Radio Address to the Nation on the Veto of the National Defense Authorization Act, Fiscal Year 1989
My fellow Americans:
On Wednesday of this past week, I took a dramatic step, one that I must admit gave me no pleasure: I vetoed the defense authorization bill. As it stood, the defense bill that Congress sent me would have made unilateral concessions to the Soviets at the very moment when we're trying to achieve a strategic arms reduction treaty. I could not in good conscience have done anything other than mark that bill ``veto'' and send it right back.
me to discuss with you for a moment just what's at stake in this whole matter
of the defense bill. And in doing so, it's important to begin with some
historical background. You see, it was just 8 years ago that
our men and women in uniform, morale was understandably low. And yet at the
same time, the
The results? Well, today the Soviets
are withdrawing from
This brings me back to the defense bill that I just vetoed. You see, if I had accepted that bill, it would have undermined the strength we've worked so hard to restore, in time jeopardizing all our remarkable diplomatic advances.
Congress' defense bill represented an all but open attempt to block our Strategic Defense Initiative, or, as we call it, SDI. Yet no development has been of greater importance in our strategic arms negotiations with the Soviets than our decision to proceed with SDI. The idea of SDI is simple: to give us the advanced technologies necessary to defend us and our allies from attack by nuclear-armed ballistic missiles. Some said it would take years to develop such a technologically sophisticated defense system. We said, All the more reason to get started right now. And in fact, as SDI has gone forward, overall progress has taken place even faster than we had hoped. Perhaps the best endorsement for SDI comes from the Soviets themselves, since they've long engaged in many kinds of strategic defense programs of their own.
But Congress wants to cut our budget request for SDI deeply. Congress also wants to cut all requests for funding one of the most promising SDI technologies, the space-based interceptor program, by over 70 percent. But it's not just the damage done to SDI's funding and space component that concerns me. From requirements for unilateral disarmament, missile testing, the bill represents an attempt by Congress to handcuff the President in our arms reduction negotiations with the Soviets. And this kind of unilateral concession to the Soviets could set back all the progress we've made on the arms reduction front.
Now that I've vetoed the defense bill, there's talk on Capitol Hill about producing an even worse defense bill as an act of political retribution. Well, let me ask you: What could be more deplorable than to use the defense of this nation as a political pawn? It won't happen, not if I have anything to say about it. As long as I'm President, our nation's defenses, including our strategic defenses, will remain above partisan politics. Congress needs to go back to work to pass a new defense bill, one that I can sign because it strengthens our negotiating hand instead of weakening it. We may be Republicans or Democrats, but when it comes to a strongly defended nation, we must all be simply Americans.
Until next week, thanks for listening, and God bless you.
Note: The President spoke at from the Oval Office at the White House.