President Carter
1981 State of the Union Message
(33,831 words, 63 pages)

[Editor's note: Mr. Carter was defeated for reelection in 1980.
Nevertheless, he opted to transmit a written State of the Union Address to Congress.
Because of its extraordinary length, I have divided it into different pages on this site.]

Part VI


One of my major commitments has been to restore public faith in our Federal government by cutting out waste and inefficiency. In the past four years, we have made dramatic advances toward this goal, many of them previously considered impossible to achieve. Where government rules and operations were unnecessary, they have been eliminated, as with airline, rail, trucking and financial deregulation. Where government functions are needed, they have been streamlined, through such landmark measures as the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978. I hope that the new administration and the Congress will keep up the momentum we have established for effective and responsible change in this area of crucial public concern.


In March 1978, I submitted the Civil Service Reform Act to Congress. I called it the centerpiece of my efforts to reform and reorganize the government. With bipartisan support from Congress, the bill passed, and I am pleased to say that implementation is running well ahead of the statutory schedule. Throughout the service, we are putting into place the means to assure that reward and retention are based on performance and not simply on length of time on the job. In the first real test of the Reform Act, 98 percent of the eligible top-level managers joined the Senior Executive Service, choosing to relinquish job protections for the challenge and potential reward of this new corps of top executives. Though the Act does not require several of its key elements to be in operation for another year, some Federal agencies already have established merit pay systems for GS-13-15 managers, and most agencies are well on their way to establishing new performance standards for all their employees. All have paid out, or are now in the process of paying out, performance bonuses earned by outstanding members of the Senior Executive Service. Dismissals have increased by 10 percent, and dismissals specifically for inadequate job performance have risen 1500 percent, since the Act was adopted. Finally, we have established a fully independent Merit Systems Protection Board and Special Counsel to protect the rights of whistle-blowers and other Federal employees faced with threats to their rights.

In 1981, civil service reform faces critical challenges, all agencies must have fully functioning performance appraisal systems for all employees, and merit pay systems for compensating the government's 130,000 GS-13-15 managers. Performance bonuses for members of the Senior Executive Service will surely receive scrutiny. If this attention is balanced and constructive, it can only enhance the chances for ultimate success of our bipartisan commitment to the revolutionary and crucial "pay for performance" concept.


During the past four years we have made tremendous progress in regulatory reform. We have discarded old economic regulations that prevented competition and raised consumer costs, and we have imposed strong management principles on the regulatory programs the country needs, cutting paperwork and other wasteful burdens. The challenge for the future is to continue the progress in both areas without crippling vital health and safety programs.

Our economic deregulation program has achieved major successes in five areas:

Airlines: The Airline Deregulation Act is generating healthy competition, saving billions in fares, and making the airlines more efficient. The Act provides that in 1985 the CAB itself will go out of existence.

Trucking: The trucking deregulation bill opens the industry to competition and allows truckers wide latitude on the routes they drive and the goods they haul. The bill also phases out most of the old law's immunity for setting rates. The Congressional Budget Office estimates these reforms will save as much as $8 billion per year and cut as much as half a percentage point from the inflation rate.

Railroads: Overregulation has stifled railroad management initiative, service, and competitive pricing. The new legislation gives the railroads the freedom they need to rebuild a strong, efficient railroad industry.

Financial Institutions: With the help of the Congress, over the past four years we have achieved two major pieces of financial reform legislation, legislation which has provided the basis for the most far-reaching changes in the financial services industry since the 1930's. The International Banking Act of 1978 was designed to reduce the advantages that foreign banks operating in the United States possessed in comparison to domestic banks. The Depository Institutions Deregulation and Monetary Control Act, adopted last March, provides for the phased elimination of a variety of anti-competitive barriers to financial institutions and freedom to offer services to and attract the savings of consumers, especially small savers.

Recently, I submitted to the Congress my Administration's recommendations for the phased liberalization of restrictions on geographic expansion by commercial banks. Last year the Administration and financial regulatory agencies proposed legislation to permit the interstate acquisition of failing depository institutions. In view of the difficult outlook for some depository institutions I strongly urge the Congress to take prompt favorable action on the failing bank legislation.

Telecommunications: While Congress did not pass legislation in this area, the Federal Communications Commission has taken dramatic action to open all aspects of communications to competition and to eliminate regulations in the areas where competition made them obsolete. The public is benefitting from an explosion of competition and new services.

While these initiatives represent dramatic progress in economic deregulation, continued work is needed. I urge Congress to act on communications legislation and to consider other proposed deregulation measures, such as legislation on the bus industry. In addition, the regulatory commissions must maintain their commitment to competition as the best regulator of all.

