THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY MARK GEARAN
The Briefing Room
1:40 P.M. EDT
MR. GEARAN: Good afternoon. As you all know, on February 9th of this year, the President and Chief of Staff appeared before you and outlined the plans to reorganize the White House, here in the White House staff. We said at that time that on October 1st the plans for the reorganization would be put into effect and we would be in a position to come back before you and discuss where we're at within the 25 percent.
At this point, I am here to report back to you on the eve of the new fiscal year, to suggest that we have achieved that. The new White House staff will be smaller, but hopefully, more efficient. It will be maintaining the President's commitment that he made during the campaign that we reiterated here, the Chief of Staff has spoken to previously.
It falls within the President's desire and objective throughout the government to have an operation and administration that works better and costs less and free from some of the largeness of the previous staffs that have existed here.
Let me go through some of the numbers here. In February the President said that on October 1st, which is, as you all know, the turn of the fiscal year, his White House would be 25 percent smaller than President Bush's staff was on Election Day 1992, not counting, as we said at that time, the Office of Management and Budget and the Trade Representative's Office. The cuts would come at all levels of the White House. The reductions would be part of this significant reorganization that in some instances totally eliminated some offices within the Executive Office of the President and the White House generally.
As of this point, as of today, as each time we take that -- it's effectively a snapshot in time for how many members of the White House staff are on at a particular day. The White House staff will be smaller, indeed, than the original level that was outlined here in February somewhat. Our staff roster will include 1,005 employees in the Executive Office of the President. Of course, this staff size can fluctuate from week to week, and presently there are 25 or so appointments that we expect to fill within the very near term, due to individual processes within the vetting process and pending appointments that we expect in the very near term.
These reductions will result in savings which we estimate at approximately $3.5 million in savings and expenses in the Executive Office of the President. The majority of those savings come from personnel costs. To do this, how we accomplish this -- first of all, when we arrived here, as you will all recall, we immediately, from the first day, we simply hired fewer political staff, thereby gaining some of the savings that eventually accrued here.
Over the course of the spring and the summer, we reviewed staff and reorganized some of the functions here within the White House. We returned many detailees to their agencies, and we eliminated payroll positions throughout the Executive Office of the President.
We have met the President's promise that these reductions would also come at all levels within the White House. Of our cut of the 389 positions, approximately 40 percent are employees of other agencies, who have returned to other positions in their home agencies, approximately 40 percent. Approximately 30 percent are appointive, or political positions. And approximately 30 percent are career-type positions in the Executive Office of the President, although as you all know, everyone within the White House here serves at the pleasure of the President.
Staff reductions here have been difficult, and we have proceeded and attempted to proceed with a process that we feel has been responsible and sensitive to help employees that have been affected by these reductions, working with them to obtain other positions in government and in the private sector. And we are continuing our placement program as we speak at this point to help the remaining employees who are still seeking jobs to find jobs.
At this point, there is a continuing program for some of the members of the staff that have still not found permanent positions here. We have a career placement counselor who will stay on to assist in their job placement search, to locate vacancies in other federal agencies that would be appropriate for them. And we've offered to work with them in the intervening months.
Let me say secondly a bit about the Cabinet meeting today that we had here at the White House. There are two things in addition to the briefing that you all received from Director Panetta and the Vice President's Chief of Staff Jack Quinn relative to the Executive Order.
Let me say just two other things. The President received a report from the AIDS Coordinator, Christine Gebbie , who spoke to the Cabinet. The President then directed each department and agency to establish an AIDS education and prevention program. The AIDS coordinator, Christine Gebbie, who you have met before, outlined the objectives of the program, and that is to help prevent the spread of AIDS, to reduce employee uncertainty, and to comply with the antidiscrimination provisions of the Americans for Disabilities Act, and offered her help in working with all of the departments in the agencies to coordinate that.
Secondly, Dr. Lee Brown discussed the administration's interim drug strategy to the Cabinet. He'll be coming back to the President with a complete drug strategy report, but he provided some of that.
Finally, the President, last night, called General Powell and invited him to come over the White House this morning, being his last day at the Joint Chiefs, and they spent an hour this morning before the President came over to the Oval Office, discussing his career and his long service.
Q Will you be hiring part-time employees to fill any of the gaps created by those you've dismissed?
MR. GEARAN: The part-time employees, as you know, are counted within the entire 1,005 that we presently have. We would also continue that kind of count in the future.
Q Counted in what sense? How can you count them as part of your head count if they're part-time or temporary and they come and go?
MR. GEARAN: As I said, at each point along the way, this is effectively a snapshot in time. We can tell you where we are today, where the commitment is, what the authorized -- what each office has been authorized for. For instance, I was told within Communications what my authorized level is within the Communications Office.
Q What is it?
MR. GEARAN: It's not enough, is what it is.
Q Are you not spending more now than you were before on everything except for drugs?
MR. GEARAN: No. We are saving through this reorganization of this White House. Admittedly, some of this is the 25 percent cut. What also has gone on here and what we tried to outline in February was reorganization of how policy formulation advances to the President. In the instance of the drug office, that is one of the six policy formulation offices effectively including the National Security Council, National Economic Council and Domestic Policy Council, Office of Environmental Policy. The savings that result from this will be, we expect, approximately $3.5 million.
