Following are excerpts from the press conference held yesterday by President Carter:
The President: Good afternoon, everybody. I would like to make a very brief statement as a progress report to the American people on some items that are important to us.
We have submitted and the Congress is now considering legislation to give me the authority to reorganize the executive branch of Government. The Senate committee under Sen. Ribicoff has now completed their hearings and they will be marking up a bill beginning tomorrow. The House Committee on Government Operations, under Congressman Jack Brooks, has scheduled hearings to begin on March 1. So, because of the interest of the American people and the Congress and myself in completing this very crucial project, I think the Congress is moving with great expedition to give me that authority. . . .
We will complete the proposed legislation on creating a new Department of Energy this week.The proposed legislation is now on my desk. It will be submitted to the Congress for action the first of the week. And we have censulted very closely with the key leaders in the Congress. In believe there is going to be a rapid creation of this new department and a heavy emphasis on the importance of energy questions to our people.
We will also present to the American people, probably in a joint session of the Congress speech by me, about April the 20, a comprehensive energy policy which will involve all the complexities of the energy question, something that is long overdue, and it is going to be quite profound on its impact on the American consciousness and our society. And I hope it will be comprehensive enough so that it will be well-balanced and fair to all . . .
And the last point is that we will have a complete analysis under way now on deregulation of the airlines. Legislation is in the Congress now. We will be submitting a message to Congress very shortly on that subject. We will not submit administrationlegislation because the Congress has already moved substantially forward in dealing with this important one.
Now I would like to answer questions.
Q. Mr. President, you told the Democratic Platform Committee that you thought present defense expenditures could be reduced by $5 to $7 billion. I think you may have modified your position somewhat since then. Obviously, in your short time in office you didn't find the opportunity to make cuts like that in your predecessor's budget.
But isn't it also likely that next year's budget for defense will exceed this year's?
A. Well, because of inflationary pressures budget for defense will impossibility of assessing the potential threat to our country from other nations, it is hard to predict exactly what the level of defense spending will be.
In the short time that we had available to work on the previous administration's budget, about three weeks of hard work, we were able to reduce the suggested expenditures by almost $3 billion, I think about $2.75 billion. This was done - and I think Sen. Stennis in his recent public statements has confirmed that it has been done - without weakening our own defense capability.
The substantial savings in defense spending that will still leave us some muscle will be in such things as the standardization of weapons, long-range planning, a more business-like allocation of defense contracting, an assessment of the defense contracts for construction and repair already outstanding, a reassessment of priorities of the evolution of new weapons which in the future can become enormously expensive, a longer assignment of military personnel to a base before they are transferred, some emphasis on the correction of inequities and unfairnesses in the retirement system.
These things obviously can't be done in three weeks, but they will be an ongoing effort on my part and I think the 1979 budget, which will be my administration's first budget, will show these improvements to a substantial degree . . .
Q. Will next year's defense budget actually be lower than the one that you just provided?
A. I can't say yet.
Q. Mr. President, do you think it was proper for the CIA to pay off King Hussein and other foreign leaders and what steps are you taking to make yourself more knowledgeable and more accountable for what the CIA does?
A. I have adopted a policy, which I am not going to leave, of not commenting directly on any specific CIA activity but I can tell you that I have begun a complete analysis which will be completed within the next week of all activities by the CIA.
I have received susbstantial reports already. I have reviewed the more controversial revelations that have been publicized in the last few days, some quite erroneous, some with some degree of accuracy. These some operations have been reviewed by the Intelligence Oversight Board, an independent board, and also by predecessor, President Ford.
I have not found anything illegal or improper. If in the future assessments which will come quite early I discover such an impropriety or illegality I will not only take immediate action to correct it but also will let the American people know about it.
I might say this: this is a very serious problem of how in a democracy to have adequate intelligence gathered, assessed and used to guarantee the security of our country. It is not part of the American nature to do things in secret. Obviously, historically and still at this modern time, there is a necessity to protect sources of information from other nations.
Sometimes other governments cooperate with us fully. Sometimes they don't. But I will try to be sure and so will Stan Turner, who will be the next director of the intelligence community. He will try to be sure that everything we do is also compatible with the attitudes of the Ameriacan people.
