially started the Peace Corps. Concerned with the growing tide of revolutionary sentiment in the Third World, Kennedy saw the Peace Corps as a means of countering the notions of the "Ugly American" and "Yankee imperialism," especially in the emerging nations of post-colonial Africa and Asia.
On March 4, Kennedy appointed his brother-in-law Sargent Shriver to be the program's first director. Shriver was tasked with fleshing out the organization, which he did with the help of Warren Wiggins and others. Shriver and his think tank outlined the three major goals of the Peace Corps and decided the number of volunteers they needed to recruit. The program began recruiting volunteers that following July.
Until about 1967, applicants to the Peace Corps had to pass a placement test that tested "general aptitude" (knowledge of various skills needed for Peace Corps assignments) and language aptitude. After an address from Kennedy, who was introduced by Rev. Russell Fuller of Memorial Christian Church, Disciples of Christ, on August 28, 1961, the first group of volunteers left for Ghana and Tanzania. The program was formally authorized by Congress on September 22, 1961, and within two years over 7,300 Peace Corps volunteers were serving in 44 countries. This number would jump to 15,000 in June 1966, which was the largest number in the organization's history.
The organization experienced major controversy in its first year of operation. On October 13, 1961, a postcard was written by a volunteer named Margery Jane Michelmore in Nigeria to a friend in the U.S. She described her situation in Nigeria as "squalor and absolutely primitive living conditions." However, this postcard never made it out of the country. The University of Ibadan College Students Union demanded deportation and accused the volunteers of being "America's international spies" and the project as "a scheme designed to foster neocolonialism." Soon the international press picked up the story, leading several people in the U.S. administration to question the future of the program as a whole. Nigerian students protested the program, and the American volunteers sequestered themselves and eventually began a hunger strike. After several days, the Nigerian students agreed to open a dialogue with the Americans.
By 1966, more than 15,000 volunteers were working in the field, the largest number in the Peace Corps' history. In July 1971, President Richard Nixon, an opponent of the program, brought the Peace Corps under the umbrella agency ACTION. President Jimmy Carter, an advocate of the program, said that his mother, who had served as a nurse in the program, had "one of the most glorious experiences of her life" in the Peace Corps. In 1979, he declared it fully autonomous in an executive order. This independent status would be further secured when Congress passed legislation in 1981 to make the organization an independent federal agency.
Although the earliest Peace Corps volunteers were typically thought of as educational, agriculture and community development generalists, the Peace Corps had a variety of requests for technical personnel essentially from the start. For example, geologists were among the first volunteers requested by Ghana, an early country for the Peace Corps. An article in Geotimes (a trade publication) in 1963 reviewed the program up to that time, with a follow-up history of Peace Corps geoscientists appearing in that publication in 2004. During the Nixon Administration the Peace Corps had foresters, computer scientists, and small business advisors among its volunteers.
In 1982, President Reagan appointee director Loret Miller Ruppe initiated several new business-related programs. For the first time, a large number of conservative and Republican volunteers joined the contingent of overseas volunteers, and the organization continued to reflect the evolving political and social conditions in the United States. Funding cuts during the early 1980s dropped the number of volunteers to 5,380, its lowest level since the organization's early years. Funding began to increase in 1985, and Congress passed an initiative to raise the number of volunteers to 10,000 by 1992.
After the September 11, 2001, attacks alerted the nation to growing anti-U.S. sentiment in the Middle East, President George W. Bush pledged to double the size of the organization within five years as a part of the War on Terrorism. For the 2004 fiscal year, Congress passed a budget increase at US$325 million, US$30 million above that of 2003 but US$30 million below the President's request. In 2008, Barack Obama also said he would double the size of the Peace Corps, giving the rising unemployed from the recession a chance to give back to the country.
The Peace Corps intended to double the number of volunteers it sent abroad by 2007 in accordance with President Bush's request in 2002. According to Joseph Kennedy, "The American reputation has taken a hit in the last couple of years. The need for the Peace Corps couldn't be more urgent. The Peace Corps shows what is best in America, the generosity of spirit". The Peace Corps is trying to get more diverse volunteers of different ages. This is important so that the Peace Corps can look, according to former director Gaddi Vasquez, "more like America". An article published by the Harvard International Review in 2006 argues that the time has come not only to expand the Peace Corps but also to revisit its mission and equip it with new technology to transform it into a 21st-century engine for peace through the global sharing of knowledge.
In 1961 only 1% of volunteers were over 50, compared with 5% today. Ethnic minorities currently comprise 17% of volunteers. Legally married heterosexual couples are welcome and can work together.
