October 5, 1999


                              THE WHITE HOUSE
                       Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
October 5, 1999

                         REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
                                FOR FY 2000

                               The Pentagon

4:15 P.M. EDT

          THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you very much, Secretary Cohen, for your
remarks, your leadership, and for the depth of your concern for our men and
women in the military.
          Secretary Richardson, Secretary West, Deputy Secretary Hamre,
General Shelton, General Ralston, Senior Master Sergeant Hall.  He told me
today this is the fourth time we've met, and the first time in Washington.
D.C.  I've tried to get around to see people like the Senior Master
Sergeant in uniform in the Middle East and Asia and elsewhere.
          I want to thank all those who serve them -- the senior service
chiefs, the service secretaries, the senior enlisted advisors.  I'd also
like to say a special word of thanks to all the members of Congress here,
too numerous to recognize them all.  But I do want to acknowledge the
presence of Senator Warner, Senator Levin, Senator Thurmond, Senator Robb,
Senator Allard, Representative Spence and Representative Skelton, and the
many other members of the House of Representatives here today.
          This, for me, more than anything else, is a day to say thank you
-- thank you for recognizing the urgent needs and the great opportunities
of our military on the edge of a new century.
          Today should be a proud day for men and women in uniform, not
only here in this audience, but all around the world.  Time and again, they
have all delivered for our country.  Today, America delivers for them.
          In a few moments, I will have the privilege of signing the
National Defense Authorization Act.  As you have already heard, it provides
for a strong national defense, and a better quality of life for our
military personnel and their families.  It builds on the bipartisan
consensus that we must keep our military ready, take care of our men and
women in uniform, and modernize our forces.
          Today we have about 1.4 million men and women serving our country
on active duty -- doing what needs to be done from Korea to Kosovo, to
Bosnia, to Iraq, to helping our neighbors in the hemisphere and in Turkey
dig out from natural disasters; to simply giving us confidence that America
is forever strong and secure.
          We ask our men and women in uniform to endure danger and
hardship, and you do; to suffer separation from your families, and you
endure that.  We ask you to be the best in the world, and you are.  In
return, you ask very little.  But we owe you the tools you need to do the
job, and the quality of life you and your families deserve.
          This bill makes good on our pledge to keep our Armed Forces the
best-equipped and maintained fighting force on Earth.  It carries forward
modernization programs, funding the F-22 stealth fighter, the V-22 Osprey,
the Comanche helicopter, advanced destroyers, submarines, amphibious ships,
command and control systems and a new generation of precision munitions.
The bill also recognizes that no matter how dazzling our technological
dominance, wars still will be won today and tomorrow as they have been
throughout history, by people with the requisite training, skill and spirit
to prevail.
          The excellence of our military is the direct product of the
excellence of our men and women in uniform.  This bill invests in that
excellence.  It authorizes, as you have already heard, a comprehensive
program of pay and retirement improvements that add up to the biggest
increase in military compensation in a generation.  It increases bonuses
for enlistment and re-enlistment, and provides incentives needed to recruit
and retrain our military personnel.
          I would like to say a special word of appreciation to all the
members of our military, including a lot of enlisted personnel, who have
discussed these issues with me over the last two or three years, in
particular.  And I would like to thank the members of Congress not only for
the work they did on the pay issue, but also on the retirement issue.  And
I'd like to say a special word of appreciation on that to Congressman
Murtha, who first talked to me about it and I know labored very hard on it.
          Now, an awful lot of people worked to make this bill a reality.
And I'm glad that there are so many members of both parties of the House
and the Senate Armed Services Committee here today.  I also want to thank
Secretary Cohen, General Shelton and all the people at the Pentagon for
their leadership and determination.
          This bill is an expression of America at its best.  It's about
patriotism, not partisanship.  It's about putting the people of our Armed
Forces first.  No matter how well we equip these forces to deal with any
threat, I would also argue that we owe them every effort we possibly can to
diminish that threat -- the threat to the members of our Armed Forces and
to the American people whom they must defend.
          One of the greatest threats our people face today, and our Armed
Forces face, is the threat of the proliferation of weapons of mass
destruction.  We have worked in a bipartisan way to diminish those threats
-- passing the Chemical Weapons Convention; getting an indefinite extension
of the Non-Proliferation Treaty.  We are now working to strengthen the
Biological Weapons Convention.
          At this time, the Senate has a unique opportunity to diminish
that threat by ratifying the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.  It will end
nuclear weapons testing forever, while allowing us to maintain our military
strength in nuclear weapons, and helping to keep other countries out of the
nuclear weapons business.
          We stopped testing nuclear weapons in 1992 in the United States.
Instead, we spend some $4.5 billion a year on programs that allow us to
maintain an unassailable nuclear threat.  This treaty will strengthen our
security by helping to prevent other countries from developing nuclear
arsenals, and preventing testing in countries that have nuclear weapons
already, but have nowhere near the sophisticated program we do for
maintaining the readiness of our arsenal in the absence of testing.
          It will strengthen our ability to verify by supplementing our
intelligence capabilities with a global network of sensors and on-site
inspections, something we will not have if the treaty does not enter into
force.  It will make it easier for us to determine whether other nations
are engaged in nuclear activity, and to take appropriate action if they
          Obviously, no treaty -- not this one or any other -- can provide
an absolute guarantee of security or singlehandedly stop the spread of
deadly weapons.  Like all treaties, this one would have to be vigorously
enforced and backed by a strong national defense.  But I would argue if the
Senate rejects the treaty we run a far greater risk that nuclear arsenals
will grow and weapons will spread to volatile regions, to dangerous rulers,
even to terrorists.
          I want to emphasize again, the United States has been out of the
testing business for seven years now.  We are not engaged in nuclear
testing.  If we reject this treaty, the message will be we're not testing,
but you can test if you want to -- with all the attendant consequences that
might have in India, Pakistan, China, Russia, Iran and many other places
around the world.  I want to avoid a world where more and more countries
race toward nuclear capability.
          That's the choice we face -- not a perfect world, but one where
we can restrain nuclear testing, but train the growth of nuclear arsenals.
          Dwight Eisenhower and John Kennedy first advocated a
comprehensive test ban treaty.  Four former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of
Staff, together with Chairman Shelton and our nation's leading nuclear
scientists, including those who head our national weapons labs, advocate
this treaty.  I believe the treaty is good for America's security.  I
believe walking away and defeating it would send a message that America is
no longer the leading advocate of nonproliferation in the world   .
          So, all I ask today is not a vote; the discussion just began.
What I ask is that we meet this challenge in the same bipartisan fashion in
which we approached the Defense Authorization bill.  The stakes are exactly
the same.  When a young man or woman joins the United States military, they
don't ask you if you're a Republican or a Democrat.  And you all make it
clear you're prepared to give your life for your country.  We should do
everything we can to ensure your safety, to give you a bright future, even
as we give you the tools and the support to do the work you have sworn to
          Let me say in closing, after nearly seven years in this office,
there has been no greater honor, privilege or joy than the opportunity I
have had to see our men and women in uniform do their jobs -- all kinds of
jobs all over the world.  I have also been very moved by how honestly and
frankly and straightforwardly they have answered every question I have ever
put to any of them.  In a very real sense today, the work the Congress did
and the support that I and our administration gave to this legislation, is
purely and simply the product of what our men and women in uniform, from
the highest rank to the lowest, told us needed to be done for them and for
          So, again, I say this is a day for celebration and thanksgiving,
and more than anyone else, I feel that deep gratitude to you.  Thank you
very much.  (Applause.)
                END                           4:25 P.M. EDT