Remarks to the 21st Century High Tech Forum
Thank you all. So I give Kvamme a salary, and he leads a standing ovation. Thank you. [Laughter]
Thank you all very much. I'm honored you're here. I particularly want to thank our panelists for sharing their wisdom. And I want to thank you all for taking time to come and visit about how to make sure our Nation is secure and strong and hopeful. I want to thank the members of my Cabinet who are here, Don Evans and Elaine Chao. I want to thank John Marburger for being here as well.
You know, we—these are extraordinary times. I remember campaigning, and somebody said, "Would you ever deficit spend?" I said, "Only if there was a war or a recession or a national emergency." [Laughter] I didn't think we were going to get the trifecta. [Laughter] But there's no doubt in my mind we can and will solve all three. And one of the keys to recovery on the economic side is a strong and vibrant high-tech industry. I know that; I understand the importance of productivity gains and what it means for average Americans.
My attitude is, as long as somebody's not working, we've got a problem. I know people here in Washington like to look at statistics, and that's fine. But so long as somebody wants to work and can't find work, people in Government need to think about ways to expand economic opportunity. And one way to do so is to make sure that our country is still on the cutting edge of productivity gains.
There's a practical application to high tech, by the way, one that's really come home to roost recently. And that is, you know, when it comes to the defense of our country, our high-tech gains have made a enormous difference.
Let me take a step back. We fight an enemy which is cruel and heartless and relentless. You just need to know that. And even though we've made some progress— and we have; as I said the other night, we and our friends have hauled in about 2,400 of them. There's still a lot of them out there, which means this country is in for a long war. Particularly—and it's necessary because we're defending freedom. That's what you've got to know. And it's real, and we're going to have to deal with it.
And we can deal with it diplomatically, which we'll do. We've got a great coalition we've put together, and we'll keep the coalition together. We'll share intelligence, which we will continue to do, to make sure that we can find these killers wherever they try to hide. And at the same time, we'll continue to fight a guerrilla war with conventional means, because we're the best in the world with high technology.
The first battle in the war—first war of the 21st century—was in Afghanistan, as you know. And a lot of people said, "Well, it's impossible to fight that war there because of past experiences." And of course, we were somewhat mindful of history. And yet what people didn't realize was that because of precision-guided weapons, we were really accurate, which was bad news for the enemy, good news for the civilian population and coalition forces.
We fly a Predator airplane. Probably some of you all designed the programming and all the materials that make it work. We fly a Predator airplane now that has got the capacity on a real-time basis to send signals back to the United States about what's going on on the ground. It can fly at night; it flies at day. It gives people a pretty good look about what the enemy may or may not be doing. This Predator saves time, saves lives, is an incredibly important part of fighting a guerilla war with conventional means. It means our targeting is a heck of a lot more accurate. It means the information that the people in the field receive is timely and real and fast, thanks to the high-tech industry of America.
Our high-tech advantage will make it easier for us to keep the peace. We talk about weapons of war, but I want you to know, they are used to keep the peace. That's the dream of this administration, is to make the world more peaceful. And we're going to have to continue to use high-tech means and high-tech equipment to chase the killers down one by one.
It is fortuitous that America is on the cutting edge of high technology at this time in history, because of the nature of the war. In the old days, there would be columns of tanks and artillery moving here and airplanes flying there. And now we're facing sophisticated killers who hide in caves, who communicate in shadowy ways, and who are plenty lethal. And we're going to win the war because of our resolve and our determination and our love for freedom, but we're also going to win the war thanks to the incredible technology and technological breakthroughs that we have achieved here in America.
And we're going to win—protect our homeland in a better way as well, because of technology. And that's important for Americans to know. Listen, I fully—you probably can tell by now, I believe the best defense is a good offense. So we're going after them. But in the meantime, we've got to do a better job of securing the homeland.
And I can envision a lot of new technologies that enable us to communicate with first responders and to be able to communicate between the Federal and State and local governments. As you probably have read, we've had a—we need to do a better job of gathering intelligence and sharing intelligence between different agencies of our Government. All of this is going to require, by the way, in order to do so, new technologies within the FBI and the CIA and the ability to communicate with each other and the ability to filter out what information should go from one agency to the next—all aimed at protecting the homeland.
And so when you hear me talk about homeland security and the new Department of Homeland Security, it's—one of the missions is going to be to make sure it's a modern agency that actually functions the way modern corporate America functions. And that's one reason why I have asked for the Congress to put all the agencies under one head. I mean, this is 100 different groups here in Washington trying to defend the homeland. You can imagine, there's not a lot of accountability when they're scattered all over DC. And I'd like to streamline this agency, not to create bigger Government but to create a Government that will actually work and work in a way that protects the homeland.