Peace Corps Response, formerly named the Crisis Corps, was created by Peace Corps Director Mark Gearan in 1996. Gearan modeled the Crisis Corps after the National Peace Corps Association's successful Emergency Response Network (ERN) of Returned Peace Corps Volunteers willing to respond to crises when needed; first brought about in response to the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.  On November 19, 2007 Peace Corps Director Ronald Tschetter announced that Crisis Corps will be changing its name to Peace Corps Response.[21 ]
This change is the result of an ongoing effort by the Peace Corps to better define the work of its volunteers. The change to Peace Corps Response will allow Peace Corps to broaden their approach to their five programming areas to include projects that do not necessarily rise to the level of a ‘crisis.’ The program sends former Peace Corps volunteers to foreign countries to take on short-term, high-impact assignments that typically range from three to six months in duration.
Peace Corps Response volunteers generally receive the same allowances and benefits as their Peace Corps counterparts, including round-trip transportation, living and readjustment allowances, and medical care. Minimum qualifications for Crisis Corps volunteers include completion of at least one year of Peace Corps service, excluding training, in addition to medical and legal clearances. The Crisis Corps title will be retained as a unique branch within Peace Corps Response, designed for volunteers who are deployed to true “crisis” situations, such as disaster relief following hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, volcanic eruptions and other catastrophes.
Public law as currently amended governing Peace Corps is contained in the Title 22 of the United States Code - Foreign Relations and Intercourse, Chapter 34 - The Peace Corps (22USC2501-22USC2523)
The Peace Corps is also subject to Federal Regulations as prescribed by public law and executive order and contained in Code of Federal Regulations under Title 22 - Foreign Relations, Chapter 3 - Peace Corps (22CFR301 - 22CFR312)[23 ]
Peace Corps was originally established by Executive Order, and has been modified by several subsequent executive orders including:
Public laws are passed by Congress and the President and create or modify the U.S. Code. The first public law establishing Peace Corps in the US Code was The Peace Corps Act passed by the 87th Congress and signed into law on September 22, 1961. Several public laws have modified the Peace Corps Act, including:
Former members of the Peace Corps may not be assigned to military intelligence duties for a period of 4 years following service with the Peace Corps. Furthermore, they are forever prohibited from serving in a military intelligence posting to any country in which they volunteered. .
Peace Corps employees receive time-limited appointments and most employees are limited to a maximum of five years (60 months) of employment with the agency. This time-limit is referred to as the "five-year rule" and was established to ensure that Peace Corps' staff remain fresh and innovative. Another rule related to the "five year rule" specifies that former Peace Corps employees cannot be re-employed by Peace Corps until they have been out of the agency's employment for the same amount of time that they worked for the Peace Corps. Service as a Peace Corps Volunteer overseas is not counted for the purposes of either of these rules.
Non-supervisory Peace Corps domestic employees are represented by the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 3548. The Federal Labor Relations Agency certified the Union on May 11, 1983. About 500 domestic employees are represented by AFSCME Local 3548. The current Collective Bargaining Agreement governing the relationship between Labor employees and Management became effective on April 21, 1995.
In July, 2009, President Barack Obama nominated Aaron Williams, a career international development specialist, to serve as the new Director of the Peace Corps. At the time of his nomination he was serving as vice president for international development at RTI International, a nonprofit research institute headquartered in North Carolina, with offices in the U.S. and around the world. A former senior official with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Williams was a volunteer in the Peace Corps in the Dominican Republic in 1967-70. He also was coordinator of minority recruitment for the Peace Corps in Chicago in 1970-71. Williams was confirmed by unanimous consent of the Senate on Friday, August 7, 2009.  On August 25, 2009 Mr. Williams was sworn in as the eighteenth Director of the Peace Corps.
|Director||service dates||appointed by||notes|
|1||R. Sargent Shriver||1961–1966||Kennedy||Three days after President Kennedy signed an Executive Order establishing the Peace Corps, Shriver became its first director. Deployment was rapid: volunteers arrived in five countries during 1961. In just under six years, Shriver developed programs in 55 countries with more than 14,500 volunteers.|
|2||Jack Vaughn||1966–1969||Johnson||Vaughn took steps to improve Peace Corps marketing, programming, and volunteer support as large numbers of former volunteers joined the Peace Corps staff. He also promoted volunteer assignments in conservation, natural resource management, and community development.|
|3||Joseph Blatchford||1969–1971||Nixon||Blatchford served as head of the new ACTION agency, which encompassed U.S. domestic and foreign volunteer service programs including the Peace Corps. He created the Office of Returned Volunteers to help volunteers serve in their communities at home, and initiated New Directions, a program emphasizing volunteer skills.|
|4||Kevin O'Donnell||1971–1972||Nixon||O'Donnell's appointment was the first for a former Peace Corps country director (Korea, 1966–70). He worked tirelessly to save the Peace Corps from budget cuts, and believed strongly in a non-career Peace Corps. He resigned as director six years after first joining the Peace Corps.|
