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Remarks on Signing Into Law the Military Personnel and Compensation Amendments of 1980

September 08, 1980

THE PRESIDENT. Chairman Stennis, Chairman Price, Senator Nunn, Secretary Brown, members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, distinguished citizen, civilian leaders of the Department of Defense, and others who are interested in a strong America and a fine Armed Forces that will keep our Nation strong:

I'm very pleased to be signing into law today this very important legislation, the military personnel management and compensation bill that was sponsored primarily by Senators Nunn and Warner. This legislation will increase the compensation for the men and women of the Armed Forces and will help greatly to keep our Nation secure because of an improvement in the recruitment and retention of qualified members of the Armed Forces.

With the support of the Congress in recent years we have made great progress in strengthening our Nation's defense. Our sustained real increases in defense spending have encouraged, as well, increases by our own allies, particularly those in the Western European theater. The 5-year defense plan that I put to the Congress will increase real defense spending by over $100 billion between now and 1985. But we know that dollars alone cannot enhance nor preserve our American security. People, the men and women of our military forces, are the heart and soul of America's military strength. Their work, their sacrifice, their dedication to duty are the keys to military power in the United States.

Through this legislation our Nation reaffirms its strong support and our appreciation to these men and women who serve us all so well. It authorizes $700 million in increased benefits that will alleviate financial hardship and sacrifice that have both been too onerous on the shoulders of the men and women who serve us so well. This will help those people in the Armed Forces with several different elements of financial burden. Together with the military pay raise which I just signed into law this morning and the rest of my legislative and budget proposals on military compensation, total pay and benefits during this fiscal year, 1981, will go up more than $4 billion. This is the biggest single increase in the history of our Nation in either war or peace.

To supplement the higher pay this legislation will make important changes in military benefits. For people in high-cost areas, we are raising the housing allowance. Reimbursement for travel and transportation, which many military men and women now have to pay out of their own pockets, will now be much higher. Special pay and bonuses for career military personnel who serve at sea will be raised, who have flight duty will be raised, and also for those who serve in critical skills.

I want to acknowledge the strong leadership and the hard work of many Members of Congress, especially of course Senator Sam Nunn and Senator John Warner, Bill Nichols in the House, and the chairmen of the committees in the House and Senate.

History records the heroism and the sacrifice of those who served in battle, but there are many different kinds of heroism, many kinds of sacrifice for the benefit of our own Nation. The dedication and effectiveness of those who serve in times of peace to prevent war are less often recognized, but just as important.

On the first day of May, I went to the U.S.S. Nimitz to point out to them how much our Nation appreciates what they and others have done for our country. I said to the crew on Memorial Day that the pay or benefits or privileges that are given to them, however much they might be raised, could never fully reward those who put their lives on the line in the service of our country, but it's important that those who do so must be adequately compensated. This is important, not only for reasons of fairness but also for reasons of national security. It's a great loss to our country to have a well-trained military person who, because of excessive financial burdens on the family, have to resign from the military to seek a way to sustain their own loved ones.

This legislation goes a long way toward achieving the goal of expressing our Nation's indebtedness to the courageous men and women of the Armed Forces and to enhancing our Nation's security. And I'm deeply grateful to the men and women standing behind me for the leadership they've shown in the passage of this forward legislation.

I'd now like to sign the bill, and I'll call on two or three of our distinguished visitors to say a word.

[At this point, the President signed the bill.]

Thank you very much.

SENATOR STENNIS. Well, Mr. President, I think you've stated the facts well, and I appreciate your attitude and all of those that have worked in our committees very vigorously.

You went at the hard thing, not just pitch in a raise, but a raise and a supplement at the critical points, and that's what this bill really covers. It took weeks and months, and I'm very glad to see it become law. I think it carries strength. Strength is what it'll mean, and it's needed. I feel that we could even go as far as sacrificing some manpower to get the money put the right place, the same money put to the right place.

Thank you.

THE PRESIDENT. We'll try not to have to do either.

Thank you.

REPRESENTATIVE PRICE. Mr. President, I of course join Senator Stennis in his response to your statement. The House Armed Services Committee followed good leadership, and I doubt if there was a vote—I'd have to check the record—but I doubt if there was a vote against this legislation in the committee.

THE PRESIDENT. I think that's right.

REPRESENTATIVE PRICE. Having been elected to Congress when I was a corporal I know what this means to the enlisted man. [Laughter]

I think that we may have waited a little longer than we should have in bringing about these pay reforms and benefit reforms, and I hope that both the House and the Senate committees keep their interest in this particular phase of military life so that the people in the service know that they will never be forgotten.

Thank you.

THE PRESIDENT. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Well, as a President and Commander in Chief of our military forces and also as a former professional military officer I recognize excellent work when I see it. All of us are here to join in the occasion and to express our appreciation for what has been done. But there's one man here who had the special insight and knowledge and commitment to do the detailed work of making sure that these hundreds of millions of dollars are an excellent investment in our Nation's future, who understands the details of the personnel problems in the military, and who joined with Senator John Warner, who can't be here this afternoon, in sponsoring this legislation. This is a very fine birthday present for Senator Sam Nunn, and I'd like to call on him to say a word if you would.

Sam, congratulations to you.

SENATOR NUNN. Mr. President, this is a great day, and it's a great birthday present for me, but more importantly for the men and women who serve our Nation. You know, this bill is sort of unprecedented in the sense that, as one of the coauthors, I call it the Warner-Nunn bill and John Warner calls it the Nunn-Warner bill and to those people in the military who are so grateful for this bill it's known as the Warner-Nunn bill. To those on Wall Street who are concerned about fiscal responsibility and the inflation rate it's known as the Nunn bill. [Laughter]

But, nevertheless, it is a bipartisan effort; it is started as a bipartisan effort; it is continued as one. We had the complete cooperation of Congressman Nichols and his counterpart on the Republican side on the House. We had the total backing of the chairmen, Chairman Stennis and Chairman Price. The Joint Chiefs played a major role in this. The civilian Secretaries played a major role, Secretary of Defense, and Robin Perry played a major role. George Travers, on my staff, who does all the work for me, has done a tremendous amount. George, I wish you would hold up your hand. And Hugh Evans in the Legislative Counsel's Office, who's been drafting bills for years and years, and this is his first signing ceremony. Hugh, hold up your hand and let people see you, because you drafted this legislation.

So, to all of you I say thank you, who have played a role in this. And I think the gratifying thing about it, Mr. President, with your cooperation and your enthusiastic support, we are signing into law today, and you've signed into law, a measure that will not only help the young men and women who serve in our military forces, but most importantly, it will help contribute to the protection of our national security. So, I say thank you to you, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT. Thank you, Sam.

GENERAL JONES. Mr. President, on behalf of the millions of men and women who wear the uniform in the armed services, we'd like to thank you and the Members of Congress for this recognition of the heavy burden. You can be assured of the dedication and the courage of the people who wear the uniform, and this gives us an opportunity to keep many of the well-trained, experienced personnel with us. Thanks to all of you.

THE PRESIDENT. Thank you, Dave. Thank you all very much.

Note: The President spoke at 2:17 p.m. at the ceremony in the Cabinet Room at the White House.

As enacted, H.R. 5168 is Public Law 96-343, approved September 8.

Jimmy Carter, Remarks on Signing Into Law the Military Personnel and Compensation Amendments of 1980 Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/250736

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