Dwight D. Eisenhower photo

The President's News Conference

August 14, 1957

THE PRESIDENT. I think, ladies and gentlemen, that this is the first time I have asked you into an impromptu press conference. But I have called you in because I have just signed two documents that I believe will be of the utmost importance to the security and the prosperity and peace of the United States.

They are the Mutual Security Authorization Act and then my official request upon the Congress for the appropriations to implement that Act.

Now the authorization is for approximately three and four tenths billion dollars. This is a half billion less than that which I requested last May. The amount, therefore, that is on the appropriation request is exactly that, three and four-tenths minus billions, because I am prohibited by law from asking for more.

Now I signed this with really the prayerful hope that we may be able, with that amount, to sustain the essential interests of the United States in the free world, but there is no disguising the fact that the effects will be serious. Nevertheless, we can hope that we will do well enough so that the calling of the Congress in extraordinary session will not be necessary.

Now let's take a brief look at the history of this mutual security.

It started in 1947 and since that time there have been many points in the free world that have been transformed from positions of weakness and threat into positions of real strength for the free world.

Greece and Turkey started it. Yugoslavia, breaking away from the overlordship of Moscow. Iran in 1953. Then Vietnam a little later. And finally a stronger and better position in the Mid-East.

Now in that period--1947 to the present--the United States has put into the defense part of our mutual security about 17 billion dollars. Our allies have put 107 billion dollars. This means that for all of the money we have put in, there have been hundreds of thousands of soldiers, sailors, and airmen supported that we could otherwise have not supported at all on the side of the free world.

Incidentally, the cost of a division in almost any other country in the world is just a fraction of what it costs to sustain an American division either here or abroad.

Now certain of these countries that are on the outposts of the free world and right up against the Eurasian land mass are now absorbing about three-quarters of what we call the total of our defense supports. These are Korea, Formosa, Viet-Nam, Turkey, and Greece.

Let's consider Korea for a moment. In Korea we have got invested 135 thousand American casualties. Now I believe that under the circumstances existing at the time that war began, the war was necessary. Those casualties were required from us in order to support our security in the world and to stand firmly behind the cause of freedom.

But my question is now: Are we going to nullify all those sacrifices by failing to recognize the position of Korea facing a long battlefront of 155 miles and without adequate support from us?

Those countries are poor economically and financially, but they are strong in courage, and by helping them we certainly help ourselves.

Now in Korea alone we put 840 million dollars, or something of that nature. We have of course been struggling to help them get in a position where we can lower these costs. All over the world we have sought places where we can make savings. But I say to you, Korea cannot support the kind of forces necessary, unless we help them with money. And we have there as you know, only a very small portion of the soldiers we once had.

In the authorization bill, also, there is a development fund project which allows us to transform our economic help largely from the grant basis to the loan basis, something which every committee that has studied this problem recommends strongly.

I most earnestly hope that the Congress will support this particular part of the bill to the full.

Now let us remember, mutual aid has no special pressure group supporting it. There is no particular organization in America that is making a living out of supporting mutual security. This is merely a case where the welfare of all of us is involved--every single one of us, and our children.

So I think it becomes necessary for the President who does if nothing else try to represent--and it is his job to represent all of the people of the United States, to speak up in favor of what we are doing: a program that has been, on the whole, one of the most successful of any in which we have engaged; which confronts the communist menace with a unity of purpose and strength throughout the world. That is the kind of program that we are now talking about supporting properly, or weakening it.

I feel that America is not going to want to desert something that has been so laboriously and patiently built up over the past ten years by Americans of all parties, all races, all occupations. And I do not believe America is going to see it crumble through any false economy, or because it just has no local political impact.

Now of course this is not a regular press conference, and so in fairness to others, I would say let's don't go afield, but if there are any questions upon this particular subject, I would be glad, either with myself or my staff, to try to answer.

Q. John L. Steele, Time Magazine: Mr. President, at one point in your statement you have given us, you referred to the hope that enough money would be appropriated this year to avoid the necessity of a special session of Congress--

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I said I hoped that we would get through with what we have been allowed, and I am hoping and praying that they give us what is now in the authorization bill, you see?

