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Department of Transportation - Remarks and a Question-and-Answer Session With Department Employees

February 24, 1977

SECRETARY ADAMS. Mr. President, as you can see, the Department of Transportation loves you.

It is my very great pleasure today to introduce to you the man who leads all of us in this Nation, who I think has done a marvelous thing in coming to the various departments, letting all of us know that he cares, seeing to it that the things that we do he knows about-- and, believe me, he considers them important. He asks all of the time, "What are you doing and how well are. you doing it?"

To the members of the Department of Transportation, I present to you the President of the United States.


First of all, let me say how grateful I am that you've let me come over to be with you and that you've been nice enough to leave your jobs to assemble here for a few minutes. I feel good about leaving my job at the White House to come over and be with you, too.


Your new Secretary, Brock Adams, has done a remarkable job already. He's one of the few Cabinet members I have had who, in every one of his decisions, has made a lot of people angry. I think he occupies, also, the honored position of being the first Cabinet officer who caused the White House to be picketed--with his I-66 decision.

One thing I would like to say is this: Your Department is the center of the largest expenditure of our gross national product of any other. Twenty percent of our GNP goes for transportation. And this means that in many different ways you, individually, the agency within which you work, the Department as a whole, touches American people's lives.

We have a need for a comprehensive approach to the challenges that come from transportation decisions. Energy, environment, the care for our precious ocean resources, safety, the movement of people---your decisions impact on every person's life. And I want to be sure that Brock Adams, who has my total confidence, is able to bring together among all of you an approach that is in itself cohesive and understandable, where there are no sacred fiefdoms within the Transportation Department.

It's very difficult for individual members of a large department like your own., 110,000 employees, to see how your contribution is significant. And I want to be sure that in every instance, when possible, that the Secretary of Transportation lets all of you know what is going on in other parts of this tremendous and very important organization.

I think you can do a better job if you work in waterways or rail or airlines or surface transportation, rapid transit, highways, the ocean, if you understand one another's problems. So the comprehensive nature of what is done is the responsibility of Secretary Brock Adams. And his ability to let you know what we are trying to face will let you do a better job for all of us.

You also have an advantage in that 90 percent of the employees in this Department are outside Washington, in other parts of the Nation, seeing at firsthand the delivery of services and care in the transportation field. That will help a great deal as well.

And the last point I want to make is this: We are partners in this process. I'm no better than you are. We're servants of the American people, and we share a tremendous opportunity and responsibility. I want you to feel a part of that partnership.

I think at this time it will be good for me to answer your questions. I don't mind getting wet a little if you don't. I think this will show that democracy exists between the White House and the Transportation Department.



Q. Mr. President, I would like to ask the question, what is the present status of the EEO affirmative action plans in the Federal agencies? In other words--

THE PRESIDENT. I understand.

Q.---that will enable women to move up in the professional field and, also, what you propose to do to see that these affirmative action plans are factual statistics?

THE PRESIDENT. The question, I guess everybody could hear, is about EEOC and particularly about women. We have much more than tripled the number of women who have been selected at the top management levels of the various departments. We've not yet gone far enough. We now have seven different Federal agencies responsible for insuring equal employment opportunities. We have a backlog of cases that consists of 130,000 cases. It takes an average of about 3 years to settle a complaint.

I'm in the process now of choosing someone to head up the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, who I think will be a person of nationwide stature and in whom you will have confidence. But I'm totally dedicated, personally, to rooting out the last vestiges of discrimination against any human being who works in the Federal Government over whom we have any input because of race or sex or religion. And I promise you that this will be an undying and constant commitment on my part. And every member of the Cabinet, including Brock Adams, is committed to the same thing.


Q. Mr. President, as a budgeteer, I'm very interested in your zero-based budgeting plans for '79. We are now in the process of preparing our multi-year plan, of which the '79 is the base year.

When do you intend on releasing your zero-based budgeting plan, and how do you propose to get the information to the levels where budgets are formulated; for example, OMB circular or through seminar, whatever?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, we will initiate zero-base budgeting in time to prepare the fiscal year '79 budget in its entirety, using this process.

The first stage of zero-base budgeting will be for me to meet with the different members of the Cabinet and other agency heads, probably no later than April. And in that session, we'll establish broad policies, delineations of priorities. And then we'll follow that up with your participation between April and perhaps August. During that period, we'll take every program that this Department carries out, whether it's been in effect 20 years or 10 years or whether it's seeing its initiation for the first time next year. Those programs will be placed in an order of priority and financed from the top down.

Also, we'll require that everyone in this Department at the foreman level or above fills out an analysis of what you are doing, so that you can know with one side of one sheet of paper how your job is being performed, how many people you have in the past and need in the future--how much money you spend.

So, two basic things will be accomplished. One is to make sure that transportation funds are spent in the most effective way in the future and, secondly, you will be the one to prepare the basic elements of the 1979 fiscal year budget. So the next budget that is prepared will be prepared using in its entirety, zero-base budgeting.


Q. Mr. President, first of all, buenos tardes. [Good afternoon.]

THE PRESIDENT. Buenos tardes.

Q. This week's issue of Time magazine states that after 1 month in office, dozens of top jobs in your administration still remain unfilled.


Q. It cites as examples the Agriculture Department, where there is no Deputy Secretary, no General Counsel, and none of its six allotted Assistant Secretaries.

