Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Remarks at the Defense Department Cost Reduction Week Ceremony.

July 21, 1964

Secretary McNamara, Secretary Vance, Service Secretaries, valued members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, devoted employees of the United States Government:

When Secretary McNamara invited me here several weeks ago, I don't know what he knew that I didn't know at that time, but needless to say I am happy to arrive at the Pentagon on the day after the Senate unanimously approved the military pay increase bill.

We expect the House to act favorably shortly, but we will withhold our "well done" to the Congress until that bill is signed by the President.

It is good to see all of you and to be with you here today. I want to express my gratitude to your computers for giving you time off to attend these ceremonies.

The Secretary is under instructions to watch costs closely these days, but I will use what influence I have to see that this hour is not charged against your annual leave.

Last December I attempted to impress upon all the officers of the Cabinet that I expected each of them to personally do his full share in holding the line on Government spending. Specifically, I said at that time: "Your budgets should reflect economies from better management and higher productivity, resulting from improved methods, procedures, organization, and employee incentive."

A good manager can do all of this. The response throughout the Government has more than justified my belief that our Federal Government is staffed with many very good managers, both civilian and military.

The line has been held on spending. It is still being held today and nowhere was that challenge more difficult than here in your Defense Department. Nowhere has that challenge been met more effectively or more responsibly.

Secretary McNamara's report to me a few days ago tells an impressive story.

In the fiscal year of 1964 your Department realized savings of $2½ billion, and those savings are at least $1 billion more than had been forecast.

But that is not the whole story. Our military muscle has grown while budgetary fat has been trimmed away.

As Secretary McNamara reported to me, in the last 3 years we have attained the following:

First, 150 percent increase in the number of nuclear warheads in the Strategic Alert Force.

Second, a 60 percent increase in the tactical nuclear forces deployed in Western Europe.

Third, a 45 percent increase in the number of combat ready Army divisions.

Fourth, a 75 percent increase in airlift capability.

Fifth, a 100 percent increase in general ship construction and conversion to modernize our Navy; and

Sixth, an 800 percent increase in the special forces trained to deal with threats of counterinsurgency.

This is by every standard a record of which each of you can be proud and for which all of your Nation is grateful.

But this record has not been achieved and could not have been achieved merely by orders and edicts from the top. That is the real reason that I came over here this morning. I believe that the other departments and agencies and the people of this country should all know what your able Secretary, Mr. McNamara, has emphasized to me on many occasions.

In 1962 and again in 1963 many of the very substantial cost savings came from the upper echelons of this Department.

In 1964 he tells me the reverse is true. Cost consciousness has permeated throughout the Pentagon and throughout all of our Commands.

We are today being literally flooded with thousands of suggestions from individual military and civilian personnel in the Commands in the lower units. This is a wholesome and very hopeful development.

So, I came here this morning to thank you and to congratulate you for the example you are offering the Nation and the record that you are making for your country.

I have tried to set an example. I shall continue to do so.

I remember what the head of another government once said long ago, and I quote: "I would rather have the people laugh at my economies than weep for my extravagance."

Budget levels cannot be changed drastically overnight either by cutting out the lights or waving a wand. Every thinking citizen knows this, but attitudes can be changed, and attitudes toward budgeting and attitudes toward public spending, and every thinking citizen in or out of our Government knows that it is time for many old attitudes to be Changed.

We are the richest nation in the history of the world. We can afford to spend whatever is needed to keep this country safe and to keep our freedom secure. And we shall do just that.

But we cannot afford to spend one dollar more than is absolutely necessary, because we have other needs to meet with those dollars-public needs and private needs.

We of the United States keep a courageous vigil of peace around the world, but there are also vigils of justice and vigils of progress and vigils of decency that we must keep here at home.

If we are to do that, you and I and all of us who hold the public trust must keep a closer vigil and a more courageous vigil on the public purse.

I think now we have come to the point to present the awards to the men and women of the Defense Department who have kept that vigil and have done just that and thereby have set an example for all of us.

[ After the presentation of the awards the President resumed speaking. ]

This has been a most refreshing and stimulating morning for me. I am proud to meet and to congratulate some of those who are responsible for the very great economies that have been reflected in this report.

One aspect of that report gave me very special pleasure, and that is the goal that you have set for the future: your goal of saving $4,600 million a year, each year, every year. That goal may seem unattainable. Not too many months ago the prospect of saving an extra $1 billion would have seemed unattainable for fiscal 1964. But I believe that you will reach that goal, and I believe you will exceed it.

Soft budgets do not build a strong America. Flabby fiscal practices are enemies not only of our muscle and our might; they are enemies of mental capabilities and moral concepts.

I thank you and all who worked with you for the great job that you are doing to defend freedom and to preserve peace.

Now I must go back across the river to see what I can do to secure some other things--both the military and civilian pay bill--through the Congress.

Note: The President spoke in midmorning on the concourse at the Pentagon building. In his opening words he referred to Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara and Deputy Secretary of Defense Cyrus R. Vance.

As announced by the White House on July 13, Defense Cost Reduction Week (July 20-25) had a twofold purpose: (1) to recognize the efforts of civilian and military personnel in the Defense establishment throughout the world who had contributed to the $2.5 billion savings accomplished in fiscal year 1964, and (2) to concentrate attention on the actions required to attain in the coming months the savings goal of $4.6 billion.

At the ceremony 4 military officers and 15 civilian employees of the Defense establishment were honored with special recognition Certificates of Merit, the first to be presented following a White House announcement on May 21 that special Presidential citations would be awarded during the year to Federal employees and governmental units responsible for achieving significant cost reduction or other improvements in Government operations. Marking the 10th year of the Federal Employees' Incentive Awards system, the awards offered additional recognition and a tangible symbol of the President's personal appreciation.

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

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