Jimmy Carter photo

Memphis, Tennessee Question-and-Answer Session at the National Democratic Conference Workshop on Defense Policies and Arms Control.

December 09, 1978

GOVERNOR-ELECT RILEY. Mr. President, in behalf of the delegates and guests, press, and those present, we certainly welcome you to this panel. I would want to know, sir, will you have a statement? The other panelists have made a brief statement. If not, we would proceed with questions.

THE PRESIDENT. I think, not knowing what's already been said, it would be better to take advantage of my brief time here and answer questions, Dick.

GOVERNOR-ELECT RILEY. All right, sir. I recognize Delegate Nick Lucy from Iowa, who was in the process of stating a question. Limit it to submarines, if you could. [Laughter] Go ahead, Nick.


Q. I'd like to commend you for your past submarine record, Mr. President. Having served in submarines myself for $ years, I can appreciate your efforts in your earlier days, there.

My question was in regard to the Trident submarine program. I've heard when it was discussed initially that it was too expensive, and we could refit present submarines with the same type missile and therefore save a great deal of money. This was, of course, of great concern to all of us.

However, having also served in the submarine service, I'm concerned about the time at sea, that our crews spend there. And it's my understanding, according to the Navy Department—I've received from information to this effect—that even though the ship will spend about 1 percent more time at sea, the crews will spend approximately 35 percent more time at home. This is not only healthy for the crews on these Trident submarines, but it also gives me the impression that it would make us less dependent on overseas bases.

And I'd like to know where we're going with this program and just how the overall cost factor has been adjusted.

THE PRESIDENT. The Trident submarine decision was made, as you know, several years ago. And I've assessed it since I've been President. I think it was a good decision. The ultimate way to measure the cost of a defense system like the submarine missile program is the total lifetime of the offensive or defensive weapon capability, compared to costs, like per missile. I think the Trident is effective. It will permit the use of missiles which have a greater capability, both range and throw weight, which gives us a better deterrent factor. And the cost over the lifetime of the submarine is less than that of the older submarines outfitted with less effective missiles.

Also, as you know, a submarine, even the old fleet-type submarines, the first ones that I was on, have a limited lifetime, as do all other capital-type ships; 25 or 30 years is the maximum. So, we have to plan long ahead of time.

The last thing I'd like to say about the Trident submarine program is that because of the innovations in its design, there were early delays in the delivery of the first few Trident submarines. But my understanding now from the Defense Department is that we will stay on schedule in the future.

Q. Thank you, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT. It's a good system.

GOVERNOR-ELECT RILEY. Thank you so much. Any other panelists want to elaborate? All right, sir, the next question. They know who the boss is, I think. [Laughter]


Q. Howard Rosen from New Jersey, to any of the panelists. I was particularly pleased to observe the progress of interest in the nuclear nonproliferation efforts. And I wonder, Mr. Carter, if you or any of the other panelists would comment on where they stand now, particularly with respect to India.

THE PRESIDENT. I'd like to let John Culver answer that, because I think this is one area where the Congress really took the initiative. And I'm very proud of the achievements already on our nonproliferation program. And I think John Culver, who's been in the forefront of that effort, probably ought to be the one to answer the question.


THE PRESIDENT. I thank you, by the way, for having a reception for me, when I was a lonely candidate, in your home. [Laughter] Thank you very much.

SENATOR CULVER. Well, let me just say that as someone that has served in the Congress, now, for 14 years and been concerned with the United States taking a leadership in the area of arms control and other initiatives, it's enormously refreshing to have the opportunity to serve with a President who has the degree of commitment to these goals and objectives as President Carter has, not only in the area of increased efforts in bringing about a greater worldwide participation and compliance in nonproliferation treaty, but in other areas such as conventional arms restraint, where the President has been the one to take the leadership, not only by way of unilateral actions on United States conventional arms sales abroad, but certainly by way of appropriately initiating consultation with our allies and on a bilateral basis with the Soviet Union.

And of course, we have, as we've referred to, the very important SALT negotiations now, hopefully nearing fruition. We also have the mutual balanced force reduction efforts that I think we are on the verge of, hopefully, breaking the impasse, say, that's characterized those talks for the last 5 years. And, in addition, we have a situation where the comprehensive test ban treaty, hopefully, will also be coming on line, where we can get a mutually agreeable arrangement with the Soviet Union and the British and ourselves.

