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Statement on Proposals Concerning the Office of Economic Opportunity.

June 02, 1969

IN A MESSAGE to Congress on February 19, I stated that "the blight of poverty requires priority attention," and pledged a "searching examination of how best to marshal the resources available to the Federal Government for combatting it."

The examination already has produced a series of concrete actions and recommendations. Among them:

--a tax reform that would exempt those in the lowest income brackets entirely from Federal income taxes,

--an expanded campaign against hunger and malnutrition,

--revision and improvement of the Model Cities program, renew efforts for the encouragement of minority business enterprise,

--the beginning of a new Federal effort to assist and encourage voluntary activity aimed at helping the needy.

Another major step forward was taken last week, with the swearing in of Donald Rumsfeld as the new Director of the Office of Economic Opportunity. I have every confidence that Mr. Rumsfeld will proceed with energy and imagination in strengthening OEO, in terms of both management and programs.

In doing so, he will have my full support. I believe deeply in the importance of an effective antipoverty effort, and I share his determination to see this effort succeed.

Toward this end, I will request an extension of the authorization for OEO appropriations from June 30, 1969, to June 30, 1971; and I will ask that the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 be extended from June 30, 1970, to June 30, 1972.

This represents a change from my earlier intention. In my February 19 message, I stated that I planned to ask for a 1-year extension of the authorization for OEO appropriations, and I indicated that by the end of the current fiscal year I would send to the Congress a comprehensive proposal for the future of the antipoverty program.

I have now concluded, however, that a 2-year extension would provide a better framework within which the necessary improvements in the antipoverty program can be made. This will not preclude asking for legislative changes to take effect before the act's expiration, but it will establish a stable environment in which those changes can be considered.

A 2-year extension will have a number of advantages. From a management standpoint, by allowing longer-range planning it will make possible a more orderly and efficient allocation of funds. From a recruiting standpoint, it will guarantee to those whose talents are needed that the Nation's commitment is a continuing one. Furthermore, an innovative agency has a special need for both continuity and flexibility. It is in the nature of experiments that some succeed, and some fail; a o-year extension will give greater assurance to those whose function it is to experiment that even though a particular program may fail, the lessons learned will be put to use, and that the larger effort of which it is a part will continue.

We already have set in motion a number of changes.

In my February 19 message, I indicated that I believed the primary role of the Office of Economic Opportunity should be innovative: to search out new knowledge and initiate new programs, serving as an "incubator" for experimental efforts. I also made clear that I would insist on more rigorous management standards, and I announced the delegation of the Job Corps to the Department of Labor and of Head Start to the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. The effective date of these delegations will be July 1, 1969. They represent program funds of over $500 million, approximately one-fourth of the OEO budget. The delegations of operating responsibility for Head Start and the Job Corps will free OEO to concentrate more fully on its innovative role.

Under the leadership of the new OEO Director, a comprehensive review and analysis of antipoverty efforts will continue during the coming months. Its purpose will be not only to evaluate existing programs and improve their operation, but also to determine what new programs should be initiated. Many of the improvements most immediately needed fall within the management authority of the present law. For example, planning procedures can be improved, program analysis strengthened, internal reorganization accomplished, and more rigorous management and fiscal controls instituted. New experimental programs can also be launched.

If we are to make lasting, significant headway against poverty, there still is a great deal to be learned about what works and what does not. This administration is committed to search for that knowledge, and to use it. We are committed to the continuation of an agency whose special concern is the poor; and we are determined to make the Nation's antipoverty efforts function more efficiently and serve the poor more effectively.

Note: Provisions incorporating the President's proposals were enacted in the Economic Opportunity Amendments of 1969 (Public Law 91-177, 83 Stat. 827).

Richard Nixon, Statement on Proposals Concerning the Office of Economic Opportunity. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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