We've got a lot of work to do, but I'm confident if we're wise about how we use technologies and the advantages of E-government, that the country will be more secure.
So I want to thank you for your contributions to national defense. You probably never dreamt, by the way, a year and a half ago or 2 years ago that a President of the United States would be addressing a high-tech conference, thanking you for your contributions to the defense of the United States and the defense of our homeland. But that's the realities of the new world. And fortunately, our country has been smart about how we have—how our economy has developed.
I was interested to read that our Government plans to spend $53 billion on information technology next year. Now, if you're one of the recipients of that $53 billion, make sure that the product actually works, please. [Laughter] It is important. It's important to make sure Government functions better, but more importantly, it will help our taxpayers have better response to democracy and get better information more quickly. And so I'm pleased that we're working on E-government. I just urge people to focus on results and not process.
The other thing that I want you all to understand is I think I've got a pretty clear vision of the role of Government, and it's not to create wealth. That's not the role of the Government. The role of Government is to create an environment in which people who've got a good idea and are willing to work for it can make a living and expand their businesses and employ people.
I've met many of you before, and I told you if you gave me a chance to be here in Washington, I would work to cut taxes. Fortunately, I kept my promise, and it was good for the American economy that I did so and that the Congress acted. The tax relief came at the right time.
Now, some don't subscribe to that theory here in Washington, but they read a different economic textbook than I do. Their view is, we ought to not lower taxes in times of recession. In essence, their view is, we ought to keep as much money in Washington, DC, as possible. That doesn't lead to economic recovery. My view is— and you know what it is, which is if you let people keep more of their own money, they'll spend it. And when they spend it, they're going to demand a good and service, and then somebody's got to provide the good and service. This tax cut was the right thing to do.
It's important that the Congress now make the tax cuts permanent. I saw we had a little setback when the Senate unwisely didn't make the elimination of the death tax permanent. The death tax is a bad tax. It's a bad tax for entrepreneurial America. It's a bad tax for people from all walks of life. It's a bad tax if you're worried about urban sprawl. It's a bad tax if you're a farmer or a rancher. And yet, they don't want to make it permanent. I don't know why. I guess it's politics. I think the reason why you make tax relief permanent is because it is important that there be predictability in the Tax Code.
The other thing that was interesting about this tax relief package is that most small businesses in America, a lot of startups are unincorporated businesses or limited partnerships. They pay tax—the people involved with the corporation pay tax on the personal income tax level. And by cutting taxes on everybody who pays taxes, it is a stimulus to economic vitality in many sectors of our economy in which we want there to be economic vitality, particularly in the minority sectors where business ownership is increasing dramatically. Tax relief was good for the entrepreneurial spirit of America.
In order to enhance the ability for people to make a living, we must open up markets around the world. We've had a battle here on trade. There are people who don't believe in free trade. There are people who believe that kind of walling off America from the world would lead to more job growth. I completely disagree. The more we trade, the more jobs there will be in America. The more we are willing to sell our markets and work where we've got a competitive advantage, the better off the workforce will be, the more likely it is an entrepreneur will be able to succeed. And so I have worked hard to get Congress to pass what they call trade promotion authority, which will give me the ability to negotiate trade treaties. And we're making progress.
Now, I'd like your help to convince both the Members of the Senate and the House to reconcile their differences in the conference committee and get me a trade promotion authority as quickly as possible. And with that trade promotion authority, not only will I work to expand free trade throughout our hemisphere—my attitude is, good foreign policy starts with a neighborhood which is democratic, free, prosperous, and strong—but I will work in other parts of the world to open up markets, markets for high-tech products, markets for our agricultural people. And I'll be aggressive at it; I will. And if I find unfair trade practices, by the way, I'm going to enforce the law, the laws on the books. And so I want to thank you for your support on trade promotion authority.
We're also working to reform the Export Administration Act, known as the EAA. We've got a bill out of the Senate; we're working to get a bill out of the House. And I want you all to understand—you've probably been told this already, but I want to tell you what else we've done. We've raised the control limits for computer systems, and I'm eliminating outmoded controls on computer chips. The idea is to understand the difference between national security and free trade. And I think we've brought some common sense to this issue.
One of the things I spent a lot of time listening about was education. And many of you all have been very much involved in education reform, and I want to thank you for that. And the bill we passed is a good bill. It really is, because it sets high standards. It refuses to accept the fact that—we challenge the idea that certain kids can't learn—let me just put it to you that way.
It's easy to quit on kids. It's easy to say, "Well, there's a certain group of kids that can't learn, so why don't we just shuffle them through the system?" And for the first time, the Federal Government said, "In return for Federal money, you must measure. You must show us." Some people were squawking about that because they didn't want to be held accountable. You know, if you believe every child can learn, then you have no problem saying, "Show us if every child is learning." And so we've done that, and it's a good—it's a really, really interesting reform.
