Lyndon B. Johnson photo

The President's News Conference at the LBJ Ranch

December 27, 1963

THE PRESIDENT. [1.] First, we have the announcement that I have invited President Adolfo Lopez Mateos of Mexico to meet with me in southern California on February 21-22, 1963. This invitation to the President followed an invitation that President Mateos and myself receive honorary degrees from the University of California at Los Angeles. The invitation for the honorary degrees was extended by Governor Brown, the president of the University of California Board of Regents, and the Board of Regents. The university plans to hold a special convocation on the morning of February 21 to confer the honorary degrees.

Following a luncheon in Los Angeles, which is currently in a state of planning, the two of us will fly to Palm Springs, Calif., where we will meet on Friday afternoon and evening, February 21, and Saturday morning, February 22.

President Mateos has accepted the invitation and they will make their own announcement in due time.

[2.] Federal civilian employment was reduced by more than 1,000 during November and stood nearly 3,500 lower than at the end of November of last year. Special significance of this is that if Federal employment had grown at the same rate as the population, 400,000 new employees would have been added instead of being able to make the reduction of 3,500. So you can see that we are trying to at least set a good example.

This reduction was achieved mostly by not replacing employees going off the Federal payroll failing to fill vacancies. Overall there were 2,470,571 regular employees in the Federal Government at the end of November 1963. Of this total, 42 percent work in the Defense Department, 24 percent in the Post Office Department, and 7 percent in the Veterans Administration. All the rest of the work of the Federal Government is done by 658,000 employees.

The Federal Government must be a model of competent and efficient management, with economy the watchword, and an end to waste our goal.

[3.] Secretary of Defense McNamara's recent announcement relating to the closing and reduction of activities at the 33 installations, taken in line with my announced goal of economical operations of all agencies of the Government, has resulted in mail almost 5 to 1 supporting the action. A telegram from James E. Bent, President of the Greater Hartford, Conn., Chamber of Commerce, says that the directors of the chamber passed a resolution which said in part, "The Greater Hartford Chamber of Commerce commends President Lyndon B. Johnson for his action in working to reduce spending by all departments of Government and also commends Secretary McNamara for his courageous step in ordering the closing of unnecessary military bases."

A Seattle, Wash., man cabled Secretary McNamara that he had "... five children coming up. I back you wholeheartedly on intelligent cutbacks."

A Rockhill, S.C., man cabled, "Closing unneeded installations is a brilliant move. Stick to your guns."

Thomas W. Nelson, corresponding secretary of the Queen Ann Democratic Club of Los Angeles, Calif., said that the club at its monthly meeting "heartily endorsed your action. We are heartened by your courage and leadership."

A retired bishop from Cambridge, Mass., wrote Secretary McNamara that "As a humble citizen I shout with joy that somebody has got the nerve to face up to such criticism to save the country money without cutting down necessary defense machinery."

A Houston, Tex., man wrote, "I want to congratulate you on the economy moves reported in yesterday's papers."

A New Brunswick, N.J., business executive wrote, "This will be painful, but with the support of the President I feel sure you will accomplish your objective."

I want to point out that before these installations were closed, the Secretary gave us his judgment that every person employed at any of the installations could be offered another job, if he was willing to move, at some other defense installation where their existing vacancies had not been filled or where these combined installations would need more people. So, number one, everyone could have a job at some other installation. Number two, the Secretary felt that he could not justify spending a single dollar on any of the 33 installations. A good many of them were archaic, they were performing work that could be better performed if consolidated and combined elsewhere, and no additional expenditures could be justified.

At my direction, the Secretary has appointed a board of top Department of Defense officials to step up the study of military installations which has been going on since 1961.

The Secretary named Assistant Secretary of Defense (Installations and Logistics) Thomas Morris to head this board with the Assistant Secretaries of Installations and Logistics from the three military departments as the other members.

In naming the board, the Secretary said, "Since early 1961 we have been conducting a continuing review of the military installations .... In view of our President's direction to get maximum efficiency out of every dollar spent for defense, we are going to intensify this effort. I am asking Assistant Secretary Morris and the representation of Army, Navy and Air Force to apply themselves even more vigorously to this task so that we may have the maximum results in the earliest possible time. Secretary Morris' Base Utilization Division, composed of civilian installation experts and commissioned officers from the three departments will, of course, carry the bulk of the load as they have done so admirably in the past.

"The new board will supervise studies to identify additional unnecessary installations which should be reduced or closed during the next several years. While each installation change is a matter of serious concern to the individuals affected, we are confident that in the national interest we cannot properly justify maintaining any installation which does not truly contribute to a strong defense in the most economical manner."

You will have these releases and you do not need to copy all of this material. I want to review them with you briefly in case you have some question. I will try to either refer it or answer it.

[4.] I do want to point out there is a mistake by Pierre Salinger's girls that he brought down here from the East Coast. They say "Office of the White House Press Secretary, LBJ Ranch, H-u-e, T-e-x-a-s." He didn't misspell Texas, but he did misspell Hye. I don't want any of you to follow the announcement literally. Correct all mistakes before using, please.