Q From what baseline?
MR. GEARAN: From what we sent to the Congress.
Q Aren't you spending more now on the Executive Office of the President and the Executive Office of the Vice President, on the National Security Council, as was reported by Ann Devroy today on everything except drugs?
MR. GEARAN: No. What we are resulting in is a significant savings all across the board. I went, in the opening, went through some of where these jobs are. They're not exclusively on the low end of the scale here, either by virtue of the pay grade or position, or the high grade. They are both political appointees, traditional political appointees, as well as people who have been here previously, career-type employees. The net savings, if you will, is that. What we said in February is that we had hoped that the savings would be $10 million. That's the difference that you might be referring to.
What the difference lies in is when, in the congressional action that resulted in the Hill, additional monies were allotted for the drug office -- approximately $6 million as allotted to the drug office that makes up the balance by and large --
Q That doesn't answer the question.
Q The Executive Office of the President, the budget in Fiscal Year 1993, is that smaller or larger than the budget for the Executive Office of the President --
MR. GEARAN: Total personnel and related, it's effectively $3.5 million less than the previous Executive Office of the President budget that was --
Q Do you know what percent reduction that is of aggregate salaries for the EOB?
MR. GEARAN: I don't know that. I can tell you that the salaries generally in the White House, even when we started were a percentage -- I believe it was six or so percent less than comparable positions in other administrations from when we came.
Q In order to achieve these savings, if you had to cut salaries for temporary employees, are you giving the temporary employees benefits?
MR. GEARAN: Again, let me reiterate. The 25 percent cut is a cut of personnel, a body count cut, this is not --
Q What is the body count to get 1,005?
Q Well, let him finish.
MR. GEARAN: Well, there are 396 or 389 that were less than Election Day 1992. We presently have 1,005. What we anticipate that we can finally be, and the authorized level will be 1,044. That's the range of it. But to answer your question, Bill, is that the -- we had never suggested that this would be a 25 percent cut in salaries or costs that would be saved at that point. There are residual costs affected particularly in 40 percent of the people that were sent back to their home agencies.
Q Up to 389, how many are drug-related jobs?
MR. GEARAN: I can't tell you the exact number of that. The drug office is set up consistent with the other policyformulating offices. For instance, Dr. Brown has a comparable size staff as the National Economic Council, as the Domestic Policy Council -- 25 or so, people, I believe is the range. Secondly, Dr. Brown's position has been elevated to Cabinet rank. He sits at the Cabinet table. Indeed, today, at the Cabinet meeting he briefed the President and the Cabinet on his interim drug strategy. So he has also finally been working very closely with the Attorney General, General Reno, and Director Freeh at the FBI to really put together the team of crime-fighting and drug-fighting operations within the administration.
Q Let me ask you this question. Philosophically, looking back now on this whole exercise, the President was committed to a 25 percent cut that seems, if you listen to what officials say privately, it was a nightmare trying to come up with it. Was it worth the effort?
MR. GEARAN: Sure.
MR. GEARAN: Well, for several reason. Whether it's a nightmare or not is -- I'm not observant enough to determine that. I think there's no question that cutting staff on just an individual level of when you're trying to put together a department is something, that people can feel the pains of. As the President suggested at the Cabinet meeting, we're answering more mail. I think most people even in this room would attest that we can't have an active agenda here for all of you to earn your living on. And the level of activity here is, indeed, significant.
People have felt the -- we do our best to assist you. People may have observed that. But the answer is yes, this is -- the President said during the campaign that he wanted a government that was more efficient, that worked better for less. This is maintaining his campaign pledge in providing a government that did that. I have to observe that even with this reduced staff of what has gone on and what has been achieved in the White House -- the launch of the health care effort, the successful completion of the budget, the Tokyo Summit, all the types of things and the range of activities we have proceeded on with some considerable success, I would argue.
Q How do you measure efficiency when you say that the staff cut means that the government is more efficient?
MR. GEARAN: Simply -- similar to what I referred to at the end. I think you have to look at what's been accomplished here -- from the National Service legislation, to other legislative victories that the President has enjoyed, to launching of --
Q How about the legislative setbacks? Were they a casualty, perhaps, of the staff cuts?
MR. GEARAN: I don't think you can make that argument effectively. I think you have to step back and look at what's been accomplished in eight months. Moreover, the President is committed to this. He pledged it during the campaign. He has worked this out with the Chief of Staff and with his Deputy Roy Neel. And this is where we are today.
Q How many contract employees do you have? And are they counted, the people that are supposedly under contract now to answer mail? Are they counted?
MR. GEARAN: In the instance of the mail, that was an operation that was put together to deal with the huge backlog of mail that was received both pre-inaugural and in the few months after the inauguration. There was a huge amount of mail that came into the White House at that time. That is the instance where that was utilized for contract employees.
Our intent and the correspondence office intent is to utilize the existing employees, all of whom are counted in this --
Q What about the contract people, are you counting them?
MR. GEARAN: Contract employees are not counted within this, but to the point of your -- let me be clear -- the correspondence office did this for this one-time backlog of the operations which receive that. And how many there are, I'll have to get you that. I don't know.
Q That's still going on, yes?
MR. GEARAN: At a smaller level. We can put together what that is.
