Press Conference by the President, Secretary of Defense Les Aspin, Secretary of Labor Robert Reich, Secretary of Transportation Federico Pena, Secretary of Commerce Ron Brown, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Henry Cisneros, and E.P.A. Administrator Carol Browner
The Briefing Room
9:15 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. On Monday, I leave for Tokyo for the G-7 Summit, where the world's leading economic powers will seek to build a new era of global growth.
While international summits were once dominated by the drama of the Cold War confrontation, today we compete in a quieter field, the world of global economic competition. Now that the Cold War is over we see the opportunity around the world and in this country to reduce defense spending rather dramatically and to devote our attention to rebuilding our country here at home. But we know now clearly, since defense has been coming down since 1987, that this is not an unmixed blessing in the short-run for Americans here at home.
Among other things, reduced defense spending means reduced spending on defense contracts, and people, therefore, who work in defense plants are affected by it. And it is impossible to reduce the number of men and women in the armed services without an appropriate reduction in the base structure of the United States at home and abroad.
That is the difficult and painful, but important work the Base Closing Commission has had to do. I have received their latest report and I have decided to forward that report on to Congress. As I transmit that report to Congress, I am ordering an unprecedented federal effort in the form of a new five-point program to ensure that when we close these bases we also open a new and brighter economic future for the affected workers and their communities.
And this week my administration announced that we were going to shut down not only the bases implied in the Base Closing Commission, but also some 90 bases overseas, to be fair and also because our interests are served by that.
These five points are as follows: First, we will provide an average grant of a million dollars to each community affected by a major base closing. Second, we will establish for the first time a single federal coordinator for each community so that all the resources and opportunities that attend this reconstruction effort can be made available as quickly as possible. Third, we will establish a fast track cleanup program for environmental problems. This has been an enormous problem in the past in trying to move bases to commercial uses. Fourth, we will establish a fast track disposal of federal property emphasizing those uses most likely to create new jobs for the communities affected by base closings. And finally, we will have a coordinated effort to pool all federal resources giving all the affected communities easier access to federal assistance. Compared to the past, we will respond more quickly, cut red tape more aggressively, and mobilize resources more assertively to help these communities, so that when they lose their bases they do not lose their future.
In the past, base closings forced communities to cope with a jarring economic upheaval without tools or resources. Many bases were heavily polluted, the cleanup seemed to take forever. Red tape and bureaucracy frustrated local officials when they sought help. And people in the community saw an employer of thousands turn into a destroyer of economic security. For communities from coast to coast affected by base closings, the federal government will now work aggressively to help these patriotic citizens, cities and town prosper. We will help them to use their valuable assets as engines of economic growth.
This government-wide effort will cost over $5 billion in the next five years. We will respond rapidly and spend money more wisely. Let me give you one vivid example of this new approach. Current law actually requires the federal government to charge communities full price for these closed bases if they are used for job creation and economic development. But the government could give away a base for free for recreational uses. That gets it backwards. I believe that if a community has pulled together and produced a real plan for job creation and economic growth, the federal government must pitch in by giving that base to the community at a discount or, in some cases, even for free.
Today, I am directing the Department of Defense and the National Economic Council to write a legislative proposal within 90 days allowing us to give job creation and economic development the highest priority in the disposition of these assets. This law will be a sizable commitment by the federal government. These bases are worth, in some instances, hundreds of millions of dollars. But it's the least we can do for the communities and the people who supported our troops.
To avoid bureaucratic confusion, one week from now we will appoint a team of transition coordinators, senior military personnel who will slash red tape and untangle bureaucracy to help these communities. Cleanup will proceed faster than before. We've increased the size of planning grants to help communities map out their future. And a creative worker training program will visit the bases within the next two weeks to let workers know of their opportunities.
Even with all these aggressive efforts the closing of a military base, as with any large employer, will inevitably be traumatic for the host community. And I cannot promise that every job will be saved. But this will be a great test for our nation. Over the past 50 years these communities have literally hosted millions of American men and women in uniform who were defending our freedom. When we needed them, these cities and town did their duty. When they need us today, we can do no less. And I am confident that we will be able to make dramatic progress.
I'd like now to introduce the Defense Secretary to make a couple of remarks. I see you raising your hands. We have four other Secretaries who have briefings to give, but after Secretary Aspin speaks, I will take a couple of questions on this subject. You'll have access to me I think later on other matters, but on this subject I will take a couple of questions. But I would like the Secretary of Defense to speak first.
