Remarks Announcing the Nominees for Chief of Staff of the Air Force and Chief of Naval Operations, and a Question-and-Answer Session With Reporters

March 18, 1982

The President. The other day, I made an announcement of the appointment of General John W. Vessey as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. We have two more announcements to make this morning that I'm very proud and happy to announce. The first is that, as Chief of Naval Operations is Admiral James Watkins, and the Chief of the Air Force will be Captain Charles -- or General -- [laughing] -- that was Freudian; I was a captain -- [laughter] -- General Charles Gabriel.

These men have great records of service to their country, and I'm more than proud and confident of what this is going to mean in the caliber of our Armed Services to have these gentlemen serving. And I shall certainly be seeking their advice at every opportunity.

Mr. Secretary?

I know what the photographers were wanting, General -- you know, their motioning there. They don't like gaps. They want us to stand close together. [Laughter]

Soviet Announcement on Missile Deployment

Q. Mr. President, any new word on whether Mr. Brezhnev meant that he was going to put missiles in Cuba?

The President. No, as I said yesterday or the day before, we're studying all the implications in that. But as I also said then, we have an easy answer. If he really means he wants a lessening of the tension over nuclear weapons, well, all he has to do is join us in Geneva in the elimination of nuclear, intermediate-range weapons in all of Europe.

Defense Budget

Q. Has Secretary Weinberger come up with some efficiencies in the defense budget proposal -- [inaudible] -- that could be cut?

Secretary Weinberger. We'd like to think we have, yes. And we've reported those to the Congress.

Q. Is that going to result in significant savings in the defense budget?

The President. Well, there have been significant savings already -- which the Secretary, in his quiet way, just made without grandstanding about them -- or the budget would have had bigger figures right now that they would have had to ask for.

But in addition to that, we have appealed to the civilian sector, the business and industrial sector, for task forces who are going to be able to come in to all of our agencies and go all the way down into those things that it would be impossible for just one person in charge of an agency to see, and find out where there are areas that modern business practices might update and make more efficient government operations.

Poland

Q. Mr. President, is there anything we can do about Poland now to relieve the tension there or to secure Walesa's [Lech Walesa, president of Solidarity, the Polish labor union] release?

The President. We're constantly reviewing what we are doing, and talking with our allies in Europe on the various steps that we can take. I wouldn't be able to speculate now, but I don't like to discuss options anyway as to whether there are additional things that we can do. But we're going to do everything we can.

Q. Thank you.

Note: The President spoke at approximately 9:30 a.m. to reporters assembled in the Oval Office at the White House.