Q This is the appropriations that The Post produced. And this really contradicts the premise of what you're saying today. It says that there have been increases in the White House Office, the Office of Policy Development, the Office of Trade Representative -- that I know is not part of your baseline -- the National Security Council, the Office of Management and Budget -- which was not part of your baseline -- Office of Administration, Executive Residence, the special assistants to the President. The Residence of the Vice President was flat. The only decreases were in the Council of Economic Advisers, the National Critical Materials Council, the Office of Science and Technology Policy, the National Space Council, and the big number was in the drug policy. So all the major offices here in the White House did have increases.
MR. GEARAN: That's not true. The operation, when we arrived right at the beginning, were smaller than the previous administration.
Q That's spending now. I'm not talking about staff numbers, I'm talking about --
MR. GEARAN: We are suggesting --
Q these are the appropriation bills were sent up to the appropriate committees.
MR. GEARAN: But just to underscore one point, we have never suggested, I don't think -- and if we did, it was incorrect -- the 25 percent would have been the financial saving because of the nature of detailees, in that 40 percent of the 389 people that are here less than we arrived come from agencies and then went home. Now, there are aggregate savings along the way, but this is not a 25 percent cut in terms of the dollar amount, this is what we had said from the beginning, this was body count. And in so doing, indeed what we tried to do at the beginning to try to get an actual body count was also to count detailees -- something --
Q So you counted the detailees, and now when you give us these results, the detailees are still working for other agencies, they've not been let go.
MR. GEARAN: Right, but --
Q You're talking about a net savings --
MR. GEARAN: Let me tell you our position here on February 9th was. What we tried to do is to come before you and to give our best sense of where -- who worked here. Everyone knows the amount of detailees that traditionally have worked in the White House.
Q So it was a high water mark, your baseline was a very high level.
MR. GEARAN: That's not true. That is not true. The election -- no, it was consistent with other levels of June --
Q What was it on October 1st?
MR. GEARAN: I don't know the answer to that. But let me just correct this, because this is important, I think, for you to understand. When we arrived, what we tried to establish was who works in the White House. That has, as all of you know very well, two components -- the employees in the Executive Office of the President and then the many detailees that come here from agencies. In order to obtain the best and most accurate and what we felt honest account of who works in the White House, you'd have to count detailees. We can argue whether that's correct or not. But that was what we came in here on February 9th to announce.
What I'm here today to say is, using that same applesto -apples comparison of who works here, that's the fewer employees, the 389, that are presently in the White House. Of that 389, 40 percent are some of the detailees that go back.
Now, where do they go back to? To their home agencies in most instances. In the aggregate, of course, there are savings. If there are -- I would also remind you of the executive order the President signed of 100,000 fewer employees, of the RIGO recommendations that the President has of fewer, so in the aggregate I think the savings will result.
Q In addition to the groups that have been abolished, can you give us an idea of where these 30 percent of the political appointee reductions have come from? Tell us some of the jobs that you haven't filled, that aren't here that were?
MR. GEARAN: Well, sure. I mean, when we arrived -- understand everyone is a political appointee in a political sense, in a literal sense, in that everyone serves at the pleasure of the President working within here. These are career-type employees, but none of them are civil service employees.
When we arrived here, immediately offices, for instance, of intergovernmental relations or the communications -- or different offices within the Executive Office of the President, we didn't hire as many as previous administrations had done. So right off the bat, we arrived and had fewer employees. Now, what percentage of that is of the 25 percent, I don't know the answer to that.
Q I'm not asking -- but can you give me a number? What did your office have in the previous administration and what do you have now?
MR. GEARAN: I don't know the answer to that. I can --I don't know the answer --
Q I'll bet it's bigger.
Q What about the suggestion, Mark, the President made it today and you hear it from members of the staff that everybody is really having to work extremely long hours, and indeed the President is even hearing complaints of that as a result. The President, as you know, suggested that what was going to be cut here was not bone, not the sinew of a working staff, but people who weren't really needed. Is it true, as the President suggests and as the staff members say, that everybody's a bit overworked now and that perhaps you need more people?
MR. GEARAN: Well, I don't want to disagree with the President in suggesting that we don't work hard. Indeed, many people here work very hard. I think the President was specifically responding to the question from the congressional comment on political employees versus career-type employees here.
There's no question that people here work hard. I think everyone here, while they observe the hours that they work in the White House and the time that that takes away from other things view it as a tremendous honor and privilege to serve here.
Q The President did suggest that -- I think he said that those people, the so-called political employees really are kind of doing, he said most of the work, suggesting that perhaps those that were already here, the career-types were less diligent.
MR. GEARAN: No, I think what --
Q Doesn't that kind of fly in the face of what the Vice President's report said about these bureaucrats and how smart and dedicated they are and how they just trapped in a bad system?
MR. GEARAN: No. I think respectfully what the President was suggesting was that the people who worked the long hours, the political appointees that came in with him, the administration, in terms of the number of hours, the 60- to 70- to 80-hour weeks that he was referring to. He also observed that when he arrived, like other presidents, elected to keep an awful lot of people here who served with noteworthy distinction and very hard work. I don't think anyone would suggest that. Indeed, they've been asked to stay on and we're honored to have them as our colleagues here.