SECRETARY ASPIN: Thank you, Mr. President. About two months ago at a Cabinet meeting the President, noting, as he has already said in his comments here today, that one of the great frustrations of the base closing process is that it seemed to take so long to get these bases converted from military use into some kind of civilian use, he ordered the Cabinet to pool their resources and to come up with a plan to accelerate this process. What we did was we began by examining what went wrong and why this thing was taking to long and what we need to do to correct it. And the result was the five-point program which the President announced.
Let me just briefly recap those points. The first point is to get the community some help right at the start. One of the reasons why it's so slow is the communities have a tough time getting off the ground. We have a program, as the President said, of up to a million dollars in grants to each community. They need to organize to get a structure in place, a formal structure to deal with the reuse, the community re-use of that base. We've got some planning grant that we can help them with.
The second thing of the problem was the community was dealing with a whole myriad of federal agencies. They would get a different answer when they called one department from the answer that they got when they called a different department. One of the things we're doing, the second point in this, is to have a single point of contact for each of these major communities so that they have a single number that they can call and get answers to their questions no matter which agency or which department it would pertain to. We will give them, back here in Washington, all of the support that we can to make sure that they're able to answer the questions of those communities and to help them.
The third and fourth issues of why it's so slow -- the third is that the environmental cleanup takes a long time to happen. The environmental cleanup is a major problem. So what we did was accelerate. The President's third point here is accelerate the environmental cleanup. Two principal things there is, number one, have the DOD accept liability when it's the DOD's fault. The DOD has been fighting the liability cases in the past. We're not going to fight those. When it's clear that it's the DOD's problem, the DOD will step forward and accept the responsibility .
And secondly, we will do environmental issues concurrently rather than sequentially. The delay often happened was because you had to finish one step in the environmental process before you went to the other. We are now devising a system where you can start it all and run these things concurrently. Secretary Browner will discuss.
The fourth point is the disposal. The hang-up was that you couldn't get a disposal of the property, you couldn't work that through the bureaucracy and system here in Washington to get the community's property into some reuse. Two things here: Number one, we will delegate this to a lower level so that you don't have to move this all the way to the top of the Department of Defense in order to get a decision to dispose of the property. The people at the lower levels will have the authority to approve that disposal. And secondly, we will have a system whereby if part of the base is not affected by a cleanup problem, you can dispose of the property on part of the base. You don't have to wait, as you do now, for the whole base to be cleaned up before you can dispose of any of the property. We will design a system whereby partial disposal is allowed.
And the final point, as the President was saying, the fifth point of the President's proposal here is to marshal the resources that are available in the government now, in the bills that have been passed. Congress, as they pass the various appropriation bills, often have a little money in there for some part of cleanup. And it's in various bills; it's been tucked into various appropriation bills. The communities out there don't know about it, they don't know what they are. We're going to pool these resources, make that list available, make it clear to them what it is that they have available -- what's available. And they will find out about it through the single point of contact.
This is a program that ought to dramatically improve the capability of these bases to be converted to the right use.
THE PRESIDENT: Let me make two other quick comments and then I'll take a couple questions.
This is one program that I think will benefit from the fact that I was a governor who managed a base closing from the other end before we went through this. I have had experience with every single problem that this five-point program seeks to address, working with a major base closing that occurred along the Mississippi River in a county that had double-digit employment at the time the base closing was announced. And I believe this is a very practical program that will have a huge practical difference in the lives of these communities based on my personal experience on the receiving end of the base closing.
The second thing I want to say is, because I won't be here when they speak, is this group of Cabinet officers was here --we had a different group yesterday when we announced our program for the Pacific Northwest. It will make a big difference for people in these communities. Keep in mind a lot of these people have only dealt -- the only thing they know about the federal government is the Defense Department and the bases. They have never dealt with the Labor Department, the EPA, HUD, Transportation and Commerce. They don't understand how to deal with all these folks at once. And the fact that we're going to make it possible for them to access the resources of all these departments at one time and through one person will be a huge boon.
It's difficult enough for all of you to figure out your way through the maze of the federal government. For a lot of these folks it is an unending nightmare and a practical impossibility. So I did want to make those two points.
Yes, in the back. You had your hand up first. Go ahead.
