In a State of the Union address that focused on Social Security and
education proposals, President Clinton on Tuesday said the federal
government has been reinvented to meet the nation's needs.
"Thanks to the pioneering leadership of Vice President Gore, we
have a government for the information age. Once again, our government is
a progressive instrument of the common good, rooted in our oldest
values: opportunity, responsibility, community; devoted to fiscal
responsibility, determined to give our people the tools they need to
make the most of their own lives: A 21st century government for 21st
century America," Clinton said.
In background materials on the President's address, the White House
proposed giving more buyouts to federal workers to further reduce the
size of government. The White House also touched on other efforts to
reinvent government, including a proposed governmentwide
customer satisfaction survey and the most
sweeping changes to civil service rules in 20 years.
Clinton discussed his plans for future federal budget surpluses,
which are projected to total $4 trillion over the next 15 years. About
89 percent of the surpluses would go toward sustaining Social Security
and Medicare and promoting retirement savings, Clinton's advisers said
in a press briefing Tuesday afternoon.
The other 11 percent would be used to beef up Defense readiness and
address other domestic priorities. About $110 billion would be spent
over the next six years on Defense initiatives, including improving
troops' pay and benefits, Clinton said.
Clinton praised U.S. troops for successfully completing Operation
"Their mission was so flawlessly executed, we risk taking for
granted the bravery and skill it required," Clinton said. Air Force
Capt. Jeff Taliaferro, who participated in the operation, attended the
address on Capitol Hill, and received lengthy applause from the audience
of lawmakers and administration officials.
The future surpluses would would lead to the lowest public debt since
1917, Clinton said. In 1993, public debt was at 50.1 percent of the
Gross Domestic Product. It is now at 44 percent of GDP, and would
decline to less than 10 percent of GDP by 2014, administration officials
Clinton also called for improved security at America's embassies in
the wake of bombings in Tanzania and Kenya last year. More money needs
to be invested in foreign affairs after a 50 percent decline in such
spending over the past decade, Clinton said.
"The bombing of our embassies in Kenya and Tanzania reminds us
again of the risks faced every day by those who represent America to the
world. So let's give them the support they need, the safest possible
workplaces, and the resources they need so America can continue to
lead," Clinton said.
Clinton said the government must also protect the nation from the
dangers of nuclear proliferation, biological and chemical warfare and
terrorist attacks against computer networks.
In a State of the Union briefing Tuesday afternoon, Clinton's
national security adviser, Sandy Berger, said computer security will be
a priority in the administration's budget proposal.
Money will be spent on "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," Berger said, referring to
hacker attacks against Defense Department computers last year.
Clinton called for a 30 percent increase in computing research,
noting that government research led to the development of the Internet.
President Clinton also touched on the year 2000 computer problem,
saying work over the next year can ensure the Y2K problem is
"remembered as the last headache of the 20th century, not the first
crisis of the 21st."
Clinton also proposed creating a domestic version of the Overseas
Private Investment Corporation, a government agency that helps push
American investment abroad.
"Our greatest untapped markets are not overseas, they are right
here at home," Clinton said.
Republicans decried Clinton's plans as too reliant on the government.
Under the President's proposals, "government grows in every way
imaginable," said Sen. Don Nickles, R-Okla., even before Clinton
made his speech.
Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., said some of the surplus
should instead be returned to taxpayers.
"What we seek is smaller, smarter government, less Washington
government spending, more money back with the people that earned it in
the first place, and more discretion for them to use it in the best way
they see fit," Lott said Tuesday afternoon.