But the Vice President's report, I think, is separate. Indeed, what this is suggesting is the kind of efficiencies, kind of making a government that works better for less, is something the President ran on, something the Reinventing Government report reiterated. And now, on October 1st, I'm here to tell you that that has been observed.
Q In terms of the fact that this is a body cut, not a money cut, the message that the President was trying to send in February to the American people was, I'm going to take a hit if you're going to take a hit. Now, it turns out that, in fact, taxpayers aren't saving very much money, what they're doing is they're just having fewer bodies here. Doesn't that kind of defeat the purpose, the political message of this?
MR. GEARAN: No. I think two things. Respectfully, $3.5 million is an important savings to this government.
Q What savings percentage is it of the total budget? Is that two percent, three percent?
MR. GEARAN: But again, we had never suggested that the money savings was what we were trying to do. But to answer your point, what the President was suggesting is that this is an important signal for both the White House, that he was literally starting at home, for members of his administration and Cabinet members that will also be required for further reductions in their staff to do.
But thirdly, this savings -- you have to understand, that 40 percent of the 389 people -- the 389 fewer employees that are here than previously have returned to their agencies. Counting this in the aggregate of what eventual savings are, I am not able to provide you with.
Q You said you were having -- you were trying to replace all of these people. Have the Travel Office people who were sort of rehired -- have they all found jobs now?
MR. GEARAN: They've been offered jobs. And the Travel Office numbers are counted within this 1,005.
Q Mark, you said that these cuts would come at every level. When you sit around a senior staff meeting in the morning, how much smaller is that group than the group that used to sit around the senior staff meeting?
MR. GEARAN: I'm not sure that group is necessarily smaller. I did not sit around that table prior to January 20, obviously. But I don't think that is -- the size of people's staffs --
Q So it's not at the very top? That the only level that did not get cut is the senior staff?
MR. GEARAN: No, there are instances within the office, that part of the reorganization -- for instance, the Critical Materials Counsel was abolished. We've gone through different areas where things were taken -- but in terms of the assistants to the President, no. But their individual staffs of the assistants to the President, they are smaller.
Q Do you have any of this on paper, like the breakdown of numbers of personnel and where the savings come from?
MR. GEARAN: Again, this is the snapshot that we have at this point in time.
Q Somebody came up to you, somebody had it on paper and gave it to you. Is there something on paper that you can --
MR. GEARAN: We can provide you some of the outline of some of the numbers.
Q Do you have a list comparing the number of assistants to the President, deputy assistants to the President, and special assistants to the President between the two administrations?
MR. GEARAN: I don't think there's a savings of -- a reduction of numbers of those titles.
Q There has been no --
Q Is there an increase?
MR. GEARAN: I will have to check that, but that was not part of the objective here.
Q So the cuts did not come at all levels?
MR. GEARAN: No. What I suggested at all levels was, a, the salaries came at all levels. Initially when we walked in we made less. And, b, people's staff size in terms of who worked within their offices was reduced.
Now, if the question is, are there fewer assistants to the President now, the answer is no.
Q I want to get back to the numbers, Mark, if I can. Why are the -- are The Post appropriation numbers wrong, or is it not the case that --
MR. GEARAN: I can't comment on that.
Q your budget requests are, in fact, in dollar terms larger than last year?
MR. GEARAN: I'm not able to comment on The Post chart at this point. We can post an analysis of it, but I think -- Ruth will --
Q You're maintaining that it's $3.5 million in Fiscal '94 than was in Fiscal '93 across the board?
MR. GEARAN: Largely in salaries.
Q For the Executive Office of the President?
MR. GEARAN: Yes.
Q We'd be interested in that analysis --
Q And I think Ann's briefing at 3:30 or something -- (laughter).
MR. GEARAN: Ruth Marcus, for those of you in the back, informs me that Ann Devroy will be briefing later in the day.
Q Mark, if you say that money --
MR. GEARAN: That's on camera, on the record.
Q Mark, if you say that saving money was really not the point, what's the point of reducing --
MR. GEARAN: No, I never said that.
Q You did just a few moments ago.
MR. GEARAN: I shouldn't of. (Laughter.) What I would have -- I don't even have to post that correction.
Q Then it is correct that saving money, trying to save money, trying to reduce the expenses of the Executive Office of the President was very much the point in --
MR. GEARAN: No. Look, here's what I'm trying to say.
Q Is there somewhere between not the point and very much point, is that what you're saying? (Laughter.)
MR. GEARAN: Thank you very much. (Laughter.) No, what I'm trying to suggest to you is that I would urge you not to get confused by a 25 percent dollar amount saving. And what I was suggesting is that 25 percent body count saving. When I was suggesting that is the point, that was the point we tried to make in February, and it's consistent with the point --
Q But if all these people are working so much harder -- as the President said, why then -- how does that square with his advice to them in April to spend more time with their families and smell the flowers?
MR. GEARAN: No, look, everyone -- people have been proceeding with this staff allocation, the authorization from when we started. People work very hard here, people are very honored to be here. A lot of the savings are across -- a lot of this is reorganized offices -- the Critical Materials Council, the CEQ, the Office of Science and Technology Policy, things that have been changed, and then the drug policy office is a fair part of this as well. Those are the --
Q It's $6 million, isn't it?