Q: Mr. President, when you go to Asia, how do you plan to alleviate concerns that these closings might restrict the forward basing of air and sea forces?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I plan to make clear statements about our commitment to Asia and our involvement in Asia in both Japan and Korea. And I think that we will clearly be able to do that and it will be more explicit when the Secretary of Defense finishes his review.
Q: Will you address the forward basing question, sir?
THE PRESIDENT: Yes. Go ahead.
Q: Mr. President, if this is all new money, this $5 billion, and not reprogrammed money, how do you expect to get it from Congress in this budget climate? Your stimulus package got killed. Everything else has been watered down. There isn't money available.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I think -- first of all, I think events will prove that I was right to ask for the jobs package.
Q: Such as today's unemployment numbers?
THE PRESIDENT: We can't discuss that yet. It's not 9:30 a.m. (Laughter.) But not just -- that's not the point. You can't tell anything from the month's figures anyway. This thing is moving forward in fits and starts and we're doing a pretty good job of creating jobs -- the American economy is now. But the global economy dictates a more aggressive response at this moment from America.
But the reason I think that this will work is I think, first of all, it's a five-year program. Secondly, keep in mind, we had allocated in the budget -- as you remember when we went to the Westinghouse plant -- some $20 billion over five years that could be used for the total aggregate amount of defense conversion. And some of that money was counted in this. But we allocated another $2 billion to environmental cleanup because that's a huge deal. We can move these bases in a hurry if we can figure out who's responsible for the environmental cleanup and then get about doing it. So -- and those -- the details can be answered.
I believe the Congress will support this, because I think there's enormous bipartisan understanding that you simply cannot take this away from communities without reinvesting something in them. And if it is a net savings to the government over the long run, we have to invest something back to justify the cut.
Q: How much will you take?
THE PRESIDENT: Secretary Aspin knows the number.
Q: Military downsizing in general is getting the blame for the higher unemployment figures which were released an hour ago. Do you worry that you're losing the battle on a broader scale on trying to create jobs?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I think that -- let me repeat -- there are two things at work here. In any given month, military downsizing -- and keep in mind, these decisions we're announcing today will have an impact on the economy a year and a half, two years from now. Some of them even longer than that; some of them three years from now -- the Base Closing Commission's recommendations today. So we're giving some advance planning time on that. The military cutbacks that are manifesting themselves in this unemployment rate were based on decisions made a couple of years ago.
Now, I think -- again, I will say you've got two things at work there. Because of the size of the deficit, we are not reinvesting as much as I think we should be reinvesting to generate jobs here at home. But the larger problem is that two-thirds of our jobs in the last five years have been generated -- or new jobs --have been generated through exports. And with Europe down and Japan down -- we've got Europe with the lowest economic growth in 20 years and Japan with the lowest economic growth in longer than that -- more than three decades. That's why I'm going to the G-7. Because if we don't find a way for all of us to do things together, it's going to be difficult to sustain jobs.
Now, notwithstanding, the country has produced a substantial number of new jobs in the first five months of this year. But we would -- but we're still -- we're so far behind in coming out of the recession that it's going to be difficult to do unless we can have a global strategy of growth so we can start getting some jobs out of exports again.
Q: What is the economic impact of this overall base closing? You said that you can't guarantee that everybody will get a job. How many people do you -- I mean, do you have any estimate of how many people are thrown out of work?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, let me say this. What I can tell you based on my personal experience with this is that you've got a lot of very creative, innovative people out there in these communities. And a lot of them -- some of these bases have been rumored about now for a couple of years. So in a lot of these communities, as a practical matter, you've had the community leaders out there imagining the worst for a long time, thinking about what they might do, wondering about what they will have to do if something like this happens. I am confident, again based on my personal experience, if we correct the problems and create the opportunities that are embodied in this five-point program, you're going to see a lot of economic growth.
And let me say, the traditional economic analysis is that you can create the same number of jobs in the commercial domestic sector that we create in defense for roughly half the investment. So that if we can get a combination of public effort now and private investment later, we might wind up creating more jobs in some of these communities. Some of these communities, I think, you've got enormous resources out there in these bases and they'll create more jobs.
The only thing I want to say is I don't want to overpromise because I can't foresee the next five years with any kind of precision. I just know that this program is going to help these people a lot more than anything that's been done since we started defense downsizing.
Q: On the G-7, as you're about to head off -- by the way that's a very nice tie. (Laughter.) I wish the American public could see that tie. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: This was designed by a 12-year-old. It's a Save the Children tie.