The other part of my reform program covers the regulations that are needed to protect the health, safety, and welfare of our citizens. For these regulations, my Administration has created a management program to cut costs without sacrificing goals. Under my Executive Order 12044, we required agencies to analyze the costs of their major new rules and consider alternative approaches, such as performance standards and voluntary codes, that may make rules less costly and more flexible. We created the Regulatory Analysis Review Group in the White House to analyze the most costly proposed new rules and find ways to improve them. The Regulatory Council was established to provide the first Government-wide listing of upcoming rules and eliminate overlapping and conflicting regulations. Agencies have launched "sunset" programs to weed out outmoded old regulations. We have acted to encourage public participation in regulatory decision-making.

These steps have already saved billions of dollars in regulatory costs and slashed thousands of outmoded regulations. We are moving steadily toward a regulatory system that provides needed protections fairly, predictably, and at minimum cost.

I urge Congress to continue on this steady path and resist the simplistic solutions that have been proposed as alternatives. Proposals like legislative veto and increased judicial review will add another layer to the regulatory process, making it more cumbersome and inefficient. The right approach to reform is to improve the individual statutes, where they need change, and to ensure that the regulatory agencies implement those statutes sensibly.


The Federal Government imposes a huge paperwork burden on business, local government, and the private sector. Many of these forms are needed for vital government functions, but others are duplicative, overly complex or obsolete.

During my Administration we cut the paperwork burden by 15 percent, and we created procedures to continue this progress. The new Paperwork Reduction Act centralizes, in OMB, oversight of all agencies' information requirements and strengthens OMB's authority to eliminate needless forms. The "paperwork budget" process, which I established by executive order, applies the discipline of the budget process to the hours of reporting time imposed on the public, forcing agencies to scrutinize all their forms each year. With effective implementation, these steps should allow further, substantial paperwork cuts in the years ahead.


To develop a foundation to carry out energy policy, we consolidated scattered energy programs and launched the Synthetic Fuels Corporation; to give education the priority it deserves and at the same time reduce HHS to more manageable size, I gave education a seat at the Cabinet table, to create a stronger system for attacking waste and fraud, I reorganized audit and investigative functions by putting an Inspector General in major agencies. Since I took office, we have submitted 14 reorganization initiatives and had them all approved by Congress. We have saved hundreds of millions of dollars through the adoption of businesslike cash management principles and set strict standards for personal financial disclosure and conflict of interest avoidance by high Federal officials.

To streamline the structure of the government, we have secured approval of 14 reorganization initiatives, improving the efficiency of the most important sectors of the government, including energy, education, and civil rights enforcement. We have eliminated more than 300 advisory committees as well as other agencies, boards and commissions which were obsolete or ineffective. Independent Inspectors General have been appointed in major agencies to attack fraud and waste. More than a billion dollars of questionable transactions have been identified through their audit activities.

The adoption of business-like cash management and debt collection initiatives will save over $1 billion, by streamlining the processing of receipts, by controlling disbursements more carefully, and by reducing idle cash balances. Finally this Administration has set strict standards for personal financial disclosure and conflict of interest avoidance by high Federal officials, to elevate the level of public trust in the government.


I am extremely proud of the advances we have made in ensuring equality and protecting the basic freedoms of all Americans.

* The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the Office of Federal Contract Compliance (OFCCP) have been reorganized and strengthened and a permanent civil rights unit has been established in OMB.

* To avoid fragmented, inconsistent and duplicative enforcement of civil rights laws, three agencies have been given coordinative and standard-setting responsibilities in discrete areas: EEOC for all employment-related activities, HUD for all those relating to housing, and the Department of Justice for all other areas.

* With the enactment of the Right to Financial Privacy Act and a bill limiting police search of newsrooms, we have begun to establish a sound, comprehensive, privacy program.

Ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment must be aggressively pursued. Only one year remains in which to obtain ratification by three additional states.

The Congress must give early attention to a number of important bills which remain. These bills would:

* strengthen the laws against discrimination in housing. Until it is enacted, the 1968 Civil Rights Act's promise of equal access to housing will remain unfulfilled;

* establish a charter for the FBI and the intelligence agencies. The failure to define in law the duties and responsibilities of these agencies has made possible some of the abuses which have occurred in recent years;

* establish privacy safeguards for medical research, bank, insurance, and credit records; and provide special protection for election fund transfer systems.


I remain committed as strongly as possible to the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment.

As a result of our efforts in 1978, the Equal Rights Amendment's deadline for ratification was extended for three years. We have now one year and three States left. We cannot afford any delay in marshalling our resources and efforts to obtain the ratification of those three additional States.

Although the Congress has no official role in the ratification process at this point, you do have the ability to affect public opinion and the support of State Legislators for the Amendment. I urge Members from States which have not yet ratified the Equal Rights Amendment to use their influence to secure ratification. I will continue my own efforts to help ensure ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment.


Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. led this Nation's effort to provide all its citizens with civil rights and equal opportunities. His commitment to human rights, peace and non-violence stands as a monument to his humanity and courage. As one of our Nation's most outstanding leaders, it is appropriate that his birthday be commemorated as a national holiday. I hope the Congress will enact legislation this year that will achieve this goal.