MR. GEARAN: Those are the kinds of savings that we've done. I've outlined other items that we've suggested for the drug policy effort, including elevation of Cabinet status rank and others that we have tried to work on.
Q Mark, what is the $6 million Congress is giving you back for the drug office going to go for? Is any of that staff money?
MR. GEARAN: I'm informed that it's mostly staff.
Q So you'll be getting a lot of it back?
MR. GEARAN: I'll have to -- I don't think the final vote has occurred from the Congress.
Q Will you provide us with '93-'94 comparison budget numbers, please? Recognizing that 25 percent is not supposed to be the savings, would you please give us some documentation of any savings?
MR. GEARAN: I would suggest to you that the 389 employees that are fewer here are important savings.
Q Show us the money.
MR. GEARAN: That's 25 percent fewer bodies than on Election Day in 1992. Our best approximation is, that's $3.5 million in savings.
Q But can you show us the comparison figures, the '93 vs. '94 comparison figures?
MR. GEARAN: The President's budget that was submitted requested $10 million less.
Q Could you give us a list matching the list in the budget of the FTEs, office by office? That's the only way to compare or break down the list.
MR. GEARAN: I think what we can provide to you is material similar to February that went through the offices and what they authorized.
Q The budget lists the FTEs by office. For instance, Council on Environmental Quality. It says there are whatever there are in that office. And if you give us the number that there are now, I think we'll all have a better picture of --
MR. GEARAN: I think what we can work to do is to put together a list similar to the charts we gave out in February, going through that from the Critical Materials Council to the Vice Presidential staff, to the Executive Office of the President.
Q Can we get that today?
Q You get 389 staff reduction, you do not count salaries of those people who were detailed here and went back as part of the $3.5 million savings?
MR. GEARAN: That's right. Yes. That's a good point. Thank you for -- that of the $3.5 million that I outlined as the savings, I also observed that 40 percent of the employees, of those returned to the agencies, the salary savings there are not counted within the $3.5 million.
Q Mark, that doesn't cut down government any, does it? I mean, that's not saving anybody anything because people are still in government and still being paid.
MR. GEARAN: No, that's wrong.
Q They're being paid by a different agency.
MR. GEARAN: No. I mean, in the aggregate, there will be these savings. The departments are under the executive order to reduce 100,000.
Q Those people were never paid by the White House, they were always paid by their own agencies. They were never --
MR. GEARAN: Let me observe what we tried to be, intellectually honest from the beginning. The question was, who works at the White House. We could have come here in February and said it is -- we're not counting detailees. In our judgment at that time, that might have been a question: Why aren't you counting detailees? So we count detailees. So now we report back October 1st, and respectfully, if the charge is why are we counting detailees, I'm not sure what the answer is to this. To suggest otherwise that we've tried to have apples-to-apples comparison and to be as most intellectually honest as we can to tell you who works here then, here's the best body count we can --
Q Do those 389 bodies include the -- what is it The Post said this morning, 44 bodies off of the Space Council that show up once a year?
MR. GEARAN: I don't know if the number is correct.
Q Are those people included in the 389?
MR. GEARAN: Yes, we tried to be as complete and thorough in the total.
Q That hardly corresponds to -- somebody who shows up once a year hardly corresponds to --
MR. GEARAN: What we've tried to do is to have an apples -to-apples comparison of who is here and who is not. That's the best way we know how to do it.
Q What's the intellectual reason for counting bodies as opposed to full-time equivalents?
MR. GEARAN: On face value, of course, that was the President's campaign pledge, to have a 25 percent staff cut.
Q But, I mean, that doesn't have any intrinsic meaning one way or the other. What's the reason --
MR. GEARAN: Well, it has intrinsic value in that it was a campaign pledge, it was in "People First."
Q No, but I mean, obviously, he's not going to say I pledged to cut 25 percent of the full-time equivalent staff of the White House. I mean, it's just not clear either way what he means when he says that. What is the reason -- I mean, surely you had a choice, even based on what he said during the campaign and what he said in "Putting People First" about how to do it. And I'm just asking why do it one way as opposed to the other way?
MR. GEARAN: I think we took the President at his word.
Q Mark, we started with the high water mark of the Bush presidency in terms of number of employees.
MR. GEARAN: I don't think that's true. Why is that?
Q It included people who were here for election -- because of the election time.
MR. GEARAN: How do you know that? I don't think that's true.
Q Do you know that it's not true?
MR. GEARAN: My understanding --
Q That's what we've been told.
MR. GEARAN: My understanding is that the numbers as of Election Day were relative -- consistent with periods from June to January 20. The fluctuation was not as enormous as you might suggest with the premise of your question.
Q Mark, from what we've been told, it was the high water mark or very close to it in the Bush presidency. Now, this 1,044 number, how long -- has there been a specific order given for how long that is to remain in effect? Or will we see --
MR. GEARAN: Well, that's the authorized limit that we will observe for the fiscal year.
Q For the fiscal year. Then after this year, what?
MR. GEARAN: I'm sorry?
Q You start adding employees again, if you want?
MR. GEARAN: I don't know that answer to that. I mean, that's the President's commitment.
Q The pledge -- how far out does the pledge carry?