Q: I remember when you spoke about Gene's ties.
Q: Do you want this one? (Laughter.)
Q: No, I don't want it.
THE PRESIDENT: If it weren't a gift, I would give it to you. (Laughter.)
Q: Is there any prospect of an agreement with Japan on trade during this G-7 summit?
THE PRESIDENT: I don't think I should raise any expectations of that just because it's difficult for us to predict now what will happen. I can tell you this: We're going to keep talking to them and in the end we're going to get this worked out. I think that the changes now going on in Japan over the long-run are going to be good for the Japanese people and good for the American people. It may be painful for them now, but a democracy is an uneven and inexact process. I think that we are moving toward a greater integration of the global economy in ways that will be good for them and good for us. That's what I believe. But this is a transition period for them and agreements are always more difficult than transition periods.
I'm sorry, I have to go. We have to finish this.
Q: Are you going to come back and talk about the travel office later?
SECRETARY ASPIN: Let me at this point introduce for some comments each of the various departments. There's been a lot of the departments that are involved in putting together this, but the principal ones are the five that are represented by their Secretaries here today. And I would like to give them each an opportunity to say a few words, and then we'll answer any questions that you might have about it.
Let me start with the Secretary of the Labor, Secretary Reich.
SECRETARY REICH: Aha, there you are. I knew you were out there someplace. (Laughter.)
The President emphasized jobs. That is the centerpiece of our concern with regard to base closings. It's the centerpiece of the investments and the coordination we're making. With regard to particular responsibilities of the Department of Labor, let me say very briefly, number one, we are going to send in what we're calling jobs swat teams into bases as soon as possible within 60 days after an announced closing to inform everyone there about what opportunities are available to them; what training programs are available to them; what sorts of job guidance and job counseling, resume writing; everything else that they can possibly need with regard to adjust to the changes that they have in store for them.
Secondly, they have -- we have earmarked about $135 million of defense authorization, defense conversion, defense diversification money that is passed through to the Department of Labor in addition to money from the Secretary's discretionary fund for the purposes of providing job-search assistance, counseling and training to these individuals.
And, thirdly, particularly at bases where you have great concentrations of people who are going to be potentially displaced, we are going to give them access to a new jobs data bank which we're developing, which will provide them with information about where the new jobs are in their region and how their skills may be relevant.
Again, I want to emphasize that the particular Labor Department aspect of this is in tight coordination with the other departments. The President has, as he did with the timber crisis in the Northwest, exhibited extraordinary leadership in making sure that we all -- Cabinet officers and Cabinet agencies -- work very closely together under the leadership of individual base coordinators, and for the first time, these individuals who are going to be -- for the first time, individuals who are going to be displaced or potentially displaced will have one-stop shopping. They will have one place to go and we're going to make sure that those individuals do have as easy a transition as is possible.
I don't know -- Les, do you want me to take a couple of questions?
SECRETARY ASPIN: Why don't we go through everybody and then we'll get questions for everybody. How does that sound?
SECRETARY REICH: That's fine, but just watch your step here. (Laughter.)
SECRETARY ASPIN: Let me next call upon the Secretary of Transportation, Secretary Pena.
SECRETARY PENA: Thank you, Les.
I am particularly pleased to be here today as part of this interdepartmental effort because I know what people are going through right now. When I was mayor of Denver, we went through a base closure. It was very painful. We had small mom-and-pop companies that were concerned as soon as the announcement was made about what was going to happen to their small company. There were people very concerned about their futures. There were mayors and the governor and elected officials who were all very concerned.
And so, today, we have an opportunity to reverse that problem that we've seen in the past because in those days we were basically left alone. We did not have the federal government come in and say we bring to you all these Cabinet officers to help you address your problems. And so it's, I think, terrific that we're doing this.
Let me tell you what we're going to do in the Department of Transportation. Number one, we have a number of transportation investments ranging from highways and transit programs and others which we, by working through already established metropolitan planning organizations, working through state elected officials, governor's offices, et cetera, and others, can find a way to look at how we can make those investments more strategically to help these areas rebound from a transportation perspective. Because we know that critical transportation investments, when made intelligently, can help create jobs and stimulate economies.
