May 30, 1987
My fellow Americans:
When we got to Washington 6 years ago, we set out to tackle the tough fundamental challenges to America's future. One of the toughest was drug abuse. Today I'd like to give you an update, an administrative report, if you will, on this issue. Since 1981 Federal spending on drug abuse programs has tripled; it is now nearly $4 billion, and we've included virtually every major Federal agency and department in the effort. To consolidate our initiatives and make certain the fight against illegal drugs is a well-managed and effective undertaking, this March I established the National Drug Policy Board. This Cabinet-level body, led by Attorney General Ed Meese and Secretary Otis Bowen, has developed a plan which will add new vigor and a more comprehensive approach to our crusade against drug abuse.
The strategy is aimed at coordinating the wide range of antidrug activities going on in our country. Education, prevention, treatment, rehabilitation, and research to reduce the demand for drugs as well as investigations, intelligence, interdiction, prosecutions, and international programs to reduce the supply of drugs to our citizens are all part of the same battle. The plan would designate a lead agency for each category of antidrug abuse authority. This means that one Federal agency will be the focal point for ensuring that all other Federal agencies are doing everything they can to stop illegal drug use. For example, the Department of Health and Human Services will lead on the treatment and rehabilitation issues, while the Department of Education will do the same for school programs. This approach is simple, straightforward, and avoids the temptation of adding another layer of bureaucracy.
Much of what we do at the Federal level is aimed at choking off the supply of illegal drugs. With the assistance of Vice President Bush, we're continuing to make tremendous progress in seizing drugs crossing our borders; with the Customs Service and the Coast Guard working more closely together, we'll seize even more. We arrest drug traffickers and send them to prison. With the Drug Enforcement Administration, FBI, and the U.S. Attorneys working more closely together, we'll be even tougher on those who traffic in drugs. But attacking the suppliers is not enough. As long as there is an illegal market for narcotics, the drug lords will find a way to meet the demand. That's why we cannot ignore the other half of our strategy. We need to keep up the pressure to prevent drug use. We want no new users, and we want those who are using drugs to stop.
We should all be concerned about the competitiveness of our national economy. Last fall I announced a broad antidrug plan which included the goal of a drug-free workplace. At that time, I signed an Executive order requiring drug testing for selected Federal workers in critical positions. Many companies, including more than one-third of the Fortune 500, already have a testing program in place. Drug testing, when done properly, can have dramatic results. Ask anyone in the Armed Forces. Through mandatory drug testing and a well-run, antidrug campaign, we have achieved a 67-percent reduction in the use of drugs across the board by our military.
We need to achieve these kinds of results in our schools, as well. Under the National Drug Policy Board plan, Secretary Bill Bennett will continue to lead the campaign for drug-free campuses. We owe it to our kids to do our very best to protect them against this menace. And that's why part of our plan will also focus on high-risk youth, those young people with serious drug problems. Drugs pervade every part of our society, and the United States isn't the only one confronting this problem. In June we will be participating in a United Nations conference in Vienna to spur international commitment to battle illegal drugs.
Of course, well-organized and coordinated Federal action is only part of the solution. State and local governments play an indispensable role through community school boards, hometown treatment and rehabilitation programs, as well as enforcing of law. Most of all, however, we need the active involvement of the American people in developing a national attitude of intolerance to illegal drugs. Nancy was asked for advice by a young student worried about what to say when approached by drug users and dealers. She told her the answer was simple: Just say no. Together, we can deal with this threat to our families and country. We can help our loved ones and friends. We all need to speak with one voice: Say no to drugs in the school; say no to drugs in the workplace; say no to drugs in the home. Together, say yes to a drug-free America.
Until next week, thanks for listening, and God bless you.
Note: The President spoke at 12:06 p.m. from Camp David, MD. In his remarks, the President referred to Secretary of Health and Human Services Otis Bowen and Secretary of Education William J. Bennett.