The Fair Housing Act Amendments of 1980 passed the House of Representatives by an overwhelming bipartisan majority only to die in the Senate at the close of the 96th Congress. The leaders of both parties have pledged to make the enactment of fair housing legislation a top priority of the incoming Congress. The need is pressing and a strengthened federal enforcement effort must be the primary method of resolution.


The Federal criminal laws are often archaic, frequently contradictory and imprecise, and clearly in need of revision and codification. The new Administration should continue the work which has been begun to develop a Federal criminal code which simplifies and clarifies our criminal laws, while maintaining our basic civil liberties and protections.


As our public and private institutions collect more and more information and as communications and computer technologies advance, we must act to protect the personal privacy of our citizens.

In the past four years we acted on the report of the Privacy Commission and established a national privacy policy. We worked with Congress to pass legislation restricting wiretaps and law enforcement access to bank records and to reporters' files. We reduced the number of personal files held by the government and restricted the transfer of personal information among Federal agencies. We also worked with the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development to establish international guidelines to protect the privacy of personal information that is transferred across borders.


Two of our Nation's most precious natural resources are our environment and our vast agricultural capacity. From the beginning of my Administration, I have worked with the Congress to enhance and protect, as well as develop our natural resources. In the environmental areas, I have been especially concerned about the importance of balancing the need for resource development with preserving a clean environment, and have taken numerous actions to foster this goal. In the agricultural area, I have taken the steps needed to improve farm incomes and to increase our agricultural production to record levels. That progress must be continued in the 1980's.


Preserving the quality of our environment has been among the most important objectives of my Administration and of the Congress. As a result of these shared commitments and the dedicated efforts of many members of the Congress and my Administration, we have achieved several historic accomplishments.


Passage of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act was one of the most important conservation actions of this century. At stake was the fate of millions of acres of beautiful land, outstanding and unique wildlife populations, native cultures, and the opportunity to ensure that future generations of Americans would be able to enjoy the benefits of these nationally significant resources. As a result of the leadership, commitment, and persistence of my Administration and the Congressional leadership, the Alaska Lands Bill was signed into law last December.

The Act adds 97 million acres of new parks and refuges, more than doubling the size of our National Park and National Wildlife Refuge Systems. The bill triples the size of our national wilderness system, increasing its size by 56 million acres. And by adding 25 free-flowing river segments to the Wild and Scenic River System, the bill almost doubles the river mileage in that system. The Alaska Lands Act reaffirms our commitment to the environment and strikes a balance between protecting areas of great beauty and allowing development of Alaska's oil, gas, mineral, and timber resources.


In addition to the Alaska Lands Act, over the past four years we have been able to expand significantly the national wilderness and parks systems. In 1978, the Congress passed the historical Omnibus Parks Act, which made 12 additions to the National Park System. The Act also established the first two national trails since the National Trails System Act was passed in 1968. Then, in 1980, as a result of my 1979Environmental Message, the Federal land management agencies have established almost 300 new National Recreational Trails. With the completion of the RARE II process, which eliminated the uncertainty surrounding the status of millions of acres of land, we called for over 15 million acres of new wilderness in the nation's National Forest, in 1980 the Congress established about 4.5 million acres of wilderness in the lower 48 states. In addition, the Administration recommended legislation to protect Lake Tahoe, and through an Executive Order has already established a mechanism to help ensure the Lake's protection. Finally, in 1980 the Administration established the Channel Islands Marine Sanctuary.

Administration actions over the past four years stressed the importance of providing Federal support only for water resource projects that are economically and environmentally sound. This policy should have a major and lasting influence on the federal government's role in water resource development and management. The Administration's actions to recommend to the Congress only economically and environmentally sound water resource projects for funding resulted not only in our opposing uneconomic projects but also, in 1979, in the first Administration proposal of new project starts in 4 years.

One of the most significant water policy actions of the past four years was the Administration's June 6, 1978 Water Policy Reform Message to the Congress. This Message established a new national water resources policy with the following objectives:

* to give priority emphasis to water conservation;

* to consider environmental requirements and values more fully and along with economic factors in the planning and management of water projects and programs;

* to enhance cooperation between state and federal agencies in water resources planning and management.
In addition, the Executive Office of the President established 11 policy decision criteria to evaluate the proposed federal water projects, the Water Resources Council developed and adopted a new set of Principles and Standards for water projects which is binding on all federal construction agencies, and improved regulations were developed to implement the National Historic Preservation Act and the Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act. As a result, water resource projects must be determined to be economically sound before the Administration will recommend authorization or appropriation. Over the years ahead, this policy will help to reduce wasteful federal spending by targeting federal funds to the highest priority water resource projects.

In the pursuit of this policy, however, we cannot lose projects. In the part that sound water resource projects play in providing irrigation, power, and flood control. We must also recognize the special needs of particular regions of the country in evaluating the need for additional projects.


The Global 2000 Report to the President, prepared in response to my 1977 