Remarks Following a Meeting With Defense Department Employees

October 5, 1984

Good afternoon. I'm glad to see all of you. Let me first assure our guests that we haven't gathered for a public hanging. [Laughter] We're here to recognize these outspoken and creative Defense Department employees who challenged the way that things were done in the past and who offer us a better, less expensive way of doing them in the future.

The 12 men and women here today didn't just complain about a problem; they did something about it. One challenged the price of an aircraft lighting kit, and that challenge resulted in the drop in price from $50 to $8 for every kit we buy. Another is an alert auditor who found some suspicious labor charges and kept looking until he gathered enough evidence to convict a dishonest contractor and obtain $450,000 in fines and recoveries.

But whether the savings was $200 or $2 million, each of these fine Defense employees standing here is proof of the energy, the competence, and the can-do spirit that we're finding throughout the ranks of the Pentagon today.

I think we should also take a minute to recognize their bosses, for if their supervisors had not provided an opportunity for creativity and innovation, then we would not be celebrating these savings and successes. I'm proud of the management reforms that Cap Weinberger has brought to the Pentagon. And I'm encouraged that he has a hotline that any employee -- any American -- can use to call in a complaint or suggestion. And, in fact, the toll-free number is 1 - 800 - 424 - 9098. [Laughter]

Now, there are two reasons why this ceremony here in the Rose Garden is so important: Four years ago, the American people gave us a mandate both to root out waste and fraud in the Federal Government and to rebuild our defenses which had suffered from a decade of neglect. We've been working hard to achieve both these objectives, and I think we can say that our hard work is paying off. We're tackling the tough problems that have plagued Defense management for so many years, and today we're safer, more secure than we were 4 years ago.

And this afternoon, we recognize that it's because of the dedication and achievement of the 12 people we honor here today and to the many other dedicated Defense employees they represent that America is once again able to fill its leadership role in the world.

We have ceremonies to honor the brave servicemen who fight in our wars. Today, we gather to honor the unsung heroes of peace. And so, to each of you, on behalf of the American people, thank you, keep up the good work, and God bless you.

Reporter. Mr. President, have you read the House -- have you read -- --

The President. What?

Q. -- -- the House Intelligence Committee report on the bombing of Beirut? It said that we -- you had adequate security, and there's no logical explanation for it being bombed.

The President. Helen [Helen Thomas, United Press International], I wouldn't take away from Mr. Mondale the opportunity to ask that question in the debate for anything in the world. [Laughter] Tune in. Listen in. [Laughter]

Q. Are you ready for the debate, Mr. President?

The President. What?

Q. Are you ready for the debate?

The President. Ready as I'm ever going to be.

Q. What's your strategy going to be?

Q. How important is it, sir?

Q. What is your strategy going to be?

The President. Just to tell the truth.

Q. Well, other than that? [Laughter]

The President. Well, I think in the world of politics that'd be so unusual that it ought to cause quite a standing ovation. [Laughter]

Note: The President spoke at 1:54 p.m. in the Rose Garden at the White House. Prior to his remarks, the President met in the Roosevelt Room with Secretary of Defense Caspar W. Weinberger and other Defense Department officials and employees.