MR. GEARAN: Immediately at the first part of the fiscal year, this is where we're at. Whether there will be incremental increases or not, that's a subject for the Chief of Staff. Should there be some, I'm sure it will be noted and duly recorded in this room.
Q Well, Mark, a lot of this is considered by many people just moving people around on paper. I mean, what meaning does the pledge have if he's going to start growing again?
MR. GEARAN: Well, of course, authorized numbers of employees is a congressionally-sanctioned --
Q But you've asked for more in Fiscal Year 94 then you had in Fiscal Year 93.
MR. GEARAN: I'm sorry -- more money.
MR. GEARAN: Yes. Again, I think I've beaten this horse into the ground. What we're trying to suggest is the body count that the President pledged on. There are fewer people here. I think if you talk to most people, as some of the questioning has suggested, people in many instances are feeling the pinch of that. It was a responsible pledge. It was carried out by the President. It's underneath the entire aspect of trying to make the government that's leaner, that works better. I would suggest to you some of the things that have gone on in the past eight months indicates some of the successes we've had. We've tried to do the best job we can in presenting the information in an apples-to-apples comparison.
Q Mark, of the 1,005, or the 1,044 number, can you give a breakdown of how many of those are political and how many of those are career types? Of the people left, what is the breakdown?
MR. GEARAN: Of the people left, not the people cut?
Q Of the people left, what is the breakdown? Because there are questions being raised about that on the Hill, too. What is the breakdown of political people left and career types?
MR. GEARAN: Understand that it's a career type that everyone serves here. I don't know the answer to that breakdown. The breakdown that we do have is of the 389, how they fit into the scheme of things of who has been cut, which I think is really the point of the charge from the Hill that we're not cutting any of the so-called "straight political appointees."
Q Do you know a comparison -- do you have a comparison between the size of your communications operation and the Bush or Reagan communications operation in numbers?
MR. GEARAN: I don't have the answer to that. The Press Office --
Q I'm talking the Press Office and Eller's operation --
MR. GEARAN: The entire communications --
Q Can you get us that number?
MR. GEARAN: I can look into it. I think -- what we have released is the entire numbers for the Executive Office of the President. And what I --
Q As Communications Director, do you know how -- I mean, how many people are involved in communicating the President's message?
MR. GEARAN: Well, the Communications Department involves the Press Office, Media Affairs that Jeff works with, the speechwriting operation, the research operation, as well as news analysis that provides the clips and services for the President.
Q How many people are in all of that?
MR. GEARAN: There's 50 people -- 50 people.
Q How many were you required to cut?
MR. GEARAN: It was not a matter of cutting. When we all arrived, as I said, beginning -- we immediately had less people, which resulted with some of the immediate savings.
Q Do you know how many people were in the Bush communications office?
MR. GEARAN: I don't. I didn't serve in this position at the beginning --
Q How do you know you have less?
MR. GEARAN: I'm not suggesting Communications did, I'm suggesting that within the White House office, right when we arrived, two things happened. First of all, there were fewer people here; secondly, there were -- the salaries were reduced from previous --
Q Mark, I'm not clear on one point. Is the '94 request, White House request for the budget more or less than it was in '93? Are you going to be asking -- do you need more money in the next fiscal year, which starts October 1st than you had in '93 in the fiscal year?
MR. GEARAN: What was submitted and what was asked for was $10.7 million less.
Q What were the hard numbers for both years?
MR. GEARAN: We'll have to provide that to you on --
Q If it's $10.7 million less, where do you get the $3.5 million?
MR. GEARAN: Congress added six.
Q On salaries, you all said that you were taking less money -- the President pledged that.
MR. GEARAN: Somewhat.
Q Somewhat? Okay. But, anyway, you guys say that you started for less, but there's been a GAO report that indicates there's been some back pay and some backdating on pay. Can you provide figures for what the top echelon, the assistants to the President make?
MR. GEARAN: We have previously provided, I think, from this --
Q You have provided a range.
MR. GEARAN: Right. And that's what we'll provide to you.
Q Can you provide the exact figures?
Q Can't you find a briefperson?
Q Do we know what's been backdated or what hasn't?
MR. GEARAN: No, I think the GAO report is something separate, that there were instances where, because of transitioning into the government, there were some people that did have services previous to when -- that is all --
Q There were retroactive pay raises, too.
MR. GEARAN: They were not pay raises. They just had to be provided. I'm not prepared to go into the GAO report with you specifically. I can tell you in all instances, it's been repaid, to the best of my knowledge, in that case.
Q Why can't you give us a line-by-line breakdown of what the assistants to the President make?
MR. GEARAN: We've given the range. That's a policy decision that's been made.
Q Why can't you give the exact figure? We know what the President makes. I mean, why can't we know what the staff makes?
MR. GEARAN: Because we're giving the range. That's the decision that's been made.
Q Is there any way we can tell -- I mean, in comparison to what your predecessor made? I mean, how can we tell?
MR. GEARAN: We've given you the range of what assistants make, what deputy assistants make and what special assistants make.
Q Why is that a policy decision?
MR. GEARAN: The judgment's been made that that's the most effective. Made by the Chief of Staff.
Q Most effective for what?
Q What is the rationale?