Now, the greatest problem, of course, is to get not only participation with regard to participation in the nonproliferation treaty but to get meaningful safeguards, to get meaningful methods of internationally policing those agreements so that they have enough teeth and viability to be credible. How do we monitor the problems of the traffic in terms of the sources for uranium? How do we put limitations on reprocessing of plants?

And I think, here again, the President, with regard to his efforts with the German Government and the French Government in those sales that were involved in Brazil, for example, and also in Pakistan-very courageous leadership by the President, I think-has very substantially reduced the momentum that was threatening to be completely out of control.

We still have some extremely difficult problems with regard to disposal of waste, with regard to continually working out some sort of international arrangements where there can be assured supplies. And, of course, we had the incredibly difficult problem of working out sufficient progress in these areas to bring enough international public opinion pressure on governments like the French and the Indian and the Chinese, so that we have not only an arms control regime that is effective but that we have maximum participation and involvement. And I don't think one could be working harder in those areas than the President. And we can only do whatever possible in the Congress to support those efforts.

THE PRESIDENT. Let me add one comment. The problem with nonproliferation is that we cannot stand in the way in our own country or in foreign countries of the development of peaceful use of atomic power to produce electricity and for other reasons. We support this program. But there needs to be a commitment on the part of a broad range of countries, not just us by ourselves, to prevent that from resulting in nuclear explosives anywhere.

So, under our own initiative, we now have 50 nations, at the top levels of government, even including heads of state, working on what we call an international fuel cycle study, nuclear fuel cycle study. And this has been going on now for, I think, about 15 months. And out of this will come some definite recommendations and commitments.

These nations, by the way, include the Soviet Union, all our European allies, South Africa, that we deliberately brought into the discussions because we were concerned about their taking the products of regular powerplants and turning them into explosives. This is a new thing that hasn't been well publicized. But it's an ongoing program, and we've been very pleased with that.

GOVERNOR-ELECT RILEY. Thank you, sir. I recognize the delegate to my left.


Q. Governor, my name is Jon Furman, delegate from the 22d CD [Congressional District] in California. I have a question about the new program for mobile-based missiles. My understanding is that in a series of relatively minor and inexpensive changes, the accuracy of our landbased missiles and the accuracy of the Soviet land-based missiles are both increasing dramatically. And we now have or will soon have the ability to destroy most of their land-based missiles, and they similarly now or soon will have the ability to threaten to destroy many of our land-based missiles. And my understanding is that some people in the Defense Department are suggesting a massive new program to this perceived threat or supposed threat of building mobile land-based missiles, either having several hundred missiles in several thousand silos and moving them at night so the Russians don't know where they are, or putting them in planes that can take off and land in short periods of time on short runways. But this program could cost from $30 to $50 billion, could require as much land, I've read, as the entire State of Connecticut.

And I was wondering, since we have our submarine-based forces, 30 submarines, each one having as much nuclear power as any other country in the world except the United States and the Soviet Union; we have our manned bomber forces; and perhaps, hopefully, these mobile land-based missiles might be a subject for SALT II or SALT III controls. How can we justify to our people spending $30 to $50 billion on a massive, new and, I think, unnecessary weapons program when we are reducing or we may have to reduce CETA jobs and health services and community development funds that—I mean, Fin from Pasadena, and I've seen how important and vital those are to the local cities and the social services?

GOVERNOR-ELECT RILEY. Thank you, sir. Let me ask Dr. Perry if he would, in behalf of Defense—if you would comment, Dr. Perry?

MR. PERRY. I'd make three comments relative to that question. First of all, it is true that both the Soviet Union and the United States have achieved greatly improved accuracies in their ICBM's, and, as a consequence, these ICBM's are capable of targeting silos. Therefore the silos are no longer a safe haven for missiles.

The second comment then, is, to the extent we believe it is desirable to preserve the deterrent effect of an ICBM, we will need to do something to improve that survivability.