Secondly, our military airport program -- we know that in many of these bases throughout the country there are air bases, they're military bases. They're going to be closed. We're going to look at those bases through a program we already have and ask the question: Can we help that community convert that airfield into a civilian use which will help our national transportation system, where we know we need more capacity to add to an already congested capacity problem in the country? Again, converting those perhaps into dual use to create jobs, to stimulate the economy, and to help these communities rebound.
So those are some of the things the Department of Transportation is going to be doing in coordination with the other departments and with our local community coordinators.
SECRETARY ASPIN: Let me now call on the Department of Commerce Secretary Ron Brown.
SECRETARY BROWN: We feel the pain of the communities and individuals who are going through this base closure and the trauma of it. But unlike past administrations and past presidents, President Clinton is acting boldly to lessen the pain and to provide real economic support to the affected communities.
The Department of Commerce is fully committed to assisting in this transition process, principally through our Economic Development Administration, or EDA, which, after all, was created to assist distressed urban and rural communities to rebuild their economies. We have increased assistance to areas affected by pending base closures and realignments by 200 percent since January 21st of this year. Ninety billion dollars has been earmarked to assist more than 50 communities throughout our country.
EDA provides planning assistance, revolving loan funds, infrastructure and construction assistance, as well as assistance in assuring the generation of business activity, the expansion of small and medium-sized businesses and also starting up new businesses in those communities.
Our defense conversion approach builds on locally developed strategies. We think this is crucial to talk to those communities, to talk to business leaders, to talk to community leaders, to get input from them, to not impose an economic redevelopment plan on them, but to work with them in developing one.
The strategies are developed by a full range of community and business leaders. Defense conversion as it affects our industries will also be a vital element of our technology policy. And I think we often forget the connection, and that is why it's important to recognize that technology is really a cornerstone of not only our plans for overall economic growth, but also our defense conversion efforts.
These will be undertaken principally by the Commerce Department's National Institute of Standards and Technology, through our advanced technology program, our manufacturing technology centers. We plan to put at least 25 manufacturing technology centers in these affected communities to reach out to small and medium-sized businesses, to provide them the kind of technology transfer so that they can be more productive and more competitive, and focus on the essence of President Clinton's comment about export promotion.
We believe the key to economic growth is, in fact, export promotion. If you look at our economy in the last several years of recession and stagnation, about the only good news has been exports. But we don't think we've scratched the surface yet. We've got a long way to go and we want to assist in increasing exports. I think, as you all know, every billion-dollar increase in exports means 19,000 new jobs for the American people.
Finally, we're trying to look at creative ways to relocate other governmental facilities. I had the opportunity to go to McDill Air Force Base, near Tampa, Florida, about two weeks ago for a ribbon cutting. But it was an important ribbon cutting. It meant that we were transferring our NOAA fleet, our National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration fleet of aircraft -- these are the weather service aircraft that fly into the eye of the hurricanes and give us weather predictions all around America. We moved them from commercially-leased facilities at an international airport to an Air Force base which would have likely been closed but not for another federal agency moving facilities there.
We can serve as an anchor so commercial interests will also move into that base. The community is happy, those who are still at the base are happy, we provide economic development opportunity. And other members of the Cabinet are now looking at appropriate transfer of facilities that are now located in commercially-leased areas to military bases which would be in danger of closing or which will be closed so we can find ways to provide real economic opportunity and employment opportunity for the people and the communities involved.
Q: You're not saying you can do that without congressional interference?
SECRETARY BROWN: We have done it. The one that I just mentioned, for 10 years there's been talk about trying to move NOAA facilities, commerce facilities to McDill Air Force Base. I wrote my colleague, Secretary Aspin, a letter 60 days ago and within 60 days we were able to effect that transfer. So, in that case, we certainly were able to do it without that approval.
SECRETARY ASPIN: Let me next call upon the Secretary of HUD, Mr. Cisneros.
SECRETARY CISNEROS: Thank you, Mr. Secretary. The Department of Housing and Urban Development works in nearby communities that surround the military bases. And today, I'm sure many communities feel a sense of crisis, challenge. Examples from over the years have indicated that sometimes this is a turning point for a community and that when well-coordinated and now, with this special effort on the part of the President and the federal departments, many communities may indeed look back on this as an opportunity to diversify their economic base and sometimes to add more jobs in the long-run of a new and more permanent kind then existed even when the military bases where at their strength.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development is prepared to act on several fronts. Our field officers will set up teams to help jurisdictions implement coordinated responses in our community development block grant and home programs. We are prepared to waive regulations and guidelines in order that local housing and community development activity can be assisted.
