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Public Papers - 1992 - July

Remarks to Odetics, Inc., Associates in Anaheim, California

1992-07-30

Thank you very much for that wonderfully warm Odetics welcome. Joel, let me tell you why Odetics was selected: its innovation, achievement, and attitude. May I thank your fellow founders, Mr. Gudmundson, Mr. Muensch, Daly, Schulz, and Jim Welch for the hospitality, and all of you most of all for this hospitality.

On board every American space shuttle is Odetics. You're everywhere I'm told, in the security camera, in the convenience store, and the corner ATM machine. I've always wondered where all this stuff came from. I think you've done for robotics what the guy at that Olympics ceremony has done for the under fire archery, if you remember that fellow. [Laughter]

As Joel pointed out to me early on, the credit goes to the people behind the technology, the Odetics associates, the workers here who have done such a great job.

Barbara was especially thrilled when she heard I was coming out here. She said, ``If everything you tell me about Odetics is true, then maybe you can find someone out there who can teach you how to set the time on our VCR.'' We need help. I don't know how you all handle it; we just leave ours flashing -- [laughter] -- 12:00, 12:00. That way you're right two times every 24 hours. [Laughter]

I think you all have played a significant part in what I believe is the central triumph of our time, the free world's great victory in the cold war. But as you know, that triumph means changes in the very industry that helped us carry the day. Many defense-related firms are grappling with the new realities, and not all are doing it with the success that you're having right here.

We know we can reduce defense spending, cut it substantially and responsibly. The victory in the cold war makes it mandatory for a President to do just that. And I have proposed a sensible defense build-down, a blueprint that recognizes, post-cold-war realities but still gives this country the muscle that we need to meet whatever danger comes our way.

We also know that we need to help defense firms and defense workers make the adjustment, to help technology-intensive companies like yours compete and win in the economic olympics, where the prizes aren't medals, but they're good jobs, and they're bigger paychecks.

I happen to believe that the best defense conversion program is a strong national economy, and that is my first and overriding priority. And this morning there were some economic numbers out showing that -- you can probably pick this up from conversations with your neighbors -- the American economy is growing nationally, but not fast enough. Most economists predict the economy's going to get stronger the rest of the year nationally. That's true, I believe. But your friends and neighbors do not want to wait for new jobs to be created; they want them now.

On January 29th, I put forward a specific program to spur the economic economy, would not have increased this deficit, but to spur the economic economy with incentives to encourage businesses to hire new workers and help Americans who want to buy a home. If that plan was in place, it would have created 15,000 jobs a day, over half a million jobs since February. For 183 days, the Congress has dillydallied with this plan while we could be creating new jobs for Americans.

So do me a favor, help me send the United States Congress a message, the one institution that hasn't changed control for 38 years: Don't hold the American economy hostage to politics. Tell them to vote for a recovery program and get this country back to work right now.

A stronger economy is going to help a lot of your associates in related companies who might be looking for work these days. But we also need to help the defense firms and the workers make the adjustment and transfer your technological expertise to other parts of our economy.

That's the idea behind what we call a national technology initiative to help bring new technologies, those that have been developed at taxpayers' expense in our labs, out of the Federal labs and into the marketplace. And that's why we're pioneering a new program to help members of the defense community, civilian and military, find new careers in America's classrooms.

It's why we're doing away with something called -- this is technical -- but called the recoupment fee. This is a tax charged against military and commercial products sold to customers other than the U.S. Government. These fees hurt American companies, American workers by making it more difficult for them to compete for business here and abroad. I've told the Secretary of Defense to eliminate these fees. If the Government unties the hands of businesses, I know that we can beat the pants off foreign competition. I think we can help through this transition.

But, you know, as another Californian used to say, ``Peace through strength never goes out of style.'' And we cannot lose sight of the fact that for all the great gains that we've made for freedom and for all the peace of mind we've secured for our children because of the elimination or certainly the reduction, significant reduction of the threat of nuclear war, the world still is a dangerous place.

I think back to the oath that I took on the Capitol steps there when I first became President, to preserve, to protect, and to defend the Constitution of the United States, and of the trust placed in me, the trust I've done my best to repay to keep this Nation safe and secure. I am proud of these accomplishments here and thankful that we've been able to give the order that so many Presidents long to give, for many of our nuclear forces to stand down from alert.