The third comment is that the Department of Defense does not have a program which we are ready to recommend to the President yet as to the best way of doing this. And the reason we don't is precisely because of the problems which you cited: the expense, the environmental impact, and the complication of trying to make the missiles sufficiently mobile to give them the degree of survivability that would be realistic. And we're still working on that program.

Q. Do we really need any program at all?

MR. PERRY. The question is whether we can maintain essential equivalence with the forces of the Soviet Union without the ICBM. We have clearly an option of—instead of making the ICBM forces survivable, we have the option of increasing the strength in the submarine forces and the bomber forces. I think that's a trade-off which is the better way to go. Improving the submarine forces and improving the bombing forces are not without expense and not without environmental impact also. So, that's simply a balance which is still in judgment at this time.

THE PRESIDENT. I might say that the answer to the last question—I think it is necessary, and we are trying to accomplish this in two ways, to avoid that imbalance that might evolve if the Soviets ever get a demonstrable advantage over us. The most efficacious way to handle it is by stringent SALT agreements.

In the upcoming SALT agreement, we will have a substantial reduction in the limits. The reduction will not be a constraint on us, because we have not built at the rate the Soviets have. If the SALT II agreement goes through as we contemplate it, the Soviets will have to destroy several hundred of their existing missiles.

And part of the SALT II agreement which has not been publicized is that it outlines or reestablishes officially a commitment to proceed without delay on SALT III. I contemplate a much more drastic cut in overall missile levels of all kinds in SALT III than we will be able to accomplish in SALT II.

As you know, early in 1977 we proposed a drastic cut to the Soviets. They rejected it, in retrospect, I think, primarily because Brezhnev had a great deal of personal investment in the Vladivostok agreement, and he thought we ought to consummate Vladivostok before we moved on more drastic cuts. And if and when Brezhnev and I meet at a summit conference to wrap up the SALT II agreement, high on the agenda will be a SALT III discussion for much more drastic cuts in overall missile levels than SALT II envisions.

Of course, the other facet of it—and much less attractive—is, under any given SALT agreement, no matter what the levels are for bombers, for cruise missiles, for sea-launched ICBM-type missiles, or for silo missiles, or for mobile missiles, to make sure .that we do retain this rough equivalency, because if the Soviets have, in the eyes of the world, a demonstrable advantage, if they feel that with relative impunity they can attack us, it puts us at a decided disadvantage in all sorts of political and economic ways. And we would lose our beneficial influence throughout the world for peace and let the Soviets dominate in the minds of those who are looking for strength in their partnership.

So, we're trying to agree completely with you, to cut down on the overall level, to maintain a rough equivalency. And I think in SALT III, we'll be much more successful. My hope is and my tentative belief is that Brezhnev wants the same thing I do, a drastic cut in SALT III.

GOVERNOR-ELECT RILEY. I recognize Senator Culver for comment.

SENATOR CULVER. I think, just so perhaps there's a general agreed understanding of what we are talking about in the particular context of a mobile missile response or a multiple aim point arrangement to a perceived Soviet threat, is the situation where the Soviet heavy missiles, as they continually are MIRVed with more warheads and as the accuracy increases as a rate that we anticipate, it is theoretically possible that sometime in the mid-1980 time frame, 1985, that some Soviet leader could contemplate a first strike on United States land-based missile sites, where we have now some 1,054. This scenario would conceive of a Soviet political leader making the decision in 1985 to initiate a surprise attack, assumedly without warning, against those United States land-based missiles system sites and silos.

And it's expected that the accuracy that could be contemplated and anticipated at that time might reach proportions that would permit them conceivably and theoretically and somehow possibly, technically, to eliminate a very substantial number, perhaps 75, perhaps 80 percent, perhaps 90 percent of that land-based missile force. And under that particular fact situation, there is concern that somehow we do not have sufficient retaliatory capability to maintain credible deterrence against that theoretical threat.

Now, frankly, it's important to keep in mind that at the present time, the United States and our strategic nuclear inventory has 9,200 strategic warheads. The Soviet Union has 4,500. The bomb that we dropped at Hiroshima was 13 kilotons. The smallest bomb we have in our total inventory of 9,200 strategic nuclear warheads today is on the Poseidon submarine, and it is three times, at least, more powerful than Hiroshima.