I know many of you are involved with the reform movement in your respective States, whatever that may mean, charter schools or choice programs. The best way to stimulate reform is to demand accountability. It's hard to cover up failure, and it's hard to justify failure.
The bill also passes power out of Washington. It really does a pretty darn good job of aligning authority and responsibility at local levels. So I'm proud of the piece of legislation, and we'll continue to stay focused on education.
We're also spending a lot of money on research and development, which I believe is a legitimate Federal function. We spend a lot of money at the NIH, which is good for health care in America, and we're spending over about $100 billion in research and development for your fields.
And one of the things I hope Congress joins me on is making the R&D tax credit permanent as well. You see, research has made a huge difference for product development. And I like to remind our fellow Americans that research—expending their research—their tax dollars on research will yield the interesting jobs, interesting opportunities.
And so—which really leads me to an interesting question that I know is on your mind, and that is broadband technology. This country must be aggressive about the expansion of broadband; we have to.
I used to travel around our State of Texas a lot. I saw some really innovative health programs. I remember going to the Texas Tech Medical Center and seeing a fellow have his ear examined by a nurse practitioner in—I think it was Alpine, Texas. And the picture was clear, and the specialist was able to diagnose the disease.
We have virtual classrooms in Texas, virtual school districts in Texas, where we've hooked up a fairly wealthy school district with rural or poor school districts. It made a huge difference. It would have been a heck of a lot better had there been broadband technology, however, to make the process move a lot quicker.
I get—when I'm down at Crawford, I'm in constant contact with our administration. We've got secure teleconferencing capacity there. And it's pretty good. It can be better. [Laughter] It can be more real-time. It's an important part of life, and it's time for us to be—time for us to move, move with an agenda.
Hopefully, we're doing a pretty good job of working to eliminate hurdles and barriers to get broadband implemented. I've fought off—or worked with Congress, is a better way to put it—[laughter]—to prevent access taxes on the Internet. It ought to be a tax-free environment in order to encourage use. And of course, a lot of the action is going to come through the FCC. I know that, and you know that. And I'm confident that the Chairman and the Board is focusing on policies that will bring high-speed Internet service, will create competition, will keep the consumers in mind, but to understand the—kind of the economic vitality that will occur when broadband is more fully accessible.
And so I want to thank you for giving me a chance to come and talk about how to make America safer and more prosperous. But I also want to spend some time talking about another important subject, and that's how to make America a better place.
On my wall, there's a painting that says— where the painter, a guy named Tom Lea—he's a friend—he says, "Sarah and I lived on the east side of the mountain. It is the sunrise side, not the sunset side. It is the side to see the day that is coming, not to see the day that has gone." I have that on the wall because it's a fine Texan who wrote it, and the painting is a beautiful painting. But that's how I see things.
I believe that a tough and strong America will lead to peace. And I think we're going to be able to achieve peace in parts of the world where people don't believe peace is possible. I believe that. And it's going to require a kind of patient, steadfast strength. And the good news is, our country is patient and steadfast and strong. We really are.
I also believe that out of the evil done to America will come some incredible good, particularly as our fellow Americans love their neighbor like they'd like to be loved themselves. And we spent time today talking about how people in corporate America can lend a hand about attacking pockets of hopelessness and despair which exist in America.
If you run your business, encourage your employees through wise incentives to mentor a child or to build a home, to give time consistently to loving your neighbor. It is a central part of making America a complete and whole country. It is a key ingredient to winning the war against terror. We can fight evil with military might and weapons devised by a high-tech world. As significantly, we can fight evil by doing acts of kindness and decency.
Out of this evil will come, I believe, a culture which is going to herald personal responsibility and shift the culture of some of our generation—which has said, "If it feels good, just go ahead and do it," and "If you've got a problem, it's somebody else's"—where each of us are responsible for the decisions. We're responsible for loving our children, if you're lucky enough to be a mom or a dad. You're responsible for the misery in the community in which you may live—of doing something about it. If you're running your company, by the way, you're responsible for fully disclosing your assets and your liabilities. And that's what—and it's happening—it's happening.
The enemy hit us. They must have thought we were so weak and self-absorbed, so materialistic, that all we would do was file a couple of lawsuits, if you know what I mean. [Laughter] Instead, they found that this mighty Nation will defend our freedom at all cost. And this mighty Nation is going to show the world the true heart of a great country.
Thanks for coming.
NOTE: The President spoke at 3:28 p.m. in Room 450 of the Dwight D. Eisenhower Executive Office Building. In his remarks, he referred to E. Floyd Kvamme, Cochair, and Office of Science and Technology Director John H. Marburger III, Chair, President's Council of Advisers on Science and Technology.
George W. Bush, Remarks to the 21st Century High Tech Forum Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/213664