George W. Bush photo

Remarks During a Tour of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and an Exchange With Reporters in Atlanta, Georgia

November 08, 2001

The President. You know, a lot of Americans never heard of the CDC. They're wondering what CDC means. And they have learned that the folks who work at CDC are part of a vast army to fight off the terrorist attacks in America. And I'm so fortunate to be able to come by and say hello to the people that are working endless hours to provide good public health information, remedies, a quick response to people who have been affected by this evil attack.

I believe—firmly believe that because of the good folks who work in this building and other buildings throughout Atlanta, Georgia, and throughout the country for CDC, that we've saved a lot of lives in America. And the very least I can do is come by and thank them for their hard work and their dedication to the country. So, for a group of folks that have made a difference in America, it's—and no one ever heard about, they're going to hear about—be heard about tonight. I'm going to talk about public health officials as part of being the new heroes of America. And that's why I've come by today, to thank them.

Resources for the Centers for Disease Control

Q. Mr. President, what sort of—[inaudible]—does the CDC need now from the administration?

The President. Well, one of the things that they need is for there to be an organization that allows for the free flow of information—that when the CDC finds something, gets information, they're able to pass it throughout our Government. And we're getting really well organized. The CDC's whole function is to help save lives, and the faster information can move, the more analysis can happen on a real-time basis, the more likely it is people will live.

In terms of the CDC budget, one of the jobs of Tom Ridge, the new Homeland Security Director, is to collect information. And we'll present a budget to Congress. And if we need to present a supplemental, we'll do so next year. But we're collecting all the information to make sure that our strategy is seamless and the budget reflects a seamless strategy.

Smallpox Vaccines

Q. Mr. President, what's your take on the call for a universal application of smallpox vaccines for all Americans?

The President. We're in the process of— I'm looking at different options for smallpox. One thing is for certain, we need to make sure vaccines are available if there were to ever be an outbreak.

As to whether or not we ought to have mandatory vaccinations, I'm working with Tommy Thompson on that. One of my concerns is, if we were to have universal vaccination, some might lose their life. And I would be deeply concerned about a vaccination program that would cause people to lose their life. But I'm looking at all options, all possibilities, and we'll work with the smartest minds in America to develop the best strategies in how to deal with a potential smallpox attack.

Homeland Security

Q. Mr. President, do you think the Postal Service should be bailed out? The Postmaster General is suggesting billions may be needed.

The President. We are looking at all opportunities to spend money in our Government, and we're going to make sure that any supplemental that may or may not occur next year fits into an overall national strategy. I told the appropriators in Congress that we believe we've got ample money to make it through the holiday season and the beginning of next year, that the $40 billion that they appropriated in the supplemental is ample to meet our homeland security needs as well as our defense needs, and that before we spend more money, let's make sure we have a national strategy to deal with the homeland defense issue. And that's—the Postal Service is part of the homeland defense.

So we'll look at all opportunities to spend money. But I urge Congress not to break the budget agreement that we signed off to in early October. And I remind them that the $40 billion of supplemental is enough to meet the Nation's needs. We have hardly even begun to spend the $40 billion that they presented. But we're listening to all requests.

Thank you, everybody.

Q. Thank you, Mr. President.

The President. My pleasure.

NOTE: The President spoke at 5:25 p.m. in auditorium B of the CDC headquarters building. A tape was not available for verification of the content of these remarks.

George W. Bush, Remarks During a Tour of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and an Exchange With Reporters in Atlanta, Georgia Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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