Question-and-Answer Session With Reporters in Dallas, Texas, on Defense Spending

January 11, 1983

Q. Mr. President, are you going to talk first or can we ask you a question?

The President. Gee, you've got me curious now. What would your question be?

Q. Well, Secretary Weinberger said when he talked about these defense cuts at the Pentagon that he couldn't do it without sacrificing some of the state of readiness. Aren't you concerned?

The President. This would be -- I happened to have anticipated -- you know, believe it or not, I had a leak about this, that it was going to happen. Since we're not having leaks anymore, I thought I would come out here and give you some information. You could even quote me directly.

Q. What is Secretary Weinberger saying then?

The President. Secretary Weinberger has been working -- and not just now and not in connection with our budget activities -- but has been working assiduously to get more economies, more efficiencies into the defense program, and he hasn't gotten very much credit for it. As a matter of fact, he has -- from our original projection of a 5-year plan in February of '81 -- he has cut tens of billions of dollars voluntarily before submitting defense budgets.

And I'm delighted with this, that he has come in with this. It's $11 billion plus, about $11.3 billion, and it is not setting back in any substantive way at all our defense program, because that still remains the top priority -- the security of our people. But he was able to do this in the manner that he, himself, has explained, having to do with the lower rate of inflation, lower fuel costs, and things of that kind.

Now obviously, there might have been some things that will be slowed a little bit, but they are not absolutely essential to the major buildup. So, we're not reversing our course in that.

Now, the second thing, though, that I'm very happy about is it does, I think, fit in with what we're going to go to the Congress with, and that is an across-the-board, fair program that meets some of our economic problems. And this just enhances that because of the abuse that he's been taking on that.

It is not a ploy. It is not designed as something to try and persuade Congress at all. I hope they will accept it in the way in which it was done and then work with us across the board, as I say, on the entire budget program.

Q. Is this now down to the bare bone on defense, sir?

The President. What?

Q. Is this now down to the bare bone? Would you say this $11 billion is really down to the bottom line?

The President. Well, it does not interfere with the production of any weapon system at all.

Q. What I mean is, do you think there's any more to be gotten if Congress says to you, ``Mr. President, we want to take another $11 billion?''

The President. Then Congress would be, I think, endangering the security of this country.

Q. Now, what about his statement this morning, sir, that he can't do this without sacrificing some readiness -- --

The President. Well, some readiness -- [inaudible] -- admitting to that, I think is a considered judgment and not a risk. It simply is a slight slowdown in some of the things that had earlier been planned with regard to readiness. But I don't think it sets us back any.

Q. Sir, what conditions would you have to impose on your contingency plan on new taxes?

The President. That's a whole different subject. And as I told you the other night at the press conference, that I'm not going to talk about any of those things on which there are no decisions that have been made as yet. But I did feel that this announcement having been made, that I wanted to explain to you straight from the horse's mouth what it meant and what it will mean in our budgeting process -- [inaudible].

Q. You talk about across the board, sir. Is there going to be some kind of a domestic spending freeze as well?

The President. Again, I'm not talking about -- no decisions, believe me, have been made on our budgeting process. We're looking at all the alternatives, and when I've got all that I need in front of me, I will make the decisions which may come as a surprise to some of you, in view of what I've been reading in the press lately.

Q. You made this one, sir. This is a decision you are announcing. This is a decision about the $11 billion cut.

The President. I'm announcing that I'm accepting that gladly. But Cap did this, and I'm pleased with it and, yes, it will be very helpful.

Q. You're kind of running out of time on these other decisions, aren't you?

The President. We're getting close, but -- --

Q. How close?

The President. Since I don't have to ask anyone, I'll just make the decision, why, I can wait until the last minute.

Q. How low can you get the deficit, sir?

The President. I can't answer that one now. You'll have to wait till we're ready to make our announcement.

Q. Mr. President -- [inaudible] -- about the reports of your tax -- [inaudible] -- willingness to increase taxes, a decision to increase taxes in '86? The other leak in the paper this morning about increasing taxes -- --

The President. That's what I say about -- that's why we try to curb the leaks. It's unfair to you people. You go out in good faith and misinform the people because many of these things are only, maybe, series of options that have been suggested and they're not a fact, but -- --

Q. Could you straighten us out on that?

The President. Not now. As I said, no decisions yet. I won't start getting into pieces of the budget -- --

Q. Have you really had leaks up to your kiester, sir? [Laughter]

The President. I didn't expect that to be quoted. [Laughter]

Q. How is your kiester, sir? [Laughter]

The President. I'd like to go back to those days when the press, voluntarily, never quoted a President without his permission. You have permission to quote me.

Q. Thank you.

Note: The exchange began at 11:45 a.m. at the Dallas Convention Center.