Obama said he and his administration are instead continuing to "work with willing partners at the state and local level to see how we can address some of these systematic issues."
The president also urged peace among protesters in Ferguson, saying that "using any event as an excuse for violence is contrary to rule of law and contrary to who we are.”
Asked how Ferguson compares to the civil rights struggles of the 1960s, Obama suggested that modern discrimination is less severe.
"We're not talking about systematic segregation or discrimination," he said. "They are solvable problems if, in fact, law-enforcement officials are open to the kind of training and best practices that we've seen instituted in a lot of parts of the country."
Host George Stephanopoulos said he was struck by a recent poll that found that the number of African Americans who think race relations have improved since 2009 has declined.
Obama said his own feeling is that the "overall trajectory" of race relations is positive and that negative events are brought to light more often because of technology.
"If you think about just in our lifetimes ... there's no way to say that somehow race relations are worse now than they were 10 years ago, 20 years ago or 50 years ago," he said. "Part of what happens is that they get a lot more attention to them. Occasionally, problems that used to be pretty common 20 or 30 years ago weren't videotaped."