Informal Exchange With Reporters on the Defense Budget

December 14, 1984

Mr. Deaver. Mr. President, I'm very happy to give you the first Inaugural Plate for your second Inaugural.

The President. Well, all right. I'm very pleased to have this. I think there's nothing to do but to put it in action right now.

Q. Screw it on. Where's the screwdriver? [Laughter]

The President. High technology -- it's all there. [Laughter] All right.

Q. Have you decided to cut the defense budget, Mr. President? And if so, by how much?

The President. Let me answer any questions you may have with just one statement on that. All of the things that I've been reading about this -- which are obviously based on leaks -- those leaks are without any solid foundation.

Q. Well, give us the story.

The President. We are still in the basis of negotiating -- or not negotiating, that's the wrong term to use -- of studying the whole package of what we're going to present to the Congress.

Q. [Inaudible] -- says there's a paralysis, so that your entire budget process is bogged down with a paralysis because Weinberger won't give anything.

The President. They must have just caught me asleep at a Cabinet meeting. It wasn't paralysis. [Laughter]

Q. But isn't it true -- --

Q. Let him finish. Let him finish.

Q. Isn't it true that Weinberger hasn't agreed to give what the budget-cutters want him to give?

The President. I told you, we are, all of us -- we haven't heard from all of the members of the Cabinet yet. We've been working at what is a very complicated task and a very large budget, and we're still working on that. And as soon as we're prepared to go to Congress with one, we'll go up there, but -- --

Q. Are you going to slow the rate of growth in defense, Mr. President? Are you going to slow the rate of growth in defense?

The President. There have been proposals with regard to the defense budget, also, and already there have been certain things that have been dropped from that budget.

Q. Well, is your goal still to cut the deficit by $100 billion; that is, in half, by 1989?

The President. Yes. To go the 4 - 3 - 2 percent of gross national product with regard to the deficit over the next -- [inaudible].

Q. When will you make a final determination, Mr. President?

Q. Will you really get any more out of domestic spending, Mr. President?

The President. Again, I'm not prepared to answer on the figures, but, yes, we're making progress.

Q. When will you decide on defense?

The President. Oh, I wish I knew. You wait and you hear everybody's input. And so far, with the scheduling of the day, you come to the end of a meeting and you haven't resolved all of the issues yet.

Q. Apparently you didn't change Senator Goldwater's mind on the MX.

The President. No, but I'll keep working on that.

Mr. Deaver. Can we give the Vice President his plate now? Sam [Sam Donaldson, ABC News], I want to give the Vice President number 2, if you don't mind.

The Vice President. We've got it. Thank you all for all you're doing. Thank you.

Secretary Dole. Thank you very much.

The President. I'm sorry. I didn't know that I interrupted something.

Note: The exchange began at 10:55 a.m. on the South Grounds of the White House, where reporters had assembled for the presentation of the first set of commemorative Inaugural license plates to the President.

Assistant to the President Michael K. Deaver, general chairman of the Committee for the 50th American Presidential Inaugural, made the presentation to the President. The Vice President and Secretary of Transportation Elizabeth H. Dole also participated in the cememony and received official Inaugural plates.