Q. Mr. Steele: Yes, sir.

THE PRESIDENT. I Want that supported in full. With that money, I believe we have got a good chance to get through the year.

Q. Mr. Steele: If such is not the case, if you don't get that money, may we assume you would not hesitate to

THE PRESIDENT. I would have to. You cannot stand aside and see America's interest deteriorate throughout the world just by inaction.

Q. Merriman Smith, United Press: Well, can we harden that up a little, sir? Are you going to call a special session if they don't pass the appropriation?

THE PRESIDENT. No. This is what I am going to do. I am going to watch every single day what is developing in the world and whenever for lack of money the United States interests become placed in real jeopardy, at that moment I would have no recourse except to call a special session.

Now I cannot say that if they take a ten-dollar bill out of this thing, that that's a special session. You can't be that arbitrary, much as you might like to make that as a statement, Merriman.

Q. William H. Lawrence, New York Times: Mr. President, referring to this conference you had the other night with the Democrats and the Republicans, I take it you made to them--

THE PRESIDENT. Exactly what I have said to you.

Q. Mr. Lawrence:--the same sort of thing you have said to us? Now, what kind of response did you get? Was it an encouraging one--

THE PRESIDENT. I cannot tell you--I mean, I don't know, really

Q. Mr. Lawrence: No commitments?

THE PRESIDENT. No, there were no commitments of any kind. There never are at any of those meetings, Bill. Just a question of--I lay out before them what I believe. I lay it out strongly. As a matter of fact, I think I laid it out more strongly than I have here, but it was a longer conference--I suppose an hour and a half, hitting back and forth.

And of course, people can call your attention to places where there has been malfunctioning of administrative officers, where there has been some waste. Of course there is. We are human.

But the fact is: here is the cheapest money we spend, as long as we are talking about getting security for the United States. If we did not have this working effectively, I just would hate to guess what would be the sums I would have to ask in the defense appropriation next year.

Q. Laurence H. Burd, Chicago Tribune: Mr. President, did you tell the leaders the other night the same thing that you told us, about the possibility of calling them back into session?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I think probably only in a more negative way. I said that of course none of us would like to see the need for a special session of Congress.

Q. Mr. Burd: You did raise that possibility--

THE PRESIDENT. I mention this every time I talk about this particular problem. However, as you people well know, I don't think that any of you ought to interpret anything I say in terms of a threat of any kind. I never make them. It's a matter of what the necessities of the moment demand.

Any others? Well, thank you for coming in.

Merriman Smith, United Press: Thank you, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT. As I say, this is a bit unusual. Good to see you.

Note: President Eisenhower's one hundred and nineteenth news conference was held in his office August 14, 1957, at 4:00 p.m., shortly after the signing of Public Law 85-141 (71 Stat. 355). The attendance was not recorded.

On August 15, 1957, the following White House statement was released:

The President said yesterday that the cuts already made in the authorization bill were of such a nature as to hamper programs designed for the best interests of the United States and the free world.

Here is how the President views the additional cuts made by the Sub-Committee of the House Appropriations Committee:

1. The cut in military assistance is very deep and seems unjustified in extent. It will seriously delay modernization of the free world's forces in the face of progressively improved Communist forces.

2. The cut in .defense support will compel, almost certainly, dangerous reductions in the size and effectiveness of the forces now being maintained by free nations bordering on Communist lands. Additionally it will lead to serious difficulty in the economies of those nations supporting such forces.

3. The cut in the development loan fund--a forty per cent cut-makes impossible the realization of the important purpose for which this fund was established by the Congress.

4. The cut in technical assistance will make it difficult to assist our friends, particularly those newly independent nations who have turned to the United States for help in helping themselves.

5. The cut in the special assistance fund will not only seriously affect the funds for such programs as the world-wide effort to eradicate malaria, and to aid Hungarian refugees, but it will also seriously reduce the reserve funds hitherto provided to the President to meet emergencies which inevitably develop in the world we live in today.

The President is gravely concerned over these cuts. In the conviction that the national interests of this country are deeply involved, he sincerely hopes that final Congressional action will restore the amounts to those authorized by the Congress yesterday.

Dwight D. Eisenhower, The President's News Conference Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/233452

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