Counselor to the President and Senior Advisor Douglas Sosnik, National Security Advisor Samuel Berger, Assistant to President for Economic Policy Gene Sperling and Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy Bruce Reed briefed.
Following is the White House transcript:
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
January 19, 1999
PRESS BRIEFING BY SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIALS
The Roosevelt Room...............
SAMUEL BERGER: While you were gone, Doug, I tried to convince them that I was up first because the entire speech is about foreign policy. Nobody bought it.
Essentially, the President will talk on the foreign policy part of the speech about the unique opportunity and responsibility that the United States has at this moment in history as a peacemaker, making reference, of course, to Northern Ireland, what still needs to be done there; Bosnia; the Middle East peace process; obviously a strong reference to Kosovo.
Second, dealing with the threats to that security, which can come from rogue nations like Iraq, or from the proliferation and expansion of weapons of mass destruction -- and I'm going to come back to that because it's one of the major elements of the foreign policy section.
And then, third, continue to strengthen America's capabilities at home, both with a reference to strengthening additional resources for our diplomacy, as well as an initiative with respect to readiness that I'll speak to in a second.
There really are three elements of this section, which are new and which are most specific. One is the President announcing his budget will contain a major expansion of the cooperative threat reduction program to try to deal with the danger of proliferation from Russia and the states of the former Soviet Union. You're all familiar with the Nunn-Lugar program, which has been very successful, which has allowed us, for example, to dismantle nuclear weapons and to dismantle -- in Russia, dismantle strategic bombers that are cut by arms control.
The President will be announcing a 70-percent expansion in these programs over a five-year period, funding them over that period to $4.2 billion; and expanding the scope of these programs, which are not only in the Department of Defense, Nunn-Lugar, but also Energy and State. And they will include things such as more money for dealing with nuclear materials and safety, more money for the plutonium initiative that Senator Domenici and the President have been talking about, that is actually taking 50 tons of plutonium that could be made into thousands of weapons and destroying it; securing fissile material; funding to put 8,000 Russian scientists in the civilian research sector; and tightened export controls in Russia; as well as to work on helping Russia convert out of chemical and biological weapons. So that's initiative number one.
Initiative number two is something we'll be talking about more on Friday -- is to deal far more aggressively with new threats to America's security and particularly defending ourselves against biological and chemical attacks and against cyber attacks to our computer networks -- whether those are in defense or whether they're part of the critical infrastructure that drives America.
We'll be increasing funding, for example, for vaccines and development and public health surveillance; establishing a national domestic preparedness office that will train in, I believe, 120 cities -- the first providers, the police, the fire, the hospitals -- to be able to detect and deal with chemical and biological attacks as those take place; hiring technology experts.
And then the computer area -- developing systems that make our computer systems in government and then working with the private sector, better able to deal with the kinds of attacks that we saw on the military system not too many months ago.
And the third, I would say, major initiative in this section of the speech deals with something the President has already referred to, and that is reversing the, essentially, decline in military spending that has taken place since 1985. The President will -- has become convinced that there is a readiness problem with our military. There's a question of retaining pilots. There's a question of spare parts; the question of modernization; and that we have been able to shrink our military and maintain effectiveness, but now we basically have to invest again in ensuring that it can do the job.
And we will be, in the budget, providing for $110 billion to be spent over six years on readiness and modernization needs, which includes essentially living conditions, including a pay raise next year of 4.4 percent for military personnel. This will strengthen military readiness, help us to modernize our weapons programs, and improve pay and benefits.
There are other things in here, obviously, but those are the highlights.
GENE SPERLING: I think what we'll do, if it's all right, if you have any questions for Sandy, we'll do them now and then we'll move to the domestic side of the speech................
Q: Is he going to -- missile defense tonight or talk about that at all?
BERGER: No, not specifically, although we continue to conduct research at a very -- essentially at a significant level, I think, as can be justified. And the President and Secretary Cohen have said that they hope in the year 2000 to be able to make a decision on whether a limited national missile defense system is necessary, which then would be deployed over the ensuing several years.................
Q: Anything new on embassy security?
BERGER: He will make a reference in the speech to that both in terms of the terrorism problem and also in terms of the need to make our embassies more secure and the need to make the people who work in those embassies -- to give them the resources that they need to do the job. At a time when, in many ways, our role in the world is more complicated, we've seen a 50-percent decrease, as you know, in international resources over the last decade, which we think very much needs to be reversed.
Q: In terms of the upgrade of chemical and biological defenses in this country, can you describe the threat as you see it now that justifies this substantial effort?
BERGER: Well, there is no question that a number of nations either have or are developing chemical or biological weapons capabilities. In one way we try to control that through regimes like the Chemical Weapons Convention that Congress ratified two years ago and passed implementing legislation last year. We're trying -- Under Secretary Holum just left an hour ago to Geneva where we're trying to strengthen the Biological Weapons Convention and give us greater capability to use that, to go in and inspect suspect sites.
But beyond those international regimes there are obviously rogue states and there are terrorists. We know that they have -- that a number of states have this capability; we know that a number of terrorist organizations seek this capability. And while I think there is not specific threat information with respect to a particular attack on that United States, this is something that we've been working on really over the last two years, and the President will have doubled the budget for this between FY'99 and 2000, will have doubled the budget for these programs over that two-year period. It's really prudent and preventative...............