Another observation I want to make is that I gave Pierre that jacket he has on today because it is too large for me to wear--or too small.

[5.] Mr. Moscoso will be appointed U.S. Representative to the Inter-American Committee on the Alliance for Progress and the U.S. Representative to the meetings of the Inter-American Economic and Social Council of the Pan American Union. He will also act as Special Adviser, with the rank of Ambassador, to the Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs, Mr. Thomas C. Mann.

Mr. Mann will assume Mr. Moscoso's responsibilities for administering the Alliance for Progress. His first job will be to explore all the possibilities for increased efficiency as well as operating economies which may be obtained through the exercise of his combined responsibility for the work of Inter-American Affairs and the Alliance for Progress.

These changes are designed to facilitate better use of United States resources, both private and public, in promoting economic development and social progress in Latin America. United States assistance programs supplement the self-help measures taken in other American Republics.

Those are the five little announcements that we have to make. We will make others from time to time.

[6.] I spent the evening working on the briefing papers for the meeting tomorrow. I will join you in welcoming Chancellor Erhard at Bergstrom Air Base in the morning at 10 o'clock.

[7.] This morning I had a chance to take a long walk with the Secretary of State, the Assistant Secretary of State, and other folks who visited me. I had breakfast with the head of the Central Intelligence Agency, Mr. John McCone. He brought me up to date on affairs around the world. I directed him to seek an appointment with President Eisenhower, to review with President Eisenhower some of the matters that he briefed me on this morning, and to also bring him up to date on the action we had taken on some suggestions that he had made prior to the time I appeared before the joint session of Congress. Mr. McCone left shortly after 10 o'clock and the Secretaries came in.

[8.] I had a private meeting with the Secretary of Agriculture in which we discussed the more comprehensive farm bill to be considered in the next session of Congress. We talked about the results of his meeting with the farm organizations, at some length about my talks with Chancellor Erhard with regard to the Common Market area, our export agricultural commodities, and our access to the Common Market area.

[9.] I talked to Secretary Mann at some length about many Ambassadors for Latin American nations, about some of his deputies and personnel generally in his new organization.

I talked to both Secretary Mann and Secretary Rusk about reorganization of our various aid programs in an attempt to effect efficiency and economy, and discussed with him the work that is being done under the direction of Mr. Ball, the chairman of the group, Eugene Black, Sargent Shriver, and the group that is studying reorganization and our whole relation with other nations in the field of economic and military assistance.

In due time we will have more thorough announcements about that, more complete announcements, with regard to military aid and Latin American assistance, as well as whatever may be recommended in the way of consolidations on the entire aid program.

I think that is all I have to say this afternoon. I am going to take a horseback ride. Then I am going to study briefing papers until I go to bed tonight. I will see all of you in the morning. In the meantime, if you have any questions that are burning that need an answer, and I can help you, I will be glad to do it. 1

1 On the same day the White House released at Stonewall, Tex., the text of remarks to the press by Secretary of State Dean Rusk, Secretary of Agriculture Orville Freeman, and Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs Thomas C. Mann. Brief introductory remarks by the President introduced each speaker.

[10.] Q. Mr. President, can you give us any idea what Mr. McCone would review with President Eisenhower? What would be the nature of the discussions?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes. It will be the budget for next year; the steps we have taken with regard to effecting economies in the Federal Government; the ceilings that we have placed on each department; the new targets, the goals that we will have; the economic conditions that we anticipate for next year; the general intelligence developments and information from throughout the world.

[11.] Q. Mr. President, with, as you have indicated, popular support for the closing of unneeded military installations running so strong, do you have an explanation for this fierce opposition to closing from many Members of Congress?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes, I think that each Congressman and Senator that represents his area could be expected to express the hope that we give very careful attention to the economy of that area and the effect and impact that closing an installation would have. A good many of them have done that, but they have been very reasonable and very prudent. Most of them have taken the position that if they could not be justified in the national interest by the executive department, that they did not want to see them continue to operate when they were not needed.

The point I want to make about that is that every congressional district in this country that has a defense installation must understand that they are going to be reviewed from time to time. We are not going to be just satisfied with the status quo. When Mr. McNamara came into this administration we had 6,900 bases. We have cut out 400 of them, and we still have 6,700. That is not bad arithmetic. That means that we have built some missile bases in addition to the ones we already had, so we must constantly review these installations, combine them, and consolidate them if we are going to operate at peak efficiency.

We want to save every penny we can every place we can so that we may have some much needed funds to fill unfilled needs-educational needs, health needs, poverty needs generally. We think it is much better to curtail the production of unneeded military armaments and take the money saved thereby and put it into educating our children than following the former course--or taking care of the health of our citizens, or providing security in old age, or medical aid, or things of that kind.