We have a special loan program that is not well-known or utilized called the Section 108 loan guarantees. It has a capacity to rise up to $2 billion leveraged -- that's not federal spending, it's loan funds. Under this program jurisdictions can pledge their community development block grants to repay the loans. We're prepared to provide technical assistance to assist communities to utilize this program which is available for small business lending and other approaches to community building.
Because instances such as this in the short-run sometimes create dislocations for individuals, inability to pay their mortgage payments, for example, FHA will take all the appropriate actions necessary to assist in forbearance, forbear foreclosing on mortgages insured by FHA. Loan repayments will be rescheduled to enable homeowners to stay in their homes while they look for new employment. That's a potentially major step of what we can do to ease the difficulties that otherwise would occur in communities.
And, finally, we will work with the other federal departments under the McKinney Act to reach to homeless providers and advocates to identify needs that in some instances might be enhanced in the short-run for homeless facilities.
SECRETARY ASPIN: The next is Secretary of EPA, Secretary Browner.
ADMINISTRATOR BROWNER: Thank you. I want to start by thanking the Secretary of Defense for that battlefield promotion from Administrator to Secretary. I appreciate it.
At EPA and as Secretary Aspin and the President pointed out, we play a significant role at a number of these sites in terms of getting the sites cleaned up so that they can be put back into productive use. As we analyze what went wrong in the past, clearly the ability to move the cleanups expeditiously was a significant problem. So what we are committed to doing, and we've already begun the work with the Department of Defense, is first of all expediting those cleanups. We will assign a senior level EPA official to every site in need of cleanup. That person will be delegated authority to make decisions so the cleanup can move quickly and they will answer to me in the Office of the Administrator.
We also believe that these sites provide an opportunity to look at alternative technologies. There's a lot of technologies out there that can be used to move cleanups more quickly and, so, we're going to look to use those innovative technologies to get the job done.
Obviously, Secretary Aspin's commitment that they are no longer going to squabble over the liability issue will be extremely helpful. Let's just get on with doing the job, getting the properties cleaned up. We will also commit to working with the public. The way the system has worked, historically, the public is brought in somewhere down in the process. We're going to bring them in at the beginning. We're going to say what's important to your community; how would you like to see us do that; how can we inform you, educate you, involve you. So we're going to really focus on the issue of public participation and informed public participation. And obviously we're going to continue to work with all of the federal agencies involved in this and the state and local agencies. They also have an interest in seeing that these sites are cleaned up and obviously put back into productive use.
Our commitment is to make sure the public safety is protected, our natural resources are protected and these properties are cleaned up so that communities can use them in a way that works for those communities. Thank you.
SECRETARY ASPIN: Let me just make one thing -- Gene Sperling suggested that make a couple of things clear about the relations to the economics, the unemployment figures today. The point about what's going on with the base closing is that they will not affect the unemployment figures right away. Neither the closing nor what we're doing to offset the closing, because the base closing list has been approved by the President and ultimately, of course, must be approved by Congress, doesn't mean the base closes the day after the approval is done. It will take several years for the work on those bases to phase out. And by that time what we hope to do with these speed-up process is to start to phase in the new jobs that come when the bases get converted to reuse.
The statistics on bases that get changed is very encouraging. We went back and looked at the figures on the bases that closed in the '60s and the '70s. The net result was that of the bases closed in the '60s and '70s, 94,000 jobs were lost and 158,000 were created. So if you have a good program, you end up with a net plus on the employment side. Actually, military use of this land in these cases is not the optimal use from job creation. We could do a lot better.
In terms of the money, the money is already in some program or another, the whole $5 billion that the President talked about is already in some proposal or another. The $3 billion of that $5 billion is in the $20 billion that the President announced out at Westinghouse, that program is part of it, the $2 billion for environmental cleanup is also already funded in various bills. So this is not an addition.
If you have any question to any of the Cabinet officers here -- yes, ma'am.
Q: Chairman Ron Dellums indicated to me yesterday that you're going to announce special intensive conversion efforts in the East San Francisco Bay and Charleston. I've heard nothing of that today. Are they going to get special treatment?
SECRETARY ASPIN: No -- I tell you what we're going to do. We're going to try and treat every -- that's the point about the individual coordinators here. We want to design programs for each base. You cannot just have a cookie cutter kind of formula of what we're going to do with the base and have it apply to everything. It depends upon what the base is and what the assets are and what the situation is.