The Soviet Union has 4,500 strategic nuclear warheads at the present time. As Dr. Perry has indicated, their numbers are likely to increase. But our 9,200 are spread in the submarines, where they're survivable in the ocean deep, and in our bomber force and in our land-based systems. The Soviets have 70 percent of their strategic inventory, those 4,500 on landbased alone.

Now, if you're a Soviet political leader and someone comes in to you and says, "Comrade, I suggest today that we fire all our land-based missiles, that we fire sufficient missiles in our inventory to strike out maybe 80 to 90 percent of that United States land-based system." And you say,

"Well, you suggest that? .... Yes." "Well, will they work? Nothing else in the Soviet Union works. We've never tested these and tried. Will they work? Can you confidently tell me that you'll have that degree of accuracy, that they are reliable, that if we fire them, the President of the United States, who sees them coming and has 15 minutes to make the judgment as to where they are going, whether he will launch, on warning—will he launch on warning, the President of the United States? Will he launch under attack? And if he does, those 2,500 missiles of ours, heading for that land-based system, won't have anything to take out when they get there, because ours will all be fired."

Now, if the United States of America sits back and watches the preparation for that surprise attack, does nothing, and in the worst case, accepts that initiated strike, absorbs it, guess what? In our submarine force and in our submarines, it's estimated that even if that system works and they avoid the problems of fratricide, they still have to contend with what's left in our land-based system, what's left in our submarines at sea, what's left in our bomber force that is off the ground and airborne. And you know the total inventory that would be left, even under that inconceivable, mad folly of that theoretical attack that the Soviets may theoretically contemplate but could never confidently execute? We would have remaining, available for an assured retaliatory, destructive strike on the Soviet Union more strategic warheads than the Soviet Union even has today in their total inventory.

So, I think that the threat that we're talking about is theoretical, and we must not let these threats by bloodless war garners and talk about perception force us into decisions in billions and billions and billions of dollars of overkill or potentially stabilizing actions which create a far less stable international strategic environment.

Now, we have time to study and resolve these issues carefully and prudently and responsibly. Frankly, if we had pushed ahead with the so-called trench plan that was favored only a year ago, we would have had a vulnerable $30 billion system. And yet there were efforts to move forward with that.

Now, what we fear technically, the Soviet leaders cannot rely on. And even endangered Minuteman preserves the advantages of the triad and retaliation, and it justifies the wisdom of our early strategic military doctrine to diversify and give flexibility and survivability to our strategic inventory.

Many problems need to be resolved: cost; environmental impact; technical feasibility, since we're talking about an area that would require the size of Connecticut; security while moving missiles, and of where they are in comparison with alternatives. And when we do the one thing we can be sure of, the Soviet Union will do it tomorrow, and then what kind of security do we have in the world?

And finally, Mr. President, and Mr. Chairman—I don't mean to take too much time, but one last point: that the multiple aim point system, in my judgment, is necessarily tied to the SALT negotiations, because MAP, a multiple aim point system of any kind, without SALT doesn't make sense, since a multiple aim point system would be no good unless the Soviet Union warhead numbers are limited and unless the Soviet Union is prevented from deception on its own systems.

So, both those protections are now currently being negotiated in terms of warhead limitation and restraint on the Soviet inventory and, of course, keeping them within an arms control agreed regime that will afford us opportunities to monitor and to check the nature and pace of the strategic program in the Soviet Union.


I recognize the delegate to my right. Yes, ma'am.


Q. Yes, my name is Deborah Hibbard, and I am a delegate from Maine. And I would like to ask Senator Culver two questions that are of great concern to me and, I think, to all of us in this room.

The kind of theoretical maze that you have just articulated terrifies me, because you are talking about us being number one and yet how do we stop this arms race? I think that it's very conceivable that at the same time that you're sitting here describing a first-strike capability over the next 10 years on the part of the Soviet Union, that there is someone there, sitting there being very concerned about the first-strike capability that we have the potential for developing. And what I would like to ask you is, where does this end?