Yet in many ways, I know that our world today is more uncertain, far more unpredictable than the world we left behind. The Soviet bear, that unified international Communist Soviet bear, may be extinct, but there are still plenty of wolves out there in the world, renegade rulers, outlaw regimes, terrorist regimes, Baghdad bullies. I won't allow them to get a finger on the nuclear trigger. This President, will never allow a lone wolf to endanger American security. We owe that to these kids right here today. Yes, the world is a safer place, but we've got to keep it safe.

I've been told about a certain political speech not too many weeks ago. I missed it; I was fishing in Wyoming. [Laughter] It went on about the future of the country, I'm told, for about an hour. Out of all that time, that speech spent about one minute on the national security of this Nation, one minute, 141 words to be exact. If you blinked or had to do something else or even heated up a ham and cheese sandwich in the microwave, you missed the entire part about the national security and world peace.

Well, I guess it's all part of the change thing. But when it comes to national defense, I am worried that the other side is for change. They want to change the subject, and their silence speaks volumes. I don't believe that foreign policy and national security is a footnote, a loose end we wrap up and then safely forget. The defense budget is more than a piggy bank for folks who want to get busy beating swords into pork barrels. We've got to fight to keep this country sufficiently strong.

So someone has to set the record straight and has to speak up for the muscle -- not the waste, not that we can't cut -- but has to speak up for the needed muscle that gives meaning to American leadership. Someone has to say, even now that we've won the cold war: America is safe, but just so long as America stays strong.

If we took the course that some recommend, we literally wouldn't know what we're missing until we found it out in the heat of battle. But the truth is that Odetics and other frontline firms around California, you'd feel it first. The other side proposes to cut nearly billion in defense cuts beyond and below the level we see as the minimum necessary for national security, and we cannot let that happen: almost 4 times more cuts than what we believe is responsible so that I can certify to these young people here that your future is going to be safe.

Cuts of that magnitude would jeopardize America's ability to defend our citizens, our interests, and our ideals. Let me bring it very close to home. Cuts of that magnitude would cost workers in the defense industry as many as one million jobs. So we've got two reasons. The first and most important, we've got to do what my oath committed me to do: guarantee the national security of this country. Then we've got to also think about the American worker and not needlessly push him out of work.

I know that the California economy is struggling these days, and that some of it comes, and I'll accept the blame for this, from what I think are the responsible cuts that we've approved. As the cold war ended, it was appropriate that we make some defense cuts.

But think of the shockwaves that reckless defense cuts would touch off in construction and electronics and aerospace. Think of what those layoffs will do to housing prices. Think of the workers, think of the families, from die cutters and welders to design teams and engineers thrown out of work and then over onto the welfare.

You know, when a ship is decommissioned, it's said to be put in mothballs. Well, if we follow that plan, the opposition's plan, the only industry hiring would be the mothball industry. We cannot let that happen to our country.

As long as I am President, I make this pledge: I will not let our economy be wrecked and our security threatened by the politically appealing idea of gutting our national defense. They want to gut the defense, and we cannot let that happen.

So in conclusion let me just say, this year you're going to hear a lot of talk about change. But to me this election, like every other one, is also about trust. Who do you trust to change America? Who do you trust, not to do what's easy or sounds good, might be responding to some poll out there, but to do what is right for you and for your children and for the families of this country and for America?

I make this pledge to you, not to do what is unwise or politically expedient, but I pledge to fulfill the trust that you have placed in me by doing what is right for this country.

I am very, very pleased to be here. Now I will end with the word that I know will get me a nice standing ovation: Odetics! Go for it!

Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 1:53 p.m. at the automated tape library division of Odetics, Inc. In his remarks, he referred to company officers Joel Slutzky, chairman of the board and chief executive officer; Crandall L. Gudmundson, president; Gerry Muensch, vice president of marketing; Kevin C. Daly, vice president and chief technical officer; Gordon Schulz, vice president of mechanical engineering; and James P. Welch, vice president of electrical engineering.

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