So Alameda, which is the one in Ron Dellums' district, will take special care and special -- a special program for it. So will each of the bases will take a special program because they need -- each of them has a different set of assets and a different set of problems that need to be overcome.
Q: Chairman Dellums was wrong in asserting --
SECRETARY ASPIN: No, no, no, absolutely -- there is a special program. There was -- in fact, Deputy Secretary Perry was out at an event in San Francisco with Chairman Dellums about a month -- within the last month in announcing a pilot program on a stand-by basis. We're going to have a special program for Alameda.
Q: I'm not sure actually to whom I should address this question -- perhaps Secretary Reich. Congresspeople from California and South Carolina have indicated they would like to introduce legislation because they're going to be losing considerable numbers of civilian immunized employees. They want legislation introduced perhaps that would allow priority hiring not only just within the Department of Defense, but with all agencies throughout the federal government for their people who are displaced. What are you feelings on that, and would the administration support that kind of thing?
SECRETARY REICH: Apparently, the administration is considering pushing priority platoon hiring to other agencies beyond the Department of Defense, but it's still in the discussion stage right now.
Q: What are your feelings on that?
SECRETARY REICH: My personal feelings, I think it's worth -- it certainly sounds -- it sounds useful and it sounds like something that ought to be done. But, again, this is still at the discussion stage right now. And my own personal views, off the top of my head, are worth just that.
Q: Mr. Secretary, you talk about job training and all the counseling and everything. When they get through all that, are there jobs out there for these people?
SECRETARY REICH: There are jobs out there of a technical nature. In fact, we know -- in fact, maybe I should step back and say we have had moderate job growth in this recovery -- 750,000 to 800,000 new jobs. Today's figures show that we are increasing job growth by fits and starts. It is not a steady job growth. In fact, unfortunately, today we are back up to 7 percent unemployment. We've lost some manufacturing jobs -- manufacturing employment continues to decline. Construction did not show any increase. Services showed a small increase. We're not out of the woods by any means. But we are moving slowly in the right direction.
Now, that is a cyclical issue. It has to do with getting back a lot of the employment we lost. There was also a separate structural issue, having to do with making sure that people have the right skills for the rights jobs in the right place. And over the next two years, with regard to military base closings, with regard to timber in the Northwest, with regard to the radical downsizing of American companies and international trade, this all has much more to do with making sure that Americans have the rights skills; that American industry is ready for international competition; that we have not just jobs, but we have the right jobs that pay well. And that's a longer-term, more difficult challenge having a lot to do with education and training and a job search and job data system, which we need to develop and we're working on in this administration.
Q: Secretary Reich, what can you say about the capacity utilization -- I'm trying to look for the bright spots, too -- are the old relationships --
SECRETARY REICH: I'm trying to look for the bright sides, too.
Q: Are the old relationships between capacity utilization to the point where employment -- new employment comes on, is that out of whack?
SECRETARY REICH: Well, we're in a very different economy. We know during the last recession, a much smaller percentage of the net job losers discovered that they could get their old jobs back, than in any previous recession. Most people have to get new jobs. We're also seeing a rise in temporary workers. And we're seeing a rise even in manufacturing, in what might be called manufacturing temps.
Now, this all has to do, I'm convinced, with a very different economy we're facing. And, again, I stress, it's important to separate the cyclical phenomenon, just the difficulties we are having getting out of this current recession, which are related in large part of foreign recessions, which are now getting worse, not getting better, and the structural problems that we and every economy are facing as we enter into a post-industrial high-tech world.
Q: But the old rules of full capacity --
SECRETARY REICH: The old rules of full capacity don't seem to be directly related any longer to increased employment, because companies are moving toward automation; they're using technology not to reskill and upskill the workers, but to deskill and automate. My own view, by the way, is that these companies are not going to develop -- are not going to have long-term competition strengths because any other company around the world can do precisely the same thing. It's only through your employees, through their skills and their motivation that you develop a long-term competitive advantage.
SECRETARY ASPIN: Are there any other questions that relate to the base closing here?
Q: Can I ask Administrator Browner what some of the worst environmental problems are? Can you quantify --
ADMINISTRATOR BROWNER: The environmental problems that will exist at individual basis really do sort of run the gamut. In some instances it has to do with how maintenance was conducted; in other instances it has to do with how waste was disposed of.