SENATOR CULVER. I think it's really the most valid question that one could pose, because, clearly, I think if we are unable to politically stay on top and cap the insanity of the current arms race and its proliferation, then the mathematical likelihood that mankind will destroy itself becomes increasingly inevitable; that by accident or design and miscalculation, these weapons will be used. And once that is initiated, in any form, in my judgment, it'll be impossible to contain and avoid a total nuclear holocaust.

It seems to me that the President of the United States is embarking most credibly and most courageously in the right directions, and that is to try to seek a cap. Frankly, in my judgment, SALT I and SALT II today we still have not had any meaningful, genuine arms reduction in the history of arms control. What we've done today is seek agreements and achieve agreements in areas where we don't have any competition yet—and those areas that are easy.

Now, even in SALT I, in SALT II, you can make a case, in my judgment, that those agreements, to a great extent, have been vulnerable to the charge that even getting together forces a very careful, obsessive preoccupation with every variation in the respective balance. Any asymmetry in the static indicators on either side are then scrutinized by our negotiators. And if we don't have 10 green peas and we got 4 white ones-and the bean counts, everybody suddenly says we have to be a mirrored image of every conceivable theoretical capability of the other side.

So, the rough equivalence that one can have without total symmetrical relationship is often put aside. And the result of SALT I and even SALT II, to a great extent, one can argue, is to push up development and production in many systems. Now, the problem today is that our political courage and leadership and imagination has not kept pace with the mind-boggling acceleration of technical developments, technological breakthroughs.

In 1970, when the United States had the leadership on MIRV development, many of us in the Congress went to the President and we went to others and we tried to get an agreement with the Soviet Union to not MIRV their weapons. And we couldn't get an agreement on that. We couldn't do it. The Soviets then have gone to MIRVing, MIRVing their heavy systems.

Now, today we meet and say that our land-based systems are vulnerable because the Soviets are MIRVing, and now we got to have a mobile system, the M-X, to deal with that threat. That wasn't created by arms control; it was created because of a lack of an agreement. Now, hopefully, SALT II will set the stage for meaningful, substantial reductions in SALT III, as President Garter has very properly made reference to. And then, and only then, can we hope for substantial reductions.

In SALT II, under the tentative outline of the agreement being contemplated, it would be the first time the Soviet Union would be called upon to dismantle some 300 of their already deployed land-based systems, which is about 10 percent of their current land-based force and not an insignificant thing. But they will be taking out the old and tired systems and not the new ones. And if you can criticize this agreement, that it isn't enough arms control-but you certainly can't criticize the President of the United States, in my judgment, for not doing everything in his power to making it as meaningful as possible.

Q. I guess what really concerns me is that we're caught in this theoretical thinking. And the other thing is that we must remember that 30 years ago we were the ones who exploded that first atomic bomb, and the arms race commenced at that point. And I think that it's up to us to say no. And I'm not very confident in this SALT III and SALT IV and SALT V and SALT VI—you know, always hoping. I think that as long as we feel that we have—somebody feels that they have to maintain an edge, we're caught. And I think that we have to admit that we're caught.


The other question that I would like to ask you is that you made a statement that the military strength of the U.S. must begin with a strong economy. And what I would like to hear you speak to for a minute or two is what is the relationship between defense spending and inflation?

SENATOR CULVER. Well, the question is, our strong defense, as I mentioned in my initial statement, begins with a strong economy at home. And secondly, in that regard, what is the relationship of defense spending to inflation? Well, clearly, defense spending, however much is necessary, is, relatively speaking, the most inflationary dollar you can spend, because there's no market— [applause] . And the reason for that is that there is no market for those goods other than a battlefield or a warehouse or a motor pool or wherever it might be.

Now, secondly, as far as the defense budget's effect on the economy, we hear much about job creation. But if we're going to spend Government money to create jobs, there are far more labor-intensive ways to do that, in education and transportation and health policy. And defense spending is not targeted to areas of chronic unemployment, but it's rather mostly white collar and highly technical people in a relative sense.

Now, having said that, I do think that when we speak about security, we have to keep in mind that it's more than just the defense budget. It is the health of our people; it's their morale; it's their political confidence. And it's most importantly the economy, and I think the great challenge that President Carter, of course, has is how to honor, really, essentially, three commitments: one, in a tentative way to increase our defense budget in cooperation with our European allies; secondly, in cooperation with our European allies, to pledge to reduce inflation and the deficit in the United States of America. And it's very hard to reconcile all these inherently conflicting objectives and goals, although they're all equally admirable in many ways in a relative sense.