Q I'd like to clarify your answer to Brit's question, just a little bit. When he was asking you about impact of -- personnel cuts. You've indicated that people are -- at the White House are working very hard, and are proud to do so, and that's -- I don't think anybody questions that -- but I'm curious about impact because you didn't really get into that. Have you noticed any impact problems for people doing their jobs from all of these long hours -- to work that they having to do?
MR. GEARAN: I think what I --
Q In the advance office, for example, at the United Nations.
MR. GEARAN: I've heard a bit about that trip. I'm not sure that can rest with the 25 percent cut story, sadly. But what I tried to suggest was to determine the best impact. I think you have to look at the results of this administration. I would suggest to you when you look at some of the legislation that's been advanced and signed by the President for Family and Medical Leave, to Motor Voter, to launching National Service, to the budget success and getting it through the Congress, to launching the national health care effort, to all of the activities that we've had throughout the administration, you would be the best to determine to how successful we've done given the staff that we've had.
I would respectively suggest that given the kinds of achievements and accomplishments that we've had with this, I think it proves the President's point that you can have a government that works better with less, that has been more efficient and that we've accomplished several significant things during the course of our short tenure here.
Q No problems and everybody's -- all the staff are satisfied?
MR. GEARAN: Everyone's honored to serve the White House.
Q Mark, did the President today ask Colin Powell if he had any political ambitions?
Q I'm sorry -- question?
MR. GEARAN: The question was, did the President today ask General Powell if he had any --
Q political ambitions.
MR. GEARAN: -- political ambitions. Not that I'm aware of. I would tend to doubt it. I think they talked about his career in the military, talked about different world events and world spots.
Q Did the issue of politics come up at all from either side?
MR. GEARAN: Not that I'm aware of. It was only General Powell and the President in the room. But from my understanding from him --
Q So you don't know what they talked about then?
Q Can you take that question?
Q Do you know?
MR. GEARAN: No, I'm not going to take the question.
Q Can you ask the President whether the issue of politics came up?
MR. GEARAN: The issue of politics, whether it came up? I think --
Q I mean, Truman asked Eisenhower. You know, I mean, this is not unheard of that a President would ask --
Q See what happened to Truman.
MR. GEARAN: We can review that with the President. When I discussed his meeting with him, that did not enter into his review of the conversation. I suspect it might have -- but I can be happy to --
Q But are you satisfied about the overseas reaction on the President's speech at the United Nations, and is it your impression that part of that message did not get the attention wanted by you?
MR. GEARAN: I think to the contrary. I think certainly the President, his national security advisers and the Secretary of State felt that the reaction was a very positive one. And people were indeed pleased with both the private meetings that the President held in New York as well as the text of his remarks in concert with those that have been previously provided by the Secretary of State, the National Security Adviser and the Ambassador to the United Nations.
Q On Russia, can we clear up some discrepancies between the briefing yesterday and the reports from Moscow? We were told yesterday by a senior official that there was no ultimatum or deadline of any kind. That is not what the government in Moscow is saying. Was the administration misinformed, or did you all misinform us?
MR. GEARAN: It's our understanding that there is no ultimatum per se that has been issued by the Russian government. The Monday date is, my understanding, is effectively a dividing line between amnesty and further state action against the deputies.
Q But we were told yesterday -- I went back and reviewed the transcript today to see if I had missed something, and we were told no ultimatum or deadline of any kind. What happened?
MR. GEARAN: I think that's the best guidance I can give. I might ask Don if there's any --
Q What is the Monday date again?
MR. STEINBERG: The question as asked yesterday was essentially is there an ultimatum for forceful action against the people inside. The answer to that is no, there is no ultimatum of that kind. What the government's ultimatum was if you do not come out by Monday, the pledge of amnesty for all the former deputies is not longer valid, and we will take appropriate action against you.
Q Well, I mean, we can go over the transcript, but my recollection looking over it today was that the question was, what about these reports of an October 4th deadline. And the answer was pretty categorical. It wasn't that there's a deadline for this, but not for that, and no ultimatum of force, but there is an ultimatum about amnesty. And I think some of us feel a little bit misled and had desks that were not happy with us last night.
MR. GEARAN: Well, we certainly regret that. But I think that's the --
Q It was not --
MR. GEARAN: -- the best guidance we can give you. I don't mean to be cavalier --
Q Mark, it was not in answer to a question. I mean, he said, this official said there was no deadline, there is no ultimatum or deadline of any kind, if I remember well.
Q He said they contradicted --
Q It was very clear. It was clearly misleading.
MR. GEARAN: That's the best guidance --
Q Just for the record, it wasn't just the briefing officials. Kozyrev himself said the same thing, and the officials pretty much echoed what he said. Kozyrev said no ultimatums or deadlines of any kind no matter what press reports you may be hearing from us.
Q So the deadline's only on the --
Q Or do you thing the United States government was misled by either Kozyrev or the sources in the U.S. embassy that met with high-ranking Yeltsin officials?
MR. GEARAN: No, we're continuing to monitor the situation there, obviously, very closely, and our embassy has --
Q I'm sorry. Can I just clear this one thing up? At the time that we were briefed yesterday, were you aware that -- you, institutionally -- aware that there was a deadline of some kind, that is, a deadline for receiving amnesty?
