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Remarks at the Ceremony Commemorating the 200th Anniversary of the Department of the Treasury

September 11, 1989

Thank you all. I notice one lady just passed out, and I hadn't even begun to speak yet. [Laughter] Thank you, Mr. Secretary. What a job Nick Brady is doing as our Secretary, at the helm here in the Treasury. I'm grateful to him in every way, and I feel the same way about the dedicated staff here at this magnificent Department. I, too, want to acknowledge the all-star cast of past Secretaries, four of whom I believe are sitting over here -- Secretary Barr and Fowler and Miller and Simon are in the front line right over here, and I'm delighted that they're here today. On the end down there I think I see a refugee -- Dick Darman, who used to be Deputy Secretary and is now doing a superb job across the way here as head of OMB. And of course, I wasn't sure anybody could fill his shoes, and now we have our Deputy Secretary, John Robson, with me today. So, we've got a first-class team here at Treasury, and I certainly want to salute Nick's predecessors who are with us today.

I want to thank you for inviting a neighbor to your celebrations. I know it's not easy to be next door to a house that gets about 5,000 visitors a day. Fortunately for us, Treasury's 200th birthday fell on a Monday, so we've got the driveway all to ourselves. And of course, I told Barbara, who may be -- I don't see her, but I thought she might be watching -- that I wouldn't invite all of you over to the house for a quick tour. [Laughter]

But I understand that the Treasury wanted to celebrate its 200th anniversary the way Malcolm Forbes celebrated his 70th birthday. [Laughter] But unfortunately or fortunately, Kitty, Secretary Brady doesn't know Elizabeth Taylor that well; and the Treasury doesn't have near as much money as Malcolm. So, that idea fell through. [Laughter]

But some of the greatest American statesmen, as Nick said, were involved in the Treasury's beginning. Thomas Jefferson invented the American monetary system. There have been others who have tried to invent money -- many of them in prison, thank heavens. [Laughter] Legend has it that Andrew Jackson ordered the Treasury built on this site, despite the fact that it blocked the view of the Capitol. Now, I've heard some folks down on the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue say that I can't see past the Treasury, and I want you to know there's nothing wrong with that, nothing at all. [Laughter]

I'm honored to join you in celebrating this day -- 200 years since the first Treasury Secretary, Alexander Hamilton, took the oath of office. And it's a great pleasure to be with so many of the dedicated public servants who carry on Hamilton's tradition today. We all know the Treasury is one of the original four Departments established by the First Congress. And what isn't as well-known is that in its long history Treasury has been in some ways the birthplace of the Federal bureaucracy. The U.S. Postal Service; the Public Health Service; the Coast Guard; the Departments of Interior, Commerce, and Labor; and the President's own budget office, OMB -- all were once a part of Treasury's domain.

And even with these spinoffs, there's more than enough remaining in Treasury's portfolio. It's grown from an original 6 officers authorized in 1789 to 150,000 able employees today. And the work you do here has national and certainly international implications. From public finance to law enforcement to the challenge of the Third World debt, Treasury is at the center of public debate, sustaining our long running economic expansion, restructuring our savings and loans, putting the Brady plan to work in the developing world. Many of the challenges our nation and the world will face in the decade ahead will be the challenges you face each working day at Treasury, including the war on drugs.

Treasury is making an outstanding contribution to our nation's fight against drugs. The Customs Service interdiction capabilities have never been better. Agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms are also on the front lines, investigating the violent gun-running organizations allied with the drug lords.

But there's another front in the battle, the white-collar end of the drug trade -- money laundering. Treasury, IRS, and Customs are doing first-rate work tracing the path of drug profits in the world's banking system. And Secretary Brady is working closely with our partners in the Group of Seven [economic summit participants], the G - 7, to wage an international battle against money laundering. Make no mistake; we are going to track every lead that we receive from whatever source to separate the drug barons from the drug money. The bravery and courage shown by President Barco and the people of Colombia demand nothing less. The international drug cartel is a multibillion-dollar business. We've got to hit the drug lords where it counts. It's time to take the profit out of the drug trade. And I know you're all interested in the current state of play in Colombia, so let me just tell you briefly where we stand.

First, we're making good progress in getting the much-needed military aid and equipment on the ground in Colombia. As of today, we've supplied over $10 million worth of equipment: 10 aircraft, 5 UH - 1 helicopters, an assortment of jeeps, ambulances, and armor. Sixteen members of the American Armed Forces are in Colombia to oversee the supply operation and provide training.

Second, we are working with the Colombian judiciary to increase the physical safety of judges and other members of the judicial system. And that includes security training as well as the delivery of armored cars and vests and communications equipment already underway.

And third, we're moving ahead with the extraditions. Mr. Martinez, of course, is in U.S. custody; and three more extradition requests granted by the Colombian Government are now in that 5-day appeal process. I know there's been some recent discussion about U.S. military personnel operating in the Andes.

Well, let me state clearly: None of the Andean nations have asked for U.S. troops, and there is no contemplation of the use of American Armed Forces in any combat role there. No U.S. military personnel will accompany host government forces on actual field operation. Our personnel will provide training, equipment, and operational support, as we have been asked to do. And I will see that it works just exactly that way.

It's been my privilege today to join you in this celebration. You can all be proud of the long, illustrious history of your institution and the new chapter that you're writing here at the U.S. Treasury today. Thank you very much for inviting me over. Congratulations! Keep up the good work. Thank you to the Coast Guard. And God bless America. Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 2:30 p.m. on the grounds of the Department. In his remarks, he referred to publisher Malcolm Forbes; Katherine Brady, wife of the Secretary; actress Elizabeth Taylor; and Eduardo Martinez-Romero, a suspected drug money launderer who was extradited from Colombia to the United States on September 6.

George Bush, Remarks at the Ceremony Commemorating the 200th Anniversary of the Department of the Treasury Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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