The minority community, Mr. President, in this country and, in particular, the Hispanic community, is very distressed over the fact that you have failed to appoint Hispanics to significant top-level positions in your administration, and specifically in this Department of Transportation.

Would you comment, please, on the appointment of Hispanics to top-level posts in your administration and in this Department?


Secretary Adams just informed me that one of his top positions was offered to a Spanish-speaking citizen, and he declined. We are looking now for another one.

I think in the earlier reports that I got, we had already tripled the number of toplevel positions being filled by Spanish speaking Americans. We had doubled the number of black Americans, more than tripled the number of women in the top levels. But this is a never-ending search for good people. And I'm aware of the fact that in the past, these particular groups have been excluded from positions not only at the top level but all the way through the Department.

We are moving slowly. Some positions that have in the past been filled will never be filled, because we feel that there was an excessive number of people at the top levels or positions in major departments. Others are being delayed because of FBI and Internal Revenue Service checks. We have just sent another batch of recommendations to the Senate for confirmation today.

But I can assure you--and there is no way I can convince you until you see the results--that you will be satisfied when the complete process is terminated on the selection of Spanish-speaking Americans, black Americans and women and others, who have been excluded in the past not only from the top levels of Government but for positions like Federal Judges or U.S. Attorneys or diplomats and other positions. We will take care of that, and I think you can trust me to do it.


Q. Mr. President, I would just like to speak for all of the minorities, men and women who are incarcerated throughout the United States of America. And I'd like to see some type of affirmative program established, some type of Federal watchdog agency, to prevent injustice, to prevent minority men and women being railroaded into prisons throughout the United States of America.

Thank you.


SECRETARY ADAMS. One more, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT. Do I have another question?


Q. Mr. President, I'd like to know what effect do you think the conviction of Larry Flynt, publisher of Hustler, will have upon freedom of the press in the United States?

THE PRESIDENT. I don't know how to answer that question. As you know, this is a judicial decision over which the President has no control, and that case is being appealed. I think it would not be proper for me to comment on it, as President, about what ought to be taking place in the future.


To go back quickly to the previous question, the Solicitor General of our country, working very closely with but independently of the Attorney General, is a very distinguished black judge named McCree, from Detroit, Michigan. So I would think that under Griffin Bell's leadership and with his very good representation in the new organizational structure of the Attorney General's office in the Department of Justice, that we would not have innocent people going to jail any more who happen to be black.

I didn't answer the previous person because it was not in the form of a question. But I think you'll be satisfied with that, too.

Maybe one more question before we all get wet.1

1 It was raining at the time of the question and-answer session.


Q. All right. This is going to be a short and simple question. I know you are hard up for time.

I'm interested in serving as a volunteer on Rosalynn's mental health committee. I've had experience in the northern Virginia area, and I believe the national level would be more effective. How could I accomplish my purpose?

The second portion of this is, when are you going square dancing again? We missed you at the last one. You were to show up but you never did come. This was on the 21 st of January.

THE PRESIDENT. I know. Well, my wife and I have done a lot of square dancing in our lives, both the old-fashioned kind and the more structured, Western kind of square dancing. And we are sorry we missed the square dance on the 21st. There was a limit of how much we could do in those first 2 days. I can't give you a specific answer.

I can say that if you are interested in serving on my wife's effort to bring together a comprehensive mental health program, contact her directly. And if you have trouble with contacting my wife, there is no place that you can appeal to. She's the top person in the family.

Q. Thank you, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT. Let me say one other thing in closing. I don't claim to know all the answers. I come here to let you know of my interest in what you are doing. I've come here to let you know that I have complete confidence in Brock Adams, who is going to be, I think, a superb leader and a great Secretary of Transportation.

Third, I want you to know how intensely interested everyone who lives in our Nation is in what you are doing here and what you will do in the future. I want you to know about my personal interest in the evolution of a comprehensive transportation policy which we don't have.

I also want to be sure that there is a minimum amount of compartmentalization in your own Department. We need a cohesive approach to transportation.

And also, I come to let you know, as I said a little earlier, that we are equal partners in this effort. I'm no better than you. You are no better than the people who look to you for service throughout the country, in local and State office, and also among private citizens. And I want to be sure that all of us feel a sense that we can make changes, and that those changes will be beneficial and that, because of them, you professional public servants can have a more productive career life. I want to be sure that whatever changes are made through zero-base budgeting, through reorganization, are initiated by you.

And I want to assure you, also, that one of the primary considerations that I will always have is to make sure that your own lives, your own families, are not disturbed by changes brought about through improvement which affects your own careers. We're not going to fire people as a result of reorganization. We're not going to demote people as a result of reorganization. We might have to transfer some, but if so, we'll train you at Government expense. And I want to make sure that you are part of the whole process.

I'll do the best I can to be a good President. I'll do the best I can to make you proud of me. And I hope all of us together can restore to our Government the fine professionalism and the sensitivity about our people's needs and the efficiency and economy and good management that the American people deserve, so that we can prove that the Government itself, which we represent, can be equal to the quality of those who look to us for both leadership and for service.

So I'm with you on it. I believe we can make the American people proud of us and our administration.

Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 1: 47 p.m. in the Department of Transportation building's center courtyard. Prior to his remarks, he made a brief tour of the Department's Information Center.

Jimmy Carter, Department of Transportation - Remarks and a Question-and-Answer Session With Department Employees Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/242967

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