These cleanups will be similar to the type of cleanups in the Superfund program in terms of the issues that we're dealing with. But there really is an opportunity here, and DOD has already been very helpful on this in terms of trying out some new technologies that can further expedite the cleanup. So we really see an opportunity to test those technologies, to put our resources behind it, and then to move them out into the private sector and to allow the private sector to begin to use the technologies.
Q: significantly toxic waste?
ADMINISTRATOR BROWNER: It will tend to be toxic and hazardous and it will be a soil contamination, and in some instances some of the sites we're already dealing with there is ground water contamination issues that need to be addressed.
Q: What percentage of bases?
ADMINISTRATOR BROWNER: I don't think we know the answer to that yet. Do you know what the past percentages have been? You may know that.
SECRETARY ASPIN: I knew, but I can't remember the number of Superfund sites that are on military bases, but it's a fair amount.
Q: It's a high percentage --
SECRETARY ASPIN: It's a fair amount, yes.
ADMINISTRATOR BROWNER: But it's important to remember that we're not talking about the entire base. Generally, we are talking about a portion or several different parcels within the base that have a contamination problem. And what we can do, as Secretary Aspin said, is go ahead and put the other areas back into community use. We haven't done that previously. We've tended to cordon off the entire base, if you will, until the cleanups are done. We don't need to do that. Let's go ahead and take that part that's not environmentally impacted, degrade it, let's get it out there, let people use it and then we'll focus on cleaning up what's left.
Q: Secretary Aspin, how much is going to be saved with all the closings including overseas?
SECRETARY ASPIN: Once this base closing list goes into effect, the steady state is $3.1 billion annually.
Q: On base closing and it's a question perhaps that Secretary Reich could answer as well. A lot of these bases are in Europe, it represents another round of base closings for Europe. Would you concede that this feeds into what is developing into a crisis of confidence in the relations between Europe and the United States at the moment? And I would put the same question on the latest economic figures to Secretary Reich.
SECRETARY ASPIN: I would say that this is not -- everybody understands that the end of the Cold War and with the dissolution of the Soviet Union that the defense budgets of all countries are going down, of all the Western European countries are going down, in the United States, too.
The United States is reducing its manpower levels in Europe, but it is not eliminating it. We've, I think, reached a political consensus in this country that the number of people in Europe will be about 100,000. Now that's down from 320,000 about three or four years ago at the height of the Cold War, the standard number of American troops in Europe was 320,000, it's now going to be down to 100,000.
Well, that means that a number of bases are going to be closed. And I think people understand that. There's no logic to keeping the same number of bases that you had at 320,000 that you're going to have at 100,000.
Q: You don't feel that coming when it does it is feeding into a mood, an ugly mood that is growing across --
SECRETARY ASPIN: It should not. It should not. I mean it should not. We ought to understand this and address it with our European allies because they're reducing their defense budgets as is in the United States.
SECRETARY REICH: I'll just make one comment on that. And this also pertains to the recession in almost all industrialized nations right now. Europe is going into a deeper recession, unemployment there is in double digits. Unemployment in most of Western Europe for most of the last decade has been above nine percent on average. So we are seeing a phenomenon that is not just cyclical unemployment getting worse but also we have in Europe structural unemployment of a sort that we are facing but even to a far greater extent.
That does create all kinds of potential problems. There's a temptation in every country to blame the other guy. But we are intent on creating job growth around the world. We are doing what the rest of the world has been telling us to do and that is get our budget deficit down. Every time these issues have arisen over the past five or 10 years with regard to structural unemployment the rest of the world, the industrialized world, says America your responsibility is to get your budget deficit down. We will take our responsibility which is to lower interest rates and stimulate our economies and that is likely to be one of the issues that the President addresses at the G-7.
One second point very quickly and I think it needs to be emphasized. A dollar spent on defense creates fewer jobs than a dollar spent on highways or on schools or on other forms of public investment.
Q? So we don't have to start another war?
SECRETARY ASPIN: Thank you all. Thank you very much.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END10:02 A.M. EDT
William J. Clinton, Press Conference by the President, Secretary of Defense Les Aspin, Secretary of Labor Robert Reich, Secretary of Transportation Federico Pena, Secretary of Commerce Ron Brown, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Henry Cisneros, and E.P.A. Administrator Carol Browner Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/269353