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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release October 22, 1993
                      REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT

The Old Executive Office Building

10:47 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much, Mr. Vice President. General Short, Admiral Pelaez, Dr. Alam, Dr. Dennis, Senator Mitchell and distinguished members of Congress. And let me say a special word of thanks to my good friend, Senator Bingaman, and to Pat Schroeder, for the work they have done on this.

When I started running for President, one of the core ideas that animated my campaign and that got me really committed to the long endeavor of 1992 was the commitment that we had to find a way as we built down defenses to build up a new economy for America with new partnerships between defense technologies and the commercial future that we all seek for our country.

I'd like to put this at least briefly into a larger context. All of you know we are living in a time when all the wealthy nations of the world are having great difficulty creating new jobs. We are now in the fifth year in which the average annual growth among the wealthiest nations has been under two percent. And as we look toward the future and we ask ourselves what is it that will regenerate the American economic engine in a new and highly competitive global economy in which technology and money and management are mobile, and in which many people in different parts of the world will do certain things for wages our people can't live on, it is perfectly clear that there are three things we have to do.

We have to better educate and train our work force. We have to find new markets for our products and services. And we have to more rapidly develop new technologies, so that technology can continue to be what it has always been for our country and for the world, a net job generator.

We know that technologies reduce the number of people necessary to perform traditional services in everything from agriculture to manufacturing. But technology has historically been a net job generator because every time it's done that, it's opened up new ways for people to make a living.

There are significant barriers to that today in this country and in all wealthy countries. The reason I believe so strongly in this project, and the reason I believe someday this will become an integral part of our economic policy, not just a way of converting from a defense to a domestic economy is because we have to find a way to create more new applications for more new technologies more quickly so that we can create more jobs.

I am very, very happy about this day and I want to thank all of those who had anything to do with bringing it about. I also want to say, to echo the Vice President, that the first awards in our Technology Reinvestment Project were definitely made on the merits. They were made, not surprisingly, largely in areas that had large technological bases related to defense technology where people have suffered very greatly from cutbacks and are very aggressively looking for alternatives. That provided a big incentive for those folks to be very active in trying to build a new future. But that is, after all, I'm sure what Senator Bingaman had in mind and what the Congress had in mind in funding this program.

If we're really going to guarantee the security of America -- the national security of America -- we have to be more economically secure. We have to invest in projects that will create these jobs with new ideas and new technologies. That is the only way, I believe, to keep our nation strong.

This effort responds to two challenges left in the wake of the end of the Cold War. The first is that you simply can't leave the men and women who won the Cold War out in the cold. It is wrong to walk away from them. From southern California to Long Island to Connecticut, there are communities, companies and employees who depended on defense who now are desperately looking for new ways to make a living. And they can help to make America the strongest country in the world, economically, even into the 21st century.

The second challenge we have is one that is often ignored, but must not be. And that is to meet our continuing military needs in a world which still contains dangers to our interests, our values, our security in a time when we may -- and we want -- to spend a smaller percentage of our national income every year on defense, but when we know we still have to maintain our lead in defense technologies. So this effort really not only helps us to create new jobs in the civilian sector, it is very good for traditional national defense concerns.

The purposes we are promoting are illustrated by the projects that are being supported today. And let me just mention a couple of them. A California-based team is seeking to demonstrate how advanced composite materials developed for high-performance military aircraft can offer major advantages for repairing and replacing our nation's aging bridges.

I have seen some of the preliminary work on a recent trip to southern California. It's a very, very impressive idea, with enormous potential in a nation like the United States which has woefully neglected its infrastructure for 15 or 20 years now, and which has a huge number of bridges which desperately need repairing.

This technology will also help the Army Corps of Engineers build lightweight and mobile bridges in combat situations or following natural disasters such as the one we recently had in the Midwest flood, where so many bridges were wiped out and so many working people were literally cut off from their jobs or faced fourhour one-way drives just to get to their jobs.

Another example: A small defense firm is adapting its pyrotechnic technology for use in emergency rescue equipment. You might ask, how can you have explosive technology used in rescue? Most people are rescued from that. (Laughter.) This effort can, nevertheless, create a whole new generation of jobs of life rescue devices that can save time by making hydraulic equipment much easier to operate. The reductions in weight and cost will make these devices available even to small rescue teams.

I can tell you as a former governor of a state with a lot of rural communities, I spent an enormous amount of time just trying to figure out how to get this kind of equipment out to people and then how to make sure there were people there trained to use it. This could be a very significant thing in managing traumatic situations in rural communities, especially those that are isolated. By commercializing this technology we'll help to preserve a part of the pyrotechnic industry that is important to our nations defense, as well as solving the problems of Americans here at home.

We're working with a team of companies and research labs to determine how the high-powered lasers that have been developed for the military can be adapted to make civilian products. The technology will offer higher precision and greater tooling speeds. This can help American industries from automobiles to aerospace, agricultural equipment, electronics, ship building, all these industries compete and win around the world. And after more than a decade in which our machine tools have suffered significant set-backs in the global economy, this offers a real chance for us to take back a significant sector of international trade.

We're also supporting retraining programs for scientists, engineers, and other defense workers all across the country -- in Alabama, Arizona, California, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, and Washington. Our world is being transformed by technological, economic, and political change. This project is a part of our overall strategy in this administration to make those changes our friend instead of our enemy.

Whether we're cutting the national deficit or investing in a whole new education and training program, or reforming the welfare system, or providing health security, or expanding trade, we know that all these things have to be done if we're going to really allow the American people to live up to the fullest of their potential.

We're working hard here in the government to set an example, under the Vice President's leadership, to give this reinventing government effort a technological twist that maybe some of you ought to contribute to also in this project. And we want to set an example, but we also want to help lead the country to make the changes that will help us all to change our lives for the better.

We know that doing nothing is not an option. And I want to say in closing that this is one idea that has really caught on with the Congress. I think because of the debates that have been held over the past couple of years and because of the pressures that have been brought to bear in areas all across America, from the dislocations -- the painful dislocations -- from defense cuts, there's a real commitment. And I want to thank the Congress here in even in closing days in our debate over the budget, when we have cut and cut and cut so many areas, this program was dramatically increased for next year so that we can maintain the pace of these projects. And I hope we'll be able to increase it year in and year out as long as there are new ideas, new technologies, new jobs and new movement for the American economy.

Thank you all very much. (Applause.)

END10:57 A.M. EDT