Remarks Announcing the Establishment of the Blue Ribbon Commission on Defense Management

June 17, 1985

Ladies and gentlemen, during the past 4 years we have made great progress in rebuilding our national defense and in confronting the challenge of effective defense management. Credit rightly goes to our civilian defense leadership, particularly Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger. It also goes to our men and women in uniform and to the American people for their support in our efforts.

We've accomplished a great deal, and we have much to be proud of, but there's still a great deal left to do. When our administration began its activities, the problem of defense management we knew would be demanding and difficult, almost as difficult as I had getting that sentence out. [Laughter] There were various barriers to efficient management, including legislative barriers, that stubbornly defied our efforts to remove them. And that's why I appointed an individual with unmatched management credentials when I appointed Cap Weinberger. And while overseeing our much-needed buildup of our defensive strength, Cap has done a tremendous job at ferreting out waste and fraud. That's one of the reasons why you hear about it in the news.

But a public misconception has developed from all of this, a misconception born, at least in part, of a drumbeat of propaganda and demagoguery that denies the real accomplishment of these last 4 years. The situation reminds me of the old saying, ``Don't clean the skeletons out of the closet. They'll accuse you of murder.''

Well, we've ignored that advice in this administration. When Secretary Weinberger came to the Defense Department he pledged, with my full and continuing support, to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of defense management. And he went straight for the skeletons in the closet, and there were many. Cap has put in place many management reforms, and more proposals are being considered, both by the Department and Congress.

I think all of the reforms and all of the new proposals should at this time be evaluated and reviewed. And, so, today I've decided, at the recommendation of Secretary Weinberger and in consultations with Congress, to appoint an independent, bipartisan, Blue Ribbon Commission on Defense Management. They will review the progress already made in improving management and procurement. And we've also asked them to look at the organization and decisionmaking procedures at Defense and give us their recommendations.

In addition, the Commission will study and report on the congressional oversight process as it relates to the Defense Department. It's my expectation that the Commission will send us an eventual blueprint for action that will provide for continuing improvement in the Department of Defense's peacetime and combative effectiveness.

This is an important task, and, so, I've asked David Packard to serve as Chairman of the Commission. He is a former Deputy Secretary of Defense, as you know, with an impeccable record that includes wide experience in and knowledge of our defense system, the defense industry, and government. I will soon ask a number of other leaders in the business, legal, and academic communities to join us in this effort.

And may I point out here that few things are more important to me than the work that this commission will do. Waste and fraud by corporate contractors are more than a ripoff of the taxpayer -- they're a blow to the security of our nation. And this the American people cannot and should not tolerate.

I want to thank Bill Dickinson of Alabama and Bill Roth of Delaware, who have been working on this issue in the House and Senate. They and many other Members of the Congress have given us sound advice on the creation of this commission.

I hope that Congress as a whole will support this effort and that together all of us -- the administration, the Commission, the Congress -- will be able to establish the bipartisan support needed to ensure a strong defense for America and its allies.

I thank you, and now, Mr. Packard.

Note: The President spoke at 2:10 p.m. in the Rose Garden at the White House. Prior to the announcement, the President met with David Packard and Secretary Weinberger in the Oval Office. They were then joined by members of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees.