The President's News Conference
THE PRESIDENT. [1.] The Federal Government began operations under my first budget on July 1st. The Kennedy year went out June 30th. I spent part of the afternoon with Mr. Gordon yesterday, and we worked on it some more this morning. We now have complete figures for Government operations during the first 2 months of this fiscal year, totaled and complete, July and August. This is what the figures show:
I. Total budget expenditures for this 2 months' period are down $667 million from the same period last year.
2. Civilian employment in the executive branch in July 1964 was 25,000 below the same month, July, in the previous year. In August of 1964 it was 17,000 down below August of 1963. We expect that the September figures will also be below last year's level. In a few days, when we have our reports calculated from the various agencies, we will give you that information.
Federal nondefense agencies report, in accordance with my reporting requirements, that they took steps to initiate management improvements and cost reductions in July and August which will produce savings of more than $178 million on an annual basis. These savings are in addition to the $100 million reported last April and to the $140 million reported in July. I would caution you that these are figures in nondefense agencies. They are in addition to the $2.5 billion savings actually already realized last year under the Defense Department's cost-reduction program.
The agencies with the largest savings to be realized by actions taken in the first 2 months of our fiscal year, July and August, are as follows:
Atomic Energy Commission, $66 million.
National Aeronautics and Space Administration, $44 million.
Department of Agriculture, $14,600,000.
Post Office Department, $10,500,000.
Agency for International Development, $8,900,000.
Interior Department, $7,400,000.
Veterans Administration, $6,100,000.
These are the largest savings. I will not take time to go into the smaller ones.
These savings were achieved through better procurement methods, tighter controls on employment, elimination of publications which I reported to you, overtime paid, reduction of travel, reduction in communications, greater use of Government surplus facilities and equipment, better organization, consolidations, cutting out unnecessary layers and eliminating unnecessary functions.
With the adjournment of the Congress we have, last night, totaled up all of the requests for appropriations which I sent to the Congress since I became President, and we have determined that we requested $450 million less than I publicly stated I would request in my budget last January.
The Budget Director informs me that our performance in July and August strengthens his confidence in the 1965 expenditure reestimate of $97.3 billion which we made to you officially in May. At this level, expenditures will be $600 million below the actual expenditures in fiscal 1964. A copy of that statement will be made available to you, and George1 will give you a copy.
1 George E. Reedy, Press Secretary to the President.
Federal civilian employment in the executive branch in August was 2,483,559, if you want that figure. Employment in August, last month, was a third consecutive month in which Federal employment was below the figures for the same month in the 2 preceding years.
[2.] I have received today an updated cost-reduction report from the Secretary of Defense. This report contains the final audited savings resulting from the Department of Defense cost reduction program for the year that we ended June 30th. On July 7th Secretary McNamara reported savings of $2,553 million. The figures for the final quarter of the year were estimated, as he so reported. I am happy now to state that the final figures for the year have been audited and the actual savings from the cost reduction program, instead of $2,553 million, as estimated, are $2,831 million, an increase of $278 million over our previous estimates.
On July 30th, I announced that the number of direct-hire civilian employees in the Department of Defense had been reduced for the first time below one million in many years, to 997,864, the first time since the Korean war buildup that such employment had ever gone under one million.
Secretary McNamara has informed me this morning that his previous direct-hire civilian employment ceiling of 989,920 for the end of the current fiscal year on which I based my 1965 budget estimate that I sent to Congress can now be reduced to 984,553, or a further reduction of 13,311 below the Department of Defense civilian employment level on July 1, 1964, and 5,367 below the previously established ceiling of July 1, 1965.
These reports from Secretary McNamara gave me renewed conviction that I will be able to fulfill my pledge to the taxpayers of America when I assumed this office: to give them a dollar's worth of defense for every dollar spent. The report also makes me confident that the Secretary of Defense will probably exceed his established goal of saving $4.6 billion each year, every year, beginning in fiscal 1968.
[3.] Six months ago I directed the Secretary of Defense to undertake the most comprehensive study of the draft system ever made in this country, and report that to you through our press and television-radio media. Today Secretary McNamara gave me a progress report on this study.
He is exploring all possible ways of meeting our military manpower needs, including the possibility of not relying on the draft. This study will be completed next April. I am impressed and I am pleased by the very thorough approach which is being given and taken on this very complex and important problem.
The Department of Defense staff is being supported by many other of the civilian agencies and Government departments. I am confident that when the study is completed, it will provide the most extensive information on our military manpower needs and supply that has ever been assembled in this country. Secretary McNamara has undertaken the following:
--A thorough evaluation of the fairness of current and alternative draft selection procedures.
--A series of studies aimed at tracing the influence of the draft on employment, on training, on marriage rates, on education, and so forth.
--Surveys and analyses of the plans and the attitudes of young men of military service age to assist us in designing ways to increase the number of volunteers.
--A review of the potential for extending the use of civilians in place of military personnel in support-type activities.
The Secretary of Defense emphasizes that the current population boom offers an unprecedented challenge to our armed services to try to strengthen their voluntary recruitment program. In this coming year the first wave of the postwar generation will reach military-service age. The number of young men reaching 18 will increase from under 1 ½ million in the past few years to nearly 2 million during the fiscal year ending June 1965.
While I am encouraged with the progress made thus far in these studies, I must emphasize that it is premature to make responsible forecasts of the outcome at this time. Most Americans would agree that we should minimize the use of compulsion in meeting our military manpower needs, but I believe that few Americans would want us to take risks with our security.
We will consider all of the facts. We will consider all of the reasonable alternatives to the present system. We will weigh them in terms of their effect on the young men of this country and their families, as well as on our military capabilities and national security.
We will receive from the Selective Service, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the expert civilians in the Department appropriate recommendations as to their judgment of what is best to be done. We will then offer to the American people that course of action which, after careful and thorough study, we believe to be best calculated to protect our freedom at the least and most equitable burden to our society.
[4.] I have an economic statement.
This week, as we enter the last quarter of 1964, the 44th month of our economic expansion, we can see the economic record of the year now taking shape. The pace of our advance has quickened.
Unemployment, after remaining stubbornly between 51 1/2 and 6 percent in 1962 and 1963, dropped to 5.3 in the first half of this year, to 5.1 in the first quarter.
Our total national output is growing at a 5 percent rate in real terms.
With the aid of the tax cut, consumers are leading the advance. In the first half of the year, their spending rose by a record $15 billion. Strong gains are now continuing. In July, August, and the first 4 weeks of September, retail sales have been 6 percent or more above this period last year.
Business is investing 13 percent more in plant and equipment this year than last year. Sharply rising profits and depreciation allowances, which as you will recall were running 12 percent above a year earlier during the second quarter, have supplied most of the necessary funds.
Our great gains are not being eroded by inflation. Consumer prices, which dropped a bit in August, rose only 1 percent in the past year, a rise well below the postwar average. Average wholesale prices were below their levels of a year earlier, and below their level at the time that the tax cut was enacted. Wise and responsible policies by business, by labor, and by Government, working and reasoning together in harmony, can bring us continued solid and sound expansion for a long time to come.
[5.] Today the first round-the-world cruise of our first nuclear task force will come to an end when the three ships comprising that force return to their home ports in the United States. The carrier Enterprise and the cruiser Long Beach will put in at Norfolk, and the guided missile frigate Bainbridge will arrive in Charleston. I commend this event to your attention as one of great interest. And there is a fuller statement that you can copy.2
2 The statement as released by the White House included the following additional paragraphs:
These ships have demonstrated a new dimension in our strategic capabilities at sea and they have written a new chapter in the history of our friendly relations with the countries they have visited.
It should be noted by friend and foe alike that these ships in traveling 65 days and more than 30,000 miles did not require a single item of logistic replenishment from any source to complete their mission. They were completely self-sustaining.
The officers and men of these ships are to be congratulated on a job extremely well done, and I have asked both the Secretary of the Navy and the Chief of Naval Operations to go to Norfolk today to convey my personal greetings and congratulations
[6.] I have a statement prepared on the Congress that will be available to you, but I don't want to take your time from questions to read it. It summarizes the 10 months of hard, painstaking work of the Members and it gives my opinion of the achievements of the Congress.3
3 Item 620.
[7.] I have a brief announcement on the number of women, since we started our special program to induce the employment and promotion of women, in the Federal service. Since our last report on September 8th, the departments and selected agencies have reported a total of 88 personnel actions promoting or appointing women in grades GS-12 and above. These additions bring the grand total since January 1964 to 1,542, excluding Presidential appointments. With the Presidential appointments, that brings a total of 1,610. There is more detail on that if you want it.
[8.] There is also a statement here by the Secretary of State and the Director of the Office of Information for providing the United States with a more flexible and effective Foreign Service. I won't read that. If you care to have it, you can get that mimeographed and George will make them available to you.4
4 For the President's statement on announcing a change in the Foreign Service, see Item 621.
Now I will be glad to answer any questions.
[9.] Q. Mr. President, can you tell us how many women in GS-12 and above were in Government a year ago?
THE PRESIDENT. No, I can just tell you that we have added that many by promotion and appointment.
Q. Well, this is in addition?
THE PRESIDENT. These are in addition to that. You will remember it was reported-I questioned it at the time--but someone said that we would have at least 50 women in top places in Government. There was considerable splash about it, and stories about the 50, and there has been 1,600-odd.
[10.] Q. Mr. President, can you tell us when you plan to have the President-elect of Mexico and his wife as your guest at the LBJ Ranch, and also your thoughts in making the invitation?
THE PRESIDENT. No.
[11.] Q. Mr. President, in the light of the Warren Commission's report, and the campaign season, there are many stories about your behavior in crowds and the campaign and your physical well-being. Because of these recommendations in the Warren Commission report, and because of some of these concerns that have been expressed, would this start you to change your style?
THE PRESIDENT. No. I want to be fully responsive to your question, and I have studied the Warren Commission report. I wish you would specify what recommendations you had in mind, because I have been reading some of these articles that are written by people who obviously haven't seen it.
Q. It is not the solid recommendations, but some of the suggestions.
THE PRESIDENT. What specific ones?
Q. Well, that you not go into the thick of a crowd.
THE PRESIDENT. There is no such recommendation.
Q. Well, undue exposure.
THE PRESIDENT. There is no such suggestion. I commend the report to your reading. I have read it and I have the provisions marked, and they point out that the President must have association and contact with them, and they do not recommend that you not do it.
The facts of the case are that when you are visiting with these crowds and shaking hands with people, this is the least dangerous period that the President has. I am just amazed that the press would point up these things as creating a problem.
I would have you know that the director of the Secret Service and all of those associated with him tell me that you frequently quote their opinions and their feeling without authority or without justification, in your stories.
Only yesterday I sent him a story where a usually reliable White House reporter had written about the concern of the Secret Service, and it was not only not a concern, but they felt that we were following their instructions. I never violate any instructions from them. But the question is whether to follow some reporter who has neither read the Warren report nor who knows anything about security--following his suggestion or following the suggestion of the security man.
Now, this morning I have this note from the Chief of the Service, and this is the feeling of all of the people who have served the President.
Following the assassination, we took a good many precautionary steps. We had the highest people in this Government meet and attempt to work out what additional precautions could be taken. I don't want to go into all of those, because I really think that you all serve no good purpose by playing on these things and inviting the attention of folks who have interests in these fields. But if you want to do it and must do it, I think that you ought to do it with the facts, and not off the top of your head.
The memo from the Chief of the Secret Service this morning says this, which might be helpful to some of you:
"There has been much said concerning the dangerous risk involved when the President personally appears in and mingles with crowds. The Secret Service is quite accustomed to working in crowds, and this responsibility does not make them nervous or jittery or worried. It is the nature of the protective assignment that the Secret Service is always concerned for the safety of the President and the First Family.
"The element of surprise which is gained during impromptu appearances of the President, for example, when he stops his car during a motorcade without notice is often the most important deterrent to risk. The ability to infiltrate any gathered crowd by plainclothesmen and law enforcement officers, both male and female, is another important deterrent. The crowd itself also offers some protection by covering the President. It also prevents a potential assassin froth performing an act unnoticed and prevents the escape of the individual. When on the same level, only these persons in the front row have fair accessibility to the President."
[At this point the President spoke off the record. He then resumed speaking on the record.]
But I would say that we have had the Secret Service meet with the FBI and appropriate people in other investigative agencies and we comply with their requests and with their instructions. I am very pleased with the competence of the Secret Service people that surround me, and with the cooperation that they receive from Mr. Hoover and his group at all times.
We do feel and we have felt all along, that you do need to take advance precautions before you go into a place. We try as best we can to balance their desire that we not overly advertise far ahead of time our exact movement with your desire that you have 2 weeks' notice before we travel, and we try to balance it as best we can.
We think that the Secret Service is not in any way dismayed. They are pleased with the way we are handling ourselves, and I am pleased with them. The only ones I know that are not pleased are some politician that doesn't understand it or some reporter who hasn't read it.
I had the Warren Committee report briefed this morning. Will you get it for me? I think Dick5 has it here. I had a young lawyer go over it and we are trying to find out all of these recommendations that these folks are writing about, and how we violate it. It just isn't so.
5 Richard H. Nelson, Presidential Aide.
Q. There was an innuendo there about exposure.
THE PRESIDENT. Give me the innuendo. It is just not there. Have you read the Warren Commission report?
Q. Yes, sir.
THE PRESIDENT. What are you referring to?
Q. Well, there were portions in there which said the President should not expose himself unduly.
THE PRESIDENT. There is a matter of degree. No one wants to endanger himself unduly, but the question is this: When you stand in front of a group of 80,000 people for 37 minutes, you are in much greater danger than you are stopping. None of the Secret Service or the FBI are worried about a fellow shaking hands.
Q. Mr. President, I believe one of the recommendations of the Commission was that your personal physician be close to you when you are in public. Dr. Burkley was several cars back in the motorcade when one burst into flame. Will you keep your own doctor closer to you in public?
THE PRESIDENT. No, I think that he is kept as close as is necessary, and as is practicable, and he is really not guarding me. He is a matter of seconds from me. If he happens to be in the second or third car, that is adequate, and they think it is adequate. We try to put first things first, and we believe that we are doing that.
There are some parts of the report that interest me, and I will quote them:
"From George Washington to John F. Kennedy, such journeys have been a normal part of the President's activities."
Another quotation is:
"In all of these roles, the President must go to the people. Exposure of the President to public view through travel among the people of this country is a great and historic tradition of American life. Desired by both the President and the public, it is an indispensable means of communication between the two."
Here is another quotation:
"But his very position as representative of the people prevents him from effectively shielding himself from the people. He cannot and will not take the precautions of a dictator or a sovereign. Under our system, measures must be sought to afford security without impeding the President's performance of his many functions."
This is another quotation:
"An approach to complete security would require the President to operate in a sort of vacuum, isolated from the general public and behind impregnable barriers. His travel would be in secret; his public appearances would be behind bulletproof glass."
Very frankly, they had "behind bulletproof glass" as a recommendation following the Kennedy assassination. On certain occasions, when we go over and under certain dangerous places they have outlined ahead, they try to cover every one of these trips with dozens of men going ahead of us, long before you folks even know what we plan. Sometimes they go and examine places that we don't even go to, because they think that we might go to them.
"Any travel, any contact with the general public involves a calculated risk on the part of the President and the men responsible for his protection. Some risks can be lessened when the President recognizes the security problem, has confidence in the dedicated Secret Service men who are ready to lay down their lives for him and accepts the necessary security precautions which they recommend. Many Presidents have been understandably impatient with the security precautions which many years of experience dictate because these precautions reduce the President's privacy and the access to him of the people of the country. Nevertheless, the procedures and advice should be accepted if the President wishes to have any security."
We have gone through and analyzed all of the pertinent parts, and I have read the pertinent parts here to you now. Since I became President, we have been following them. It is irritating to go in an old car that sometimes roars and you can't even talk in it, but if they recommend it, that is what we do.
None of you need to be worried about my physical safety between now and November. I am going to follow their recommendations. Of course, no one can tell whether their recommendations are best or not, but I comply with them. I had the same people with me as Vice President when you will remember a good many of you complained in columns and articles and in four speeches about having too much protection.
I remember some Congressmen got up and made speeches about having too much protection, and a waste of money, and so forth. But we follow what these men do. Mr. Rowley6 is the head of it and Mr. Behn7 is the head of the White House detail, but the man who has been with me many years, and who travels with me, and really supervises all of the folks with us, is Mr. Rufus Youngblood. He and I never have a difference of opinion or a cross word. We are very congenial and very understanding, and his security recommendations are carried out to the letter.
6 James J. Rowley, Chief of the U.S. Secret Service.
7 Gerald A. Behn, head of the White House detail of the Secret Service.
The memorandum that I read you a moment ago from Mr. Rowley represents the views of the people who really do the actual guarding. It is over his signature, but I have discussed that with him thoroughly because of two or three articles that were written along that line.
[12.] Q. Mr. President, going back to the budget figures that you read us, have you come to any tentative conclusions as to whether or not next year's budget can be held at this year's budget, or under it?
THE PRESIDENT. We have given to the departments certain guidelines for their exploration in connection with their recommendations to us. We cannot finalize that figure until (1) our task forces have made their reports, which will be the latter part of November, some 15 task forces working on the program which I will recommend to the next Congress; and (a) until the Budget Director and I have a chance to scan their recommendations.
We are anxious to keep the expenditures just as low as we possibly can. We recognize that we have a growing population and we have growing needs, but we are trying, as I have said on other occasions, to take the things that we are now doing, what you call the "haves," if we think they are unnecessary, we reduce them in every way we can in order to give to other new programs for which they now do not have anything-the "have-nots"--and we will take from the ones that can be reduced over to the ones that need to be started.
For instance, we reduced from regular departments throughout the Government-Agriculture, Commerce, Labor, HEW, Defense, and others--more than enough money from what they had to finance our entire poverty program which was a so-called "have-not" at that time. We took from them and put it over here.
I am trying to follow the policy that if I am going to have a new venture, then I have to have some way whereby I can find the money for that, rather than just adding to what we spend. I actually had $1 billion less in our budget this year than last year. I don't know how it will run the coming year. We will have to take a look at it. We are working very hard to keep it as low as possible.
[13.] Q. Mr. President, there has been a good deal of invective--and I use that word--hurled across the landscape lately by some candidates running for high office, words like "lies" and "deceit" and "drift" and "defeat" and words along that line. Aside from what is read into your replies at formal speeches, I wonder if you have anything to say about that kind of campaign?
THE PRESIDENT. No. I would refer you to my previous statements on my belief that the people are not particularly concerned about my opinion of my opponent or his personal opinion of me. Most of them recognize in campaigns that candidates don't spend their time recommending the other fellow.
[14.] Q. Referring to your statement of taking from the Government departments that are involved and giving to those that are "have-nots," in the spirit of the season, it appears there is some material questioning whether you meant to apply this to the executive departments or the country as a whole, and I thought you might want to clarify it. I think we all understand it.
THE PRESIDENT. If there is any confusion, eliminate the words "have" and "have-nots." What I mean to say, by previous appropriation of funds, where a department has those funds and a new program does not have those funds, you have to find places where you can make savings if you are to inaugurate a new program. You have to get the approval of Congress, and I think that is one of the reasons we got our poverty program through, because we had effective savings from those departments that had appropriations. So we have something available to those "have-nots."
[15.] Q. Mr. President, could you tell us, sir, what the status and the meaning are of this nuclear treaty that Sir Alec Douglas-Home and Senator Douglas,8 among others, talked of in the past few days?
THE PRESIDENT. There is no secret of any kind. It seems to me that the question raised by one of the candidates yesterday-my opponent--on a train, was somewhat impulsive. Most of you have had these news briefings and will recall that back in January I made a public announcement on the television and radio networks of this country, and have said several times at press conferences, that we propose new agreements to stop the spread of nuclear weapons to nations not now possessing them. We put forward that proposal publicly and officially in Geneva. All of you know it has been under constant discussion ever since.
8 Sir Alec Douglas-Home, Prime Minister of Great Britain, and Senator Paul H. Douglas of Illinois.
I am convinced, as I said in Seattle, that the spread of nuclear weapons is one of the great dangers to peace, and as long as I am President, I shall continue to work as hard as I know how to work to seek agreements that will stop that spread.
Unfortunately, as you know, and as the public record clearly shows, the Soviet Union so far has refused to support our proposal and, as all the world knows, the Chinese Communists have violently opposed any nuclear agreement of any kind.
So there is no secret here. It is simply some more evidence that impulsive people should probably get themselves properly briefed.
[At this point the President again spoke off the record.]
[16.] Q. Mr. President, would you comment on the failure to get the medicare bill, and particularly whether it was satisfactory to you that we also failed to get the social security benefits increased?
THE PRESIDENT. We regret that we could never get Congressman Mills, the chairman of the committee, and Congressman Byrnes, the chairman of the Republican Policy Committee, and Congressman Curtis to yield or to moderate their views.9
9 The President referred to Representatives Wilbur D. Mills of Arkansas, John W. Byrnes of Wisconsin, and Thomas B. Curtis of Missouri.
The Members reported to me that there was an impasse and they just would not have any part of a Senate proposal this year. I did everything that I could to get it accepted in the Senate and the House. I had many, many conferences with many, many people. But they felt that they couldn't get agreement and they had several meetings and several votes, and like many conferences they just couldn't agree.
I think Senator Gore very properly presented the situation when he said that it is now a matter that the people of this country can pass judgment on. I hope that we get a mandate in November. There are about 19,700,000, about one out of every 10 people, who are on social security, and we think that one of the most important domestic problems is to provide some hospital and medical care for them. It does not in any way involve doctors, and we think it is better for the individual and his employer to provide that by contributing to a fund than to shovel it out of State funds, as you do in other programs.
The Senate agrees with us, but as is often the case, you have difficulty getting both Houses to agree on the same thing at the same time. However, we confidently feel that we will find a way to get agreement in the next session.
We are just sorry that one of our Democrats agreed with two Republicans. I know he was sincere and I know he thought he was doing the right thing, and men do have different opinions.
[17.] Q. Sir, do you think any good can ever come from a situation in which testimony given to the Warren Commission is released to the public by someone other than the Warren Commission?
THE PRESIDENT. I would think any matter involving the testimony of the Warren Commission at this stage of the game is a proper inquiry for the Warren Commission.
[18.] Q. Mr. President, can you give us your view on the suggestion that your administration is soft on communism?
THE PRESIDENT. I don't know that I want to reply in kind to the charge of that nature. I see in the papers--that is the only information that I have--the new and frightening voice of the Republican Party is merely trying out this charge at the moment to see if it works. On that basis, my own advice would be to drop it.
I also saw it reported that he was advised along these lines by Mr. Hoover and Mr. Nixon, former President Hoover, but both President Hoover and Vice President Nixon are men I have known for many years and have worked with them, and I doubt very much that either of them would make such a suggestion about me or about my Cabinet or this administration.
My own belief is that this sort of nonsense was the product of some third-string speech writer and accidentally got into the public print without prudent or careful screening. As far as I am concerned, I intend to ignore it. I think when the Republican candidate really has a chance to think about it and study it, he will stop it.
William Eaton, United Press International: Thank you, Mr. President.
Q. Mr. President, we all have more questions.
THE PRESIDENT, I am sure that would be true if I stayed here all day.
Note: President Johnson's thirty-second news conference was held in his office at the White House at 3:05 p.m. on Saturday, October 3, 1964.
Lyndon B. Johnson, The President's News Conference Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/242571