THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
STATEMENT BY THE PRESIDENT ON DEFENSE READINESS The Rose Garden
12:54 P.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon. Secretary Perry, General Shalikashvili, members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, I have pledged that throughout the life of this administration, our military will remain the best-trained, the best-equipped, the best-prepared fighting force on Earth.
I'm happy to be here today with Secretary Perry and with the Joint Chiefs to reinforce that commitment and to announce a new initiative to ensure military readiness and to give our military and their families the support they deserve.
During our first year in office, we undertook a fundamental review from the bottom up of our nation's defense capacity and our strategy. Building on the efforts of the previous administration and bipartisan support in the Congress, we continue to restructure our nation's military forces to meet the challenges to American leadership in the post-Cold War era.
I directed that our Armed Forces be ready to face two major regional conflicts occurring almost simultaneously. Since then, I have repeatedly resisted calls to cut our forces further, to cut our budget below the levels recommended in that bottom-up review, and I have drawn the line against further defense cuts.
During these past two years, our military has time and again demonstrated its readiness and its war-fighting and peacekeeping capabilities. From Korea to Macedonia, to Rwanda and Haiti, we have placed great burdens on our men and women in uniform, and they have responded magnificently. They have demonstrated a truly outstanding ability to deploy quickly, provide security to help ensure stability.
When our forces deployed with extraordinary speed and efficiency to the Persian Gulf in October, Saddam Hussein got the message. We decisively deterred the Iraqi threat to the region's security. And when our armed services cooperating in an unprecedented fashion stood ready to back up our diplomatic efforts in Haiti, we helped set the stage for restoration of democracy in that nation.
Whether our forces are engaged in combat, acting as peacekeepers, or delivering humanitarian assistance, we must continue to review their requirements, provide adequate funding and keep our military edge. Secretary Perry and I have repeatedly stated that our number one commitment is to the readiness and well-being of our men and women in uniform.
I'm announcing today a five-part initiative to ensure that our Armed Forces receive the resources and the support they need to continue their high standard of performance. First, I intend to ask Congress to add an additional $25 billion to our planned defense budgets over the next six years. Second, I will seek the full pay raise allowed by law for our uniformed military throughout the turn of the century.
Third, I will fully support other quality of life initiatives which were outlined by Secretary Perry last month. We will spend what is required to ensure that our military live in adequate housing and are provided the necessary child care and receive the support they and their families need to serve our nation. Fourth, I will ask the Congress to provide for real growth in the defense budget during the last two years of our next six-year plan to help ensure that the American military enters the 21st century with the most modern equipment available.
And finally, we will send to Congress with our budget next year an emergency supplemental funding for the current fiscal year to reimburse the military for its unanticipated expenditures with the operations in the Gulf, the Adriatic, Haiti and elsewhere, and to protect us from dipping in to important readiness funding. These funds will enable us to maintain the readiness and training we will need to accomplish our missions in the coming year.
I urge Congress to quickly approve this supplemental request so that we do not face the kind of problems we confronted this fall when Congress delayed its approval of the last supplemental funding request.
These actions I'm announcing today reinforce our administration's commitment and my personal commitment to maintaining the highest training standards for our military, to preparing them to depart on missions around the world at a moment's notice. They will ensure that our men and women in uniform can be assured that their families are getting the kind of support they need and deserve. We ask much of our military, and we owe much to them in return.
Our Armed Forces are the backbone of our national security strategy. They stand behind our efforts to maintain peace and security all around the world. And I call on the new Congress to give these initiatives their full support.
Thank you very much.
Q Mr. President, are you ready to send U.S. ground troops to Bosnia to help in any evacuation of U.N peacekeepers, if that is necessary?
THE PRESIDENT: There has been no discussion of that, and the U.N. peacekeepers have not decided to leave Bosnia.
Q Mr. President, some critics might argue that your action today is a passive admission that defense has been cut too much.
THE PRESIDENT: That's not right. What we have done -- I'll remind you, we started out, when I became President -- when I became President I said, we have a commitment to maintain readiness and the quality of life for our troops; we have a commitment to be able to meet our strategic mission, which is principally to be able to conduct two regional conflicts nearly simultaneously. We have reviewed that, we have managed that. In the last two years, we have also had significant costs for other things, as you know. And our military has performed very well -- in Haiti, in the Gulf, in dealing with the migration problems in Cuba, in Haiti, and in many, many other areas. We've also stepped up a lot of our operations in the Adriatic and in the area around Bosnia.
So we have had a lot of unanticipated costs. And what we've tried to do is to look at this and then decide what it would take to maintain our readiness -- in the short term and in the long run. The short-term problems can be readily remedied by the emergency supplemental that I've asked for and by the budgetary changes that I am making. The long-term problems will require the adoption of this five-point plan.
We are moving into the future with a very aggressive strategy. It is consistent with the commitments I made when I came here. And we have seen the military, frankly, have to deal with an amazing number and variety of unanticipated challenges. They have done so with great skill, but now they need the support that I think we ought to give them.
And in this era when we are definitely going to continue to reduce the size of the budget, we are going to continue to cut government, we are going to give the American people a leaner government, I still believe the people of this country expect us to do right by our men and women in uniform and to maintain our readiness and preparedness and to plan for the future. And that's what this budget does. That's my job, that's the Secretary of Defense's job, that's the Joint Chiefs' job, and we're here doing it today.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END1:01 P.M. EST