|5||Donald Hess||1972–1973||Nixon||Hess initiated training of volunteers in the host country where they would eventually serve. With this came the greater utilization of host country nationals in the training programs. The training provided more realistic preparation, and costs dropped for the agency. Hess also sought to end the down-sizing of the Peace Corps.|
|6||Nicholas Craw||1973–1974||Nixon||Craw sought to increase the number of volunteers in the field and to stabilize the agency's future. He introduced a goal-setting measurement plan, the Country Management Plan, which gave a firm foundation for increased congressional support and for improved resource allocation across Peace Corps' 69 countries.|
|7||John Dellenback||1975–1977||Ford||Dellenback worked to make the best possible health care available to volunteers. He also placed great emphasis on recruiting generalists. He believed in taking committed applicants without specific development skills and providing concentrated training to prepare them for service.|
|8||Carolyn R. Payton||1977–1978||Carter||Payton was the first female director and the first African American. As director, she believed strongly in reflecting America's diversity in the corps of volunteers and worked tirelessly to convince young people that Peace Corps service would enrich their lives.|
|9||Richard F. Celeste||1979–1981||Carter||Celeste focused on the role of women in development and was successful in involving women and minorities in the agency, particularly for staff positions. He invested heavily in training, including the development of a worldwide core curriculum, so that all volunteers had a common context in which to work.|
|10||Loret Miller Ruppe||1981–1989||Reagan||Ruppe was the longest-serving director and a champion of women in development. She launched the Competitive Enterprise Development program to promote business-oriented projects. She also established the Caribbean Basin Initiative, the Initiative for Central America and the African Food Systems Initiative to help address regional challenges. Ruppe was highly regarded by volunteers for her tireless energy and enthusiasm.|
|11||Paul Coverdell||1989–1991||G.H.W. Bush||Coverdell established two programs with a domestic focus. World Wise Schools enabled U.S. students to correspond with volunteers serving overseas in an effort to promote international awareness and cross-cultural understanding. Fellows/USA assisted Returned Peace Corps volunteers in pursuing graduate studies while serving local communities in the U.S.|
|12||Elaine Chao||1991–1992||G.H.W. Bush||Chao was the first Asian American to serve as director. She expanded Peace Corps' presence in Eastern Europe and Central Asia by establishing the first Peace Corps programs in Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, and other newly independent countries.|
|13||Carol Bellamy||1993–1995||Clinton||Bellamy was the first RPCV (Returned Peace Corps volunteer) (Guatemala 1963–65) to be director. She reinvigorated relations with Returned Peace Corps volunteers and launched the first Peace Corps web site.|
|14||Mark D. Gearan||1995–1999||Clinton||Gearan established the Crisis Corps, a program that allows Returned peace Corps volunteers to help overseas communities recover from natural disasters and humanitarian crises. He supported expanding the corps of volunteers and opened new volunteer programs in South Africa, Jordan, Bangladesh and Mozambique.|
|15||Mark L. Schneider||1999–2001||Clinton||Schneider was the second RPCV (El Salvador, 1966–68) to head the agency. He launched an initiative to increase volunteers' participation in helping prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS in Africa, and also sought volunteers to work on information technology projects to enhance development of overseas communities.|
|16||Gaddi Vasquez||2002–2006||G.W. Bush||Gaddi H. Vasquez was the first Hispanic American to serve as director. His focus as director was to revitalize the Peace Corps through a comprehensive outreach and recruitment program focused on attracting a diverse group of volunteers and staff.|
|17||Ron Tschetter||September 2006–2008||G.W. Bush||The third RPCV to head the agency, Tschetter served in India in the mid 1960s. Confirmed by the Senate September 13, 2006 and sworn in on September 26, 2006. He launched an initiative known as the "50 and Over," to increase the participation of older men and women with defined skills and abilities.|
|18||Aaron S. Williams||August 2009–Present||Obama||Aaron S. Williams was sworn in as the eighteenth Director of the Peace Corps on August 24, 2009. Nominated by President Barack Obama and confirmed by the U. S. Senate on August 8, 2009, Mr. Williams is the fourth director in the Peace Corps’ history to have served as a Peace Corps Volunteer.|
Hundreds of Returned Peace Corps volunteers have written books about their countries of service but five books that are among the most notable for capturing the positive and the negative of the Peace Corps experience are the following:
In popular culture, the Peace Corps has been used as a comedic plot device in such movies as Airplane!, Shallow Hal, Christmas with the Kranks, and Volunteers or used to set the scene for a historic era as when Frances "Baby" Houseman tells the audience she plans to join the Peace Corps in the introduction to the movie Dirty Dancing. The Peace Corps has also been documented on film and examined more seriously and in more depth in movies such as the following:
|Annual budget||$325 million|
The Peace Corps is an independent United States federal agency. The Peace Corps was started by Executive Order 10924 on March 1, 1961, and allowed by Congress on September 22, 1961, with passage of the Peace Corps Act (Public Law 87-293). The Peace Corps Act says the purpose of the Peace Corps is:
“to promote world peace and friendship through a Peace Corps, which shall make available to interested countries and areas men and women of the United States qualified for service abroad and willing to serve, under conditions of hardship if necessary, to help the peoples of such countries and areas in meeting their needs for trained manpower.”