One other point I would like to make is this: It can be extremely ramaging to our relationship with other nations to the potential security of our country even in peacetime for these kinds of operations, which are legitimate and proper, to be revealed, it makes it hard for us to lay a grounwork on which we might predicate a successful meeting at a threat to us in time of war if we don't have some degree of secrecy.
I am quite concerned about the number of people now who have access to this kind of information and I have been working very closely with the congressional leaders yesterday and today to try to reduce the overall number of people who have access to the sources of information but within the bounds that I have described - propriety, legality and the American towards secrecy. I will do the best I can not ever to make a mistake. I am also assuming on a continuing basis a direct personal reponsibility for the operation of all the intellingence agencies in our government to make sure that they are meeting these standards . . .
Q. Mr. President, a question directly about wage and price guidelines, which might be voluntary. How is that for an idea?
A. Well, I think rigid guidelines are a mistake. If we said, that, for instance, no price increase or no wage increased could exceed 6 per cent, this would be too restrictive. It would be contrary to my own philosophy of government. And I think that, because of the diversity of our society - and it is a free enterprise system - we have got to have some flexibility.
But I would prefer to deal with these problems that arise on increasing prices on an individual basis. I also prefer, of course, to work harmoniously with labor and management. But whether I will be successful, I don't know. I am just going to have to do my best.
Q. In your letter toMr. Sakharov, you said that the United States would use its good offices to seek the release prisoners of conscience. And you said that you wanted to continue to shape a world responsible to human aspitations. As you know, there are human rights problems in many other countries. And some of them, like Iran or the Philippines, we support with arms and we support with American aid. These are countries where many people believe we have more leverage than we might have in the Soviet Union.
What, if anything, do you plan to try to do to help victims of political repression in these countries?
A. I think, withour my trying to take credit for it, there has been a substantial move to a concerns about human rights throughout the world. I think this has taken place in probably a dozen or more different countries. There is an arousing interest in the position that our own government here and our free country does take . Obviously, there are deprivations of human rights, even more brutal than the ones on which we have commented up until now.
In Uganda, the actions here have disgusted the entire civilezed world and, as you know, we have no diplomatic releationships with Uganda.
But here is an instance where both Ambassador Andrew Young and I have expressed great concern about what it there. The British are now considering asking the United Nations to go into Uganda to assess the horrible murders that apparently are taking place in that country, the presecution of those who have aroused the ire of Mr. Amin.
I have expressed my concern about imprisoned political prisoners in South Korea, in Cuba, in many countries, in several countries, rather, in South America, and I will continue to do so. I have never had an inclination to single out the Soviet Union as the only place where human rights are being abridged.
We have, I think, a responsibility and legal right to express ou disapproval of violations of human rights. The Helsinki agreement, so-called Basket III provision, insures that someof these human rights shall be preserved. We are signatory to the Helsinki agreement. We are, ourselves, culpable in some ways for not giving people adequate right to move around our country, or restricting unnecessarily in my opinion visitation to this country by those who disagree with us politically.
So Ithink we all ought to take a position in our country and among our friends and allies, among our po-willing to restore basic human rights is something on which we should bear a major responsibility for leadership. And I have made it clear to the Soviet Union and to others in the Eastern European community that I am not to launch a unilaterial criticism of them; that I as trying to set a standeard in our own country and make myconcerns expressed throughout the world and not singled: out against any particular country . . .
Q. Mr. President, are you prepared to lift the trade embargo against Cuba as one step toward normalizing relations"
A.I think any substantial moves in our relationship with Cuba would have to await further discussions with them indirectly and also some tangible revidence on out part that they are willing to restore bisic human rights in Cuba involving the number of prisoners who are being held, their attitude toward overseas adventures, such as the one in Angola and other matters.
So I can't say what might come in the future. I am willing, though, to discuss these matters with the Cuban leaders. But at this time we have no direct relationships with them politically but through intermediaries commemts are being exchanged back and forth - such as my comments in public statements like this. But we do have messages comingback from people visiting Cuba . . .
Q. Mr. President, we have been told that the central thrust of your new energy program will involve sacrifice and voluntary conservation. Yet the public is always reading stories in the paper about how the majoroil companies are withholding natural gas.
I would like to ask how are you going to expect the public to make sacrifices when there is such wide-spread public suspicion about the role of the oil companies in the energy crisis? . . .
