THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
RADIO ADDRESS BY THE PRESIDENT TO THE NATION
The Oval Office
10:06 A.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. I want to talk with you about a decision Americans will make very soon, one that will determine the future of our country, our communities, our companies and our jobs.
All around us, we see changes transforming our economy. Global competition, new technologies, and the reductions in military spending after we won the Cold War. We can't stop the world from changing, but there is one decision we can and must make. Will we leave our people and our nation unprepared for changes that are remaking our world, or will we invest in our people's jobs, our education, our training, our technology to build a high-skilled, high-wage future for ourselves and for our children?
The choice is especially urgent because of the reductions in military spending here at home. Yesterday I visited the USS Theodore Roosevelt. That aircraft carrier and its crew served with distinction during the Gulf War. There's no greater honor than serving as their Commander-in-Chief. As long as I'm President, the men and women who wear our nation's uniforms will continue to be the best-trained, best-prepared and best-equipped fighting force in the world.
We must never forget that the world is still a dangerous place. Our military is continuing to change, not to downsize for its own sake, but so that we can meet the challenges of the 21st century. In the post-Cold War era, our military can be cut even while we maintain the forces necessary to protect our interests and our people.
The preliminary announcements of base closings in this morning's paper are part of that process. What we need to decide is whether we will invest in the economic security of the people who defend our national security. For the past four years our government has done essentially nothing. Since 1989, 300,000 soldiers, sailors and flyers have been mustered out of the service. One hundred thousand civilian employees of the Defense Department have also lost their jobs. And 440,000 workers from defense industries have been laid off.
As the business magazine Fortune has reported, these cuts cost 840,000 jobs over the past four years. That's more than the combined total layoffs at GM, IBM, AT&T and Sears. Too many of the men and women affected by defense cuts are still looking for full-time jobs or working at jobs that pay much lower wages and use fewer of their skills.
These Americans won the Cold War. We must not leave them out in the cold. That's why I propose a new national strategy to make these Americans have the training, the skills and the support they need to compete and win in the post-Cold War economy.
Last year the Congress appropriated $1.4 billion for defense conversion activities. But the previous administration did not put any of that money to work. Our administration's plan gets those funds moving immediately and calls for an additional $300 million in resources, for a total of $1.7 billion this year alone, and for nearly $20 billion over the next five years.
Our plan invests in job training and employment services for military personnel and defense workers who have been displaced by declining military spending. And we'll make sure that every community affected by a base closing will have the help they need right away to plan for new businesses and new jobs. It takes three to five years for a base to close; we need to use that time to be ready.
That's why I'm proposing a national strategy to make sure that all these communities and all these workers can use this valuable time to plan and to acquire the tools to build a new future.
Our plan also invests in dual use technologies -- that is, those that have both civilian and military applications and in advanced civilian technologies as well. With these technologies, defense companies can create new products and new jobs.
Americans have the ingenuity to adapt to changing times. On Thursday I visited a defense plant just outside Baltimore that is using military technology to make products for commercial use. I wish you could have seen what I saw. Police cars with computer screens that display photographs of missing children, and radar systems that warn the commercial airlines about sudden wind currents that cause accidents. I saw an electric car that will run 80 miles an hour, and run for more than 120 miles before being recharged.
With a national economic strategy, more companies will be able to make the most of changes that are affecting not only defense, but every industry, and will be able to make problems like these. Our economic plan cuts government spending that we don't need, and brings down the federal deficit that threatens our future.
But just as important, our plan also makes the investments that we do need -- in our children's schools, our workers' skills, cutting-edge technologies, and our transportation and communications networks. This plan will create eight million jobs, building the foundation for a new era where every American can profit, prosper and produce.
In the days head you'll hear a great debate in Congress about this plan. Some will say don't cut anything, some will say don't invest in anything. But what many of them are really saying is, don't change anything. Because failing to invest and failing to reduce the deficit means failing to change the status quo.
I'm confident that Congress and the country will choose a new direction for America, making our government more effective and less expensive, and making the investments that make us smarter, stronger and more secure. I ask you to express your support for this approach to senators and representatives. Those who support our entire plan should be supported. They're cutting spending that we don't need and investing more in what we do need.
It's been said that while change is certain, progress is not. Together, we can turn away from drift and decline and choose a new direction with hope and growth and opportunity for every American.
END10:11 A.M. EST