Interview With John Culea of KFMB-TV, San Diego
Technology Reinvestment Project
Mr. Culea. All right. Well, we'll see if we can put you on the hot seat here. [Laughter] How do you balance a cash award in this announcement today to one company with its potential negative job impact on a competitor?
Wouldn't tax incentives be more equitable?
The President. No, I disagree with that. For one thing, these awards are designed to develop defense technologies for commercial purposes. And they were the result of a competitive process. For those who were not picked, let me say we're coming back next year with over $500 million in new funds for these kinds of projects, and we will be doing more.
But the reason it's important to do it this way is that we have all these defense technologies that need to be put to work in the commercial sector. And in terms of the award in San Diego, let me remind you that there are literally thousands of bridges in this country, thousands, that need repair and a lot of new ones that need to be built. So if this technology can be put to work in doing that, they shouldn't be able to push anybody else with a genuinely competitive product out of the market, because there are so many thousands of bridges that need repair—and cities and local governments and States are just beginning to face up to those responsibilities—and because in the 1980's this country walked away from its infrastructure needs. So, I don't see that as a problem, particularly in this sector of the economy.
Mr. Culea. You mentioned awards to Redondo Beach, Fullerton, I believe two others. Most of the awards, though, were out of State. We have 250,000 defense jobs that were lost here. What do you say to those people who need help?
The President. Most of the awards were out of State, but California got the lion's share of the awards, ran away with the contest, as well you would expect, because there are so many defense workers out of work and because there's so much technology capacity. So the State did very well on this first round, and I would expect that there will be more in the second, third, and fourth rounds.
Keep in mind, this was just the first of four rounds between now and November, and then next year we'll have another $500 million-plus to put in a whole new round of these projects. So I would say to them, I'm going to fund as many of these projects as possible; I'm working as hard as possible.
I also would point out that in the San Diego area, two other things have been done which will help in the base closing and reorganization. There will be a net gain of 5,200 jobs in the San Diego area, and we just released from export controls $37 billion worth of computer, supercomputer, and telecommunications equipment, which will open new markets and create many thousands of jobs in California; many of them will be in southern California.
So I'm moving as quickly as I can on this, and I hope that the Members of the Congress will all be as supportive as Congresswoman Lynn Schenk has been of this project, because if we had more folks like her who were willing to fund this project at higher levels, we can move even more quickly and help even more California working people.
Mr. Culea. This being a Navy-Marine town, there is concern that our military be prepared for anything in the future. What can you say to that as far as defense conversion and our ability to be prepared for future contingencies?
The President. The head of naval research was here today with me, Admiral Pelaez. He made the point that in a very profound way, this program we announced will help to keep our defense strong, because we know that the defense budget's going to be reduced. This program will help to use the commercial research and development sector to keep the defense technology strong, even as we're using defense technologies to create jobs in the commercial sector. That is, by putting the two together, we'll be able to get a bigger bang for our defense dollar. So that even though there will be some reduction in defense spending, we'll be able to keep ahead of all of the other countries in the world and as far as we need to be on technology.
Mr. Culea. Could you give us an idea of the control of this money in some defense contractors? Jobs have been cut, profits go up, and then bonuses are given to top executives. What about the control of the money going to these firms?
The President. Well, first of all, let me explain what happens now. We have announced the projects that were worthy and that won the right to participate in this project. Now, what will happen is the group of people from our Government's side who work in this area will negotiate with each and every company to make sure that they put up their share of the money and to determine how they will spend this money.
This money, in almost every case, is not an overwhelming amount of money for these companies. What this money will be necessary for is to actually invest in developing this new product and marketing it commercially. So there won't be much of an opportunity for a rakeoff here, otherwise the whole thing will collapse. And they have to agree in advance not only on a contribution schedule from their point of view but on what the money's going to be spent on. And I think we'll avoid those abuses.
Mr. Culea. All right. Mr. President, thank you so much for sharing your thoughts, and I hope you get a better seat next time.
The President. Thank you very much.
NOTE: The interview began at 12:02 p.m. The President spoke via satellite from Room 459 of the Old Executive Office Building.
William J. Clinton, Interview With John Culea of KFMB-TV, San Diego Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/217710