Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Remarks at the Defense Department Cost Reduction Awards Ceremony

October 08, 1968

Secretary Clifford, Secretary Nitze, Secretaries of the Services, General Wheeler and members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, ladies and gentlemen of the Department of Defense:

Every year since I became your President I have personally participated in these cost reduction ceremonies.

Ever since I came to Washington--now nearly 40 years ago--I have believed that good government also means efficient government.

There used to be an idea in this country that it was only the business corporations that knew how to be efficient. Government-the critics said--was wasteful by its very nature: All bureaucrats were bumblers and all civil servants were spendthrifts.

If that were ever true, it is not now. And one reason that it is not now is because of what you have done, each of you, here in this great Department of Defense, of which I am so proud and the Nation is so proud. Today, the people from business corporations come here to your Department to study your managerial methods.

You have set new standards for the entire Federal Government. The great Chairman of our Civil Service Commission, John Macy, tells me that fiscal 1968 is the third year in a row when the savings from employee suggestions have gone above the $100 million mark.

Your Department has demonstrated that it can manage immense sums of money; that it can capably direct gigantic programs of procurement; and, it can faithfully administer the affairs of millions of servicemen and civilian employees--and you have shown that you can do all of these things and do them efficiently.

When I became your President, I asked Secretary McNamara and I directed this Department to procure and maintain whatever forces were necessary to safeguard America's security.

But I insisted that this be done at the lowest sound cost to the taxpayer.

That is exactly what you men and women have accomplished.

Your cost reduction program has achieved audited savings of no less than 13 billions of dollars since I came into office 5 years ago. And I think that is a magnificent achievement.

It happened because individual men and women, in every branch and division of this great Department, made it their personal business and their personal goal and objective to get their job done a little better.

It is the individual employee, thinking creatively about his own work, who gets the real results in a project like this.

That is why there is really no contradiction between an organization being big and an organization being economical.

Efficiency is a question of whether the people on the job are big or small in their thinking, in their dedication, and in their sense of responsibility.

As you know, I have seen to it that the innovations which you in the Defense Department have made are now operating throughout the entire executive branch of the Federal Government. For that I express my gratitude to each of you for making that possible, and to Secretary McNamara, who gave you brilliant leadership for many years and to Secretary Clifford, than whom there is no better in the Federal Government.

Secretary Clifford tells me that your new cost reduction savings for fiscal 1968 exceeded $1.2 billion--that is $177 million more than the goal that you had established for this year. So today, here with your Nation looking on--on behalf of all the Nation's taxpayers--and I am one of them-your President has come to congratulate you.

Ladies and gentlemen, I am very proud of you. I am very proud of the extraordinary efforts that you have made during the years of my administration.

We have done some difficult things together. We have done some easy things together. But we have never done anything together because it is easy. Whatever we have done together we have done because we thought it was right. The pressures of the moment, the propaganda of the time, and the criticism of superiors and inferiors wherever they might be, have never deterred the loyal soldiers in uniform, or the civilians who support them, from carrying out their orders and doing their duty for the land that they care so much about.

One of the most inspiring statements I have heard in recent years was when, in a somewhat questioning period, a distinguished man from private life who was approaching his first public service at retirement age of 65 was asked, "Why would you take this job?"

And he spontaneously said, "Because I love America." And he added a few other things which I will not do.

Why have you done this job? Not just for the paycheck. Not just for the satisfaction of working with more than four million other human beings, but the reason that you have excelled and the reason that you have written a record of which you and your descendants can always be proud, is because, I believe, you love America.

So, this has proven to me as your President what I have always believed throughout my lifetime of public service, that one of the greatest strengths this Nation has is the caliber and the character of the men and women in our Defense Establishment-both in and out of uniform. You are a very special people to me. You have been with me in sunshine and sorrow and you have given me strength when I needed it most.

As I meet with you, perhaps for the last time, I want each and every one of you to know that some may have fallen by the wayside and some may have changed their minds, but the Department of Defense, as exemplified by this great record that you have written here, has never failed me and-what is more important--never failed their country.

So, as your President and as your Commander in Chief I have proudly come here this morning to salute you.

[at this point, the President and Secretary of Defense Clark Clifford presented the awards. The President then resumed speaking.]

I want to conclude this visit by saying thank you to the people of the Defense Department who make possible the President's communications, who contribute a great deal to the good food that he eats, who preserve his health wherever he is, and who finally transport him anywhere, anytime, on time.

I know that no President has ever been served so efficiently. I have flown around the world in 59 hours. I have met with 15 heads of state and I have not been one minute late. How the Air Force, the Army, the Navy, and Marines--all of whom played their part--could have done that so efficiently, so thoroughly coordinated, I have never understood.

From the time I wake up in the morning, when one of the mess boys may present me my breakfast, until the time my plane touches down in some distant place, I have never felt so secure and I know I have never been in more competent hands.

So, sometime I am going to have my own little ceremony for the communications, the health, the food, and the transport people, because they are a great outfit.

Thank you.

Note: The President spoke at 11:35 a.m. at the Pentagon. In his opening words he referred to Clark M. Clifford, Secretary of Defense, Paul H. Nitze, Deputy Secretary of Defense, and Gen. Earle G. Wheeler, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. During his remarks the President referred to Robert S. McNamara, President of the World Bank and former Secretary of Defense 1961-1968.

Lyndon B. Johnson, Remarks at the Defense Department Cost Reduction Awards Ceremony Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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