So we are combing with a fine-toothed comb in every department and every individual agency. After meeting with the Cabinet the other day in a 3-day study, we came back with recommendations to the budget that reduced it $731 million and eliminated more than 10,000 jobs. I have a Cabinet officer coming a little later in the week to tell me how he succeeded in reducing his requests by 5,000 jobs. The Secretary of Agriculture told me today that he is very proud of the fact that he had reduced his request by in excess of 4,000 jobs. So we are trying to have the Cabinet set a good example in the hope that the people down at the lower echelon will increase their productivity without increasing expenditures.

[12.] Q. Mr. President, does this briefing with President Eisenhower indicate a continuing relationship between you and him?

THE PRESIDENT. It means that the President of the United States is going to keep the ex-Presidents of the United States fully informed and seek their counsel and advice from time to time. I have had extended conversations with Mr. Hoover, first with his son who talked for him over the phone right after I took the oath as President, and later with President Hoover personally. On Christmas Day I had another conversation with him. He has given me some very constructive suggestions on the operation of the Federal Government that grew out of his experience. We are studying those suggestions. We are applying them where they are appropriate. The Hoover Commission reports have been very carefully evaluated since I became President.

President Truman has given me his suggestions on how to increase efficiency, effect economies, and operate the Federal Government.

General Eisenhower has spent a good deal of time working with me. I found all of them to be very cooperative and I am very grateful for it.

[13.] Q. Mr. President, how important a part will the East-West relations play in your talks with Chancellor Erhard?

THE PRESIDENT. The most important part. There is nothing more important than East-West relations. As I have said on other occasions, and I want to take this opportunity to repeat it, the most important thing in the world to all of us is to live in a world of peace, to learn to live together. We are going to go down any road that can possibly lead to peace. I express the hope that all the other leaders of the other nations will do likewise.

We believe that there is progress which can be made. We are going to do our best to do our part. We have no doubt but what the Chancellor will have the same feeling and that other world leaders have the same feeling. I once said that I had served with over 3,000 men in the Congress in 32 years that I worked and served there. I don't believe I have ever seen a man, either Republican or Democrat, that ran on a platform of doing what was wrong. They all want to do what is right, but sometimes their ideas about what is right and what is wrong differ some. I don't think I know any leaders of the world that wouldn't prefer peace for their people. The job is how to secure it, what road to follow. We are going to be constantly and genuinely searching for that road.

Q. Mr. President, in that connection, there have been some optimistic reports from Germany about the recent Common Market discussions, particularly concerning industrial goods, reports that Mr. Erhard will say that they are going to be outward-looking, and so on. I wondered if this tied in with your knowledge and information on this subject, and if you found it encouraging, and useful.

THE PRESIDENT. I will probably talk much more fully after the visit rather than anticipating it ahead of time. Although you know our administration went to great lengths and made great sacrifices to pass the trade bill last year, we are very hopeful that we not only will continue to have increased opportunities for trade in the industrial field, but that we will also have access for agricultural commodities.

[14.] Q. Mr. President, Senator Goldwater has accused you of some un-Christmaslike behavior in keeping Congress in to work on the foreign aid bill. Would you care to comment on Senator Goldwater's remarks?

THE PRESIDENT. No, I don't think so. I might say that the Senate asked me if it made any difference what day they took up the bill, and I told them it was a matter for the Senate to determine. I am sure if Senator Goldwater had been around, he would have known that.

Q. Mr. President, in connection with foreign aid--

THE PRESIDENT. I made no special requests of the Senate about their holidays. They determine when to have them. I am glad that they, in their wisdom, determined to go ahead and try to complete some unfinished business. I believe the people of this country want us all to do that. Of course, they understand when they have to be away on account of sickness or something, but I think generally speaking they want us to get our work done. That is what I want to do.

[15.] Q. Mr. President, when are you going to be prepared to talk politics, for example whether you will be entering any of the primaries, and what your own plans will be about seeking the nomination at the Atlantic City Convention?

THE PRESIDENT. I imagine when we get caught up with all these other things. If you have plenty of time on your hands, I wouldn't mind visiting about it with you sometime in the near future.

[16.] Q. Mr. President, returning to foreign aid, was the action of Congress in sharply reducing foreign aid funds a factor in your appointment of this interdepartmental review committee?

THE PRESIDENT. I have felt for some time that we ought to constantly appraise our expenditures, evaluate them, and try to modernize them. There has been a very strong report by the Committee on Foreign Relations, all of whose members I have great respect for. I did consider that in recommending it, but I have some definite views of my own. I communicated them to the committee appointed, on how the Alliance for Progress should be handled, on how military aid should be handled, and on how the Development Loan Fund should be handled.

They are considering my views and all other information they can get. They will come up with a recommendation. If they are as close to my views as I hope they will be, we will probably adopt them.

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

Note: President Johnson's third news conference was held at the LBJ Ranch, Johnson City, Tex., at 3:45 p.m. on Friday, December 27, 1963.

Lyndon B. Johnson, The President's News Conference at the LBJ Ranch Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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