MR. GEARAN: I wasn't at yesterday's briefing.
MR. STEINBERG: We had seen the same reports that everyone had. And we went and clarified exactly what they meant by those reports. And we received information last evening to the effect that the ultimatum that people were talking about was not an ultimatum regarding the use of force, but was in fact simply a deadline as opposed to an ultimatum for people to leave the parliament building and receive amnesty.
Q So you all were fully up to speed after the embassy's conversation with the source close to President Yeltsin as to what the exact situation was yesterday?
MR. GEARAN: I think the problem was -- was the use of the word "ultimatum." I would argue that there's -- even today it's not truly an ultimatum. There is a deadline.
Q Are you talking about after the briefing --
MR. GEARAN: During the briefing.
Q When the President was asked yesterday if Secretary Brown's effectiveness had been undermined by the allegation against him. He said "not if he's telling the truth." Is there an independent investigation outside of Reno, going on at the White House -- Nussbaum's Office to ascertain if he is telling the truth?
MR. GEARAN: No. There's nothing really to add, I guess, substantively from what the President said yesterday. And I think what he was indicating to you is that he's, as he said, reviewed it with the Secretary and had a conversation with him, and is enormously impressed with his work as Secretary of Commerce.
Q And the White House proffers that this investigation be confined to the Justice Department and not to an independent counsel?
MR. GEARAN: That is ongoing, and Secretary Brown has indicated that he's cooperating with them.
Q If you remember, during the Republican years, every time an investigation was launched by an attorney general, the accusation by Democrats was made automatically that this was a whitewash. Don't you think you're holding yourself open to that in this instance?
MR. GEARAN: No. I think the investigation is ongoing. I have to observe -- the independent prosecutor's statute was, of course, thrown out in the Congress last year. But the President is comfortable with where it stands now.
Q Did the Attorney General check with the White House for either -- just to inform them or to get their read on it before she decided not to do any kind of independent counsel?
MR. GEARAN: Not that I'm aware of.
Q And with the President -- you mentioned that the independent council statute has expired. But, obviously, presidents or attorneys general in the past have found mechanisms to appoint an independent counsel. Given that the President has been a very strong supporter of the independent counsel law would like to see it reauthorized or reenacted, why does he not, then, favor doing through some kind of administrative route what he would do if -- what would be done if the independent counsel statute were to exist, that is, do something that takes this out of the political process and out of the hands of -- to do what the independent counsel statute would have done?
MR. GEARAN: I think the only thing I would have to add for you today is that the President's spoken to this yesterday in terms of his review with Secretary Brown. And we've said from here previously is the Secretary has met with the Chief of Staff, and the President is comfortable with where things stand now, both in terms -- in the investigation that is ongoing and Secretary Brown's commitment to complying with it.
Q But that doesn't -- I mean, this is not to do with whether or not the President believes Secretary Brown or not. Surely, an independent counsel inquiry would have been triggered if the statute remains in effect. If the President believes that there should be an independent counsel statute, why doesn't he take the steps on his own to assure the American people that this is being handled without political interference?
MR. GEARAN: The President has most confidence in the work, as he said yesterday, on Secretary Brown. He is comfortable with his conversation that he has had with the Secretary and the ongoing investigation that the Secretary's complied -- that's really all I have for you.
Q Has the President changed his underlying view about the independent counsel statute?
MR. GEARAN: Not that I'm aware of.
Q Has the President received a copy of the ATF Waco report, and does he have a reaction?
MR. GEARAN: I don't have any guidance for you on that at this point -- whether it's been received yet.
Q Could you double-check -- on the Brown issue, could you please double-check whether the Attorney General had contact with anybody in the White House Counsel's Office or spoke to the President about it today or yesterday or at any time?
MR. GEARAN: Yes.
Q Mark, do you have any reaction to the letter from the AMA on the health care?
MR. GEARAN: Well, you'd have to observe in terms of the Medical Association, which we certain share, as their commitment to several of the goals and the principles that the President suggested in his speech before the Congress, notably universal coverage and that of requiring everyone to contribute something to the cost of their health care. Our goal, of course, is to have health care --the system work for everyone.
I would also point out that numerous physician groups are strongly supporting the President's approach, including the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American College of Physicians, the American Society of Internal Medicine, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American College of Emergency Physicians, and the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology. So there is significant, and I think you'd have to observe, widespread support for the President's approach; and, indeed, we've been working over the course of the many months on health care, to work with the AMA and other groups. We're encouraged by their support of the general principles of universal coverage, which, of course, is the important security principle that the President discussed before the Congress and requiring everyone to contribute something, which, of course, is the responsibility -- the principle that the President spoke of.
Q What does the President think of them spending big lobbying funds -- $7 million or so -- to work against the health care plan?
MR. GEARAN: I don't think -- the President has said from the beginning what we're about to engage in is a national conversation. We realize there are many individual perspectives on this. What's most important is some of the principles that he spoke of. We think there's a lot of room here for us to have this kind of ongoing conversation. We're encouraged, certainly, by the encouragement support --
Q Does it come as a surprise that they are going to oppose it?
MR. GEARAN: I think what the -- the AMA obviously does not speak for all doctors. I outlined to you some of the other groups that have been supportive of it.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END 2:32 P.M. EDT