A. I want to increase the surety that we have that the reserve supply data givento us by the oul companies and others are accurate. We are now conducting some admittedly superficial studies by Secretary Cecil Andrus in Interior and also they will be followed up by more detailed studies under Dr. Schlesinger, to see whether or not the reserve supplies are adequate and whether or not the oil companies are giving us accurate data.
T think it si obvious to all of us that there are some instances where natural gas is withheld from the market, that is understandable. If I was running an oil company, I would reserve the right to release or to reserve some supplies of natural gas . . .
But I believe the American people will be willing to make the sacrifices required if they are conviced that future reports will be accurate, that supplies will not be withheld from the market. And if we can let the oil companies knwo in a predictable way what our policy will be two months or two years or 20 years on the future within the bounds of human reason, then I think they will be much less likely to withhold supplies of oil and natural gas from the market, just hoping that they will get some bonanza increased price in the future if the policies do change.
Q. Mr. President another question, sir, on the sacrifices that you say your upcoming energy program is going to demand. Is it likely that one of those sacrifices is going to come in the form of a largely increased federal gasoline tax?
A. I don't know how to answer your questions about specifics of the proposal. I want to make this clear: The purpose of the energy policy evolution is not to cause sacrifice or hardship among the American people. Unless I can demonstrate that in balance the temporary sacrifices in a certain area are far overcome by immediate and ultimate benefits, then nobody is going to buy it. I believe that we now have got such a horrible conglomeration of confusion in the energy field that nobody knows what is going to happen next.
So I think that the sacrifices will be far overcome by the benefits that the Wmerican people will be easily able to discern for themselves . . .
Q. Mr. President, you have had a month now to enjoy the view from the Oval Office. Do you think you will be able to keep fully all the campaign promises you made?
A. As you know, we have issued what I believe is a complete book of my campaign promises which is, I presume, being made available to all of you.
My determination is to keep all of these promises. Obviously, if circumstances should change I would have to reserve the right to go back to the American people and say now that circumstances have changed, this is a better approach to that particular problem.
But I will do my utmost to keep all the campaign promises that I made to the American people . . .
Q. Mr. President, you gave us kind of a timetable for your domestic program in your preliminary statement.
I wonder if you would have a similar timetable of what you hope to achieve in foreign policy between now and the end of the year such as in Middle East peace, Cyprus, the treaty with Panama?
A. Of course I can't answe that question specifically because I don't know what cooperation we will get from other nations and I don't know what the inclination of those nations in disputed regions of the world want to do toward one another.
Secretary Cyrus Vance has just returned from what I consider to be a very successful trip to the Middle East. He not only probed with the heads of those governments and their cabinet members their own positons both public and private on the conversial issues that have so far prevented a peace in the Middle East, he alo had a chance to compare their positions on issues, which one s they found to be in harmoney, which ones there was still a dispute.
We also invited the leaders of all of those nations to meet with me. They have all accepted and I will be meeting with the heads of the nations in dispute in the Middle East, all of them, before the end of May.
The first visit of one of those leaders will be Mr. Rabin, I belive March 12. He will be followed by the leaders from Egypt, from Jordan and from Syria, from Saudi Arabia, and I look forwaed to meeting with them.
At that point I hope I will have a very clear picture of what role thet American government ought to play. The same thing applies to the situtation that exists between ourselves and Turkey, ourselves and Greece, ourselves and Cyprus.
We can't impose our will on other people, but if they honestly want to seek a solution, we are perfectly willing to offer our good offices as a country with influence and interest to help them resolve theri own differences. But it has got to be done primarily by those countires involved.
We have begun againg within the last week our discussions on the Panama Canal treaty. We have two exremely good negotiators and I hope that we will have success there.There is no way that I can say at this point what degree of progress we have made. It is just beginning.
So throuhtout the areas of hign dispute, including South Africa and othets that I don't have time to mention, we are probing as best we can to discern some possibility of resolution of those tension areas.
We are meeting today, in fact all this week, with the British, to try to get a renewed proposal to make concerning the questions surrounding Rhodesia and thenM of course, we will still have left Namibia and ultimately the majority rule question in South Africa.
But I have only been in office a month. I don't claim to know all the easy answers and these questions that have been in existence for 25 to 33 years are not going to do the best we can, openly and forcefully, offering our good services, not trying to impose our will on other people.