But clearly—the 3-percent commitment, for example, that's been discussed about—and in fairness to the President, he hasn't made a final decision, it's my understanding; I'm sure he'd want to speak to this—but the 3-percent commitment may conflict with the other two objectives. And even your question of how much you have available in real growth in the budget to spend on defense is ironically related to just how successful you are in dampening down inflation and reducing your deficit, because when we speak of real growth, we're talking about real growth over the rate of inflation.

If you anticipate the rate of inflation to be at 7 percent, you want 3 percent real growth. You've got one figure. If you can get inflation down to 6 percent, you've got 4 percent real growth with the same budget figures and targets.

So, these are moving targets and they're very elusive and they are interrelated. But clearly, I think it's one of the great challenges, of course, to the President to make these allocations of domestic resource recommendations in the document of the Federal budget, so that our true security interest is truly being advanced and the appropriate proportions for defense and the domestic and social needs of America are respected.

Q. Well, with all theory aside, I would just like to say, let it

Q. Mr. Chairman, there are a lot of people here and the President of the United States. How about getting her off and letting us hear from the President?

THE PRESIDENT. I don't think we can take up all morning for this.

GOVERNOR-ELECT RILEY. Thank you. Thank you, ma'am. Mr. President, would you like to comment?

THE PRESIDENT. I'd like to—I've got to leave in just a minute, and I wanted to say one thing.

We spend about 5 percent of our gross national product on defense. The estimates are that the Soviets spend between 13 and 15 percent of their gross national product on defense. Senator Culver and I are very strong allies, and we're in harmony on almost everything. But to say that we are wasting money or to insinuate that we might be wasting money because we build weapons that are never used and that rust away in the warehouse is exactly what we hope. We build weapons for peace and to let the world know that our Nation is strong. And I hope that when we build a Trident submarine, or when we build ICBM's, or when we build a tank, or when we build a rocket or an airplane, that it will never be used, that it will never be used. And only the accurate knowledge in the Kremlin that we are strong and that we are going to stay strong and not vulnerable is the only guarantee that we will not have to use our weapons and not have to expend the lives of our young people in combat.

And as you well know, there is no way to evolve a budget and to keep it secret. The budget will be revealed to the American people early next year, to the Congress for a decision. And I think we have so far had a very well-balanced assessment of our total resources, and a well-balanced commitment of those resources between international affairs and domestic affairs, between social programs and defense programs.

The last thing I'd like to say is this: It takes two nations to negotiate an agreement. And if I could have unilaterally sat down in the Oval Office and written a SALT agreement, it might be different from what I had to negotiate over the last 20 months with the Soviets.

Again, I think we will have negotiated a very fine SALT II agreement, and we have personally fought for much more drastic reductions than the Soviets have yet been willing to accept. This is a continuing process. It's been going on for years, even decades. And my commitment is, as I said in my inaugural address, to remove the threat of nuclear weapons completely from the world. I don't know if I'll accomplish this while I'm in office, but that's my goal. And I'm going to do the best I can to achieve that goal as President of this country.

GOVERNOR-ELECT RILEY. I recognize the delegate to my left.


Q. Thank you very much. My name is John Morgan, and I'm a delegate from Pennsylvania, from Butler County, North Allegheny County.

Mr. President, in the newspapers and, oh, just generally over the past year, I've just been reading a tremendous amount of things about the Volunteer Army, the condition of the personnel in the Armed Forces in general. I know that when there is no active war, the military doesn't really keep everybody too much in shape. I know there's a difficulty with getting recruits when there's no real concrete threat. But at the same time-I was a draftee myself—I really can't see why or how we can leave the quality of our personnel with these instruments of death that we invent and the great need that we have—I cannot see how we can leave our personnel deteriorate to the point where it's a threat, or even considered to be a threat in the newspapers. I really feel that there's a need for a draft system, that there's a need for a reconsideration of the present volunteer system in the Army that should be made.

