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 Home > News & Policies > February 2001

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
February 14, 2001

Remarks by the President in Roundtable Discussion with Employers of National Guard and Reservists
West Virginia National Guard Headquarters
Charleston, West Virginia

10:35 A.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT: The Secretary and I are thankful you all are here; very thankful that the good Senator from this great state has traveled with us. It's an honor to be in his presence. He is an eloquent spokesman on what's right about America, and a pretty darn good spokesman about what's needed in West Virginia, I might add. (Laughter.)

President George W. Bush shares a laugh with, from left, West Virginia Governor Robert Wise, Colonel Bill Raney, President of the Army National Guard, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, and Lieutenant Colonel Chester Carter of the Army National Guard during a visit to the West Virginia National Guard Headquarters in Charleston, West Virginia on February 14, 2001. President Bush visited several military bases last week to reaffirm his commitment to improve living conditions for the people who serve in America's armed forces. (WHITE HOUSE PHOTO BY PAUL MORSE) I appreciate the newly elected Congresswoman as well, Shelley Moore, for being here. I want to thank the other members of the delegation.

I'm so pleased to come and talk about the Guard and Reservists. I used to be in the Guard, and one of the best things about being the governor, Governor, is to be the Commander in Chief of the Guard in Texas, and in your case, West Virginia. It's an honor. And I know you're going to take it and do a good job. You've got a pretty darn good start with a General leading the troops here in West Virginia.

I want you to know, Colonel Raney, I would have come back whether I won or lost. (Laughter.) I fell in love with West Virginia during my time here. But now is not the time for politics, this is a visit about public policy, and that's the defense of our nation. I'm going to give a more formal speech later on, but the purpose of this visit is to listen some, but also to assure you.

I understand a couple things that are important; one, the role of the Guard and Reservists, not only abroad is important, but as importantly, at home. Part of our job is to assess real threats to the nation and address those threats with corresponding defense policy. I'm worried that we are trying to be all things to all people around the world, and therefore, creating the tension that you accurately described. It's not only a tension for employer to employee, it's tensions, oftentimes, between husband and wife and over-deployments, constant deployments really create a severe issue for morale all throughout the military.

And we're going to address that by starting with redefining the mission, or clarifying the mission of the United States military. And that's this -- to be trained and prepared to fight and win war, and therefore, prevent war from happening in the first place.

Our administration will keep our commitments, and we've got a lot of commitments to keep. There will be no precipitous withdrawal from the commitments we inherited, but as we go forward we will be careful about troop deployment, judiciously use our troops. We understand that over-deployments not only affect those on active duty, but also affect those in the Reserves and Guard.

And I appreciate you bringing that up so very much. I also appreciate very much the opportunity to highlight the patriotic role not only the Guardsmen and Reservists play, but the patriotic role that the employer plays in America. It's a two-way street, and our nation needs to be grateful for those who understand the bottom line is more than just profit and loss; the bottom line is also service to the country.

There's all kinds of ways employers can do that. They can give generously of health care; they can give generously of contributions and dollars to help in the communities in which they live. But employers also give incredibly generously when it comes to supporting the Guards and Reservists -- Guardsmen and Reservists -- who are now fulfilling much of the mission that is now taking place overseas.

It's a huge honor to be the Commander in Chief. I take the responsibility very seriously. We're going to have a foreign policy that's strong and consistent and clear, with a military that is focused and prepared to keep the peace. And the Guardsmen and Reservists will play a major role.

Now, Colonel Raney, I'm told that there are some other folks who may want to say something, in which case I'm prepared to listen -- or answer questions if you have any. If I don't know it, the Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld will. (Laughter.)

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THE PRESIDENT: I think it's important for the nation to understand the critical role the Guard and Reservists play in today's mix. And this mission -- or this trip today is to clarify the mission, to not only say thanks to the folks of West Virginia, but hopefully to get people around the country paying attention to reality. And reality is the Guard and Reservists carry quite a bit of the load overseas, and also serve -- set up some of these good employers as examples for others to look at and to follow.

So, thank you, Governor. Good luck on your speech tonight. You'll do great.

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Q Mr. President, my name is John Finlayson, and I've been in the military for 28 years. One of the things I'm most concerned about for the future is replenishment of our military as people retire. And where the employer is so important there, I think -- and I've had a wonderful employer support me -- is encouraging people to take advantage of the military opportunities that are present. I work in a job in the military that's very complementary at the bank as well in diversity initiatives and trying to make sure we are speaking to the right audiences and letting people know what's available. So I guess my message today is, as much as we can speak out to let everyone know the opportunities, and then be encouraged by their employers is what we really need for the future if we're going to be a viable force as we go forward.

THE PRESIDENT: John, I appreciate that. The good news is in your state is you've got more folks applying for jobs than exist in the Guard and Reserve. So, evidently, word of mouth advertising is pretty darn effective.

Q Our General helps us with that. (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT: We've got an overall issue of recruitment and retention throughout all the military. The Secretary and I will address that. It starts with better pay, but also requires our nation to have a focused mission. So it's clear about what the mission of the military is.

And I keep saying this over and over again, and we'll work with our allies to help them understand that our nation is a nation of peacemakers' we'll help make the peace. But we're going to be reluctant to put troops on the ground to keep people apart, warring parties apart. It's a concern of me and the Secretary and others. And we will work with our allies to make sure they understand what our position is before we take any action.

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Q The great demands for energy we see in the United States now -- you see what's happening out West -- and you do agree that we need a stronger military and not only retention of the National Guard and Reservists, and since we're so dependent on Middle East, we have no other choice but to be their defender and keep that oil supply coming this way.

THE PRESIDENT: I appreciate you saying that. It reminded me of what Senator Byrd told me the other day. I can't quite put it as eloquently as he did, but he reminded me that we need a national energy policy of which coal needs to be an integral part. (Applause.)

Q We are importing 60 percent of our oil daily --

THE PRESIDENT: Which is a national security concern.

Q -- and about 12 million barrels a day.

THE PRESIDENT: It is up to all of us to remind folks that we can safely mine coal and we can cleanly burn it with the right technology. As a matter of fact, the Senator and I Senator Stevens were not only talking about the use of technology at home, clean coal technologies here at home, but also being able to have clean coal technology as part of an export policy, so that nations that have not developed like we have will be able to utilize the technologies that have been developed, much of which have been developed right here in the state of West Virginia.

The energy situation in the country is very serious. Demand is greater than supply. And we can affect demand, and will. We'll work on conservation measures. But we also have got to understand that we need to work on the supply side, Senator, and coal is in abundant supply here in America.

And my job and the job of others will be to convince many in the country who don't believe we can have a clean air policy and burn coal at the same time. I believe we can. And many of the experts know we can. And we've got to do it, we've got to sell the country on that.

In the meantime, we've also got to make sure that we're less dependent on foreign sources of crude oil. The lack of an energy policy and national security concerns go hand-in-hand. And I'm very aware of that, sir. Thank you.

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