Now, part of the problem, it's a question of looking at your own people and saying, well, you know, you're not doing a job. This is terribly difficult, and you don't want to do that. It breaks the morale down right there. But the thing is that it's quite clear to me that the time has now come or is coming in the immediate future where we're going to have to reconsider, partly because of the reductions of the SALT talks and partly because of the change of the physical needs of the amounts and numbers of people in the Armed Forces, we'll have to reconsider whether or not we need a draft system. And I'd like to have your comments concerning that.

THE PRESIDENT. As you know, I think under President Nixon's administration and with the strong support in the Congress, the voluntary military service system was put into effect, and the draft was eliminated. I had some concerns about it then, but it was a decision made, and we are living with it well.

I think the allegations that the present quality of military service personnel is low are erroneous. The military commanders with whom I meet regularly, the assessments of performance that are done on a fairly scientific and objective and accurate basis show that we do have a very high level of quality in our armed services. Sometimes we have coming into the armed services as volunteers young men and women who don't have a high academic background. We have corrective programs in the Armed Forces, as we did to some degree during wartime, to bring their educational level up, to take advantage of the talent that they inherently have.

If our country ever should turn back to a draft system—and this has constantly been under assessment, ever since the voluntary system was initiated—I think Senator Sam Nunn, Senator Stennis, for instance, have been very interested in assessing whether or not it would be advisable—it ought to be substantially different from the draft system we had before.

I never thought it was fair. I thought it was extremely unfair to give exemptions, for instance, for all young Americans who had the financial resources to stay in college. I think in the future if we should have a draft system, it ought to be absolutely universal. And if we have to take a limited number of young people into the Armed Forces, they ought to be on drawing lots; and whether somebody's in college or working on a farm or relatively illiterate, they ought to be handled in the same, exact way.

Q. Mr. President, wouldn't you feel it's now the time to have a universal draft system—

THE PRESIDENT. [ don't know about that.

Q. Since it's peacetime?

THE PRESIDENT. I think the answer is the same as you suggested and as I gave. The best thing to do is to constantly assess it. And that is being done. But no conclusions have yet been reached. And I think for the President to express an opinion kind of short circuits the accurate assessment in which I've not yet been involved.

Maybe I can stay for 5 minutes; maybe a short answer.

GOVERNOR-ELECT RILEY. I recognize the delegate to my right.


Q. My name is David Noble from the 17th District in Ohio. And I sincerely agree with what Senator Culver said, that the security of this Nation rests on our economy.

Mr. President, it seems to me that the fundamental tool of our economy is energy. Therefore, I would like to know why we are not making a greater effort to develop the new energy sources that are going to be available to us once we make the tremendous technological effort that's going to be necessary to do things like building satellites in space that can send energy back via microwaves and photoelectric cells.

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I'll be very brief with that. I'm going from here to a meeting on the economy. I'm trying to attend as many of the sessions as I can.

I am personally not in favor at this time of any substantial commitment to a satellite-type power-producing station, because its cost and the technological problems involved are prohibitive. But I would say that our shift toward solar energy is going to be substantial even in the 1980 tight fiscal year budget. And I don't have any final figures and haven't made final decisions, but I would say that that commitment would approach a billion dollars next year, the total involved in solar energy itself.

And with the basic resource of the new energy legislation which opens up vistas now and possibilities for rapid evolution of alternate sources to oil and natural gas, the hopes that you've expressed will be much more feasible. But I think it's a long way in the future before we can start depending upon a space station to provide electricity, say, for Memphis or Plains.

Thank you very much.

Q. Well, we're not going to get there until we start, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT. That's right. I agree. I've got to go. And I want to express my thanks to all of you for letting me come.

Note: The President spoke at 9:50 a.m. in Mezzanine Room N at the Cook Convention Center.

Prior to the President's arrival, the members of the panel—David L. Aaron, Deputy Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, William J. Perry, Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering, and Senator John C. Culver of Iowa—made opening statements. Governor-elect Richard Riley of South Carolina chaired the workshop.

Jimmy Carter, Memphis, Tennessee Question-and-Answer Session at the National Democratic Conference Workshop on Defense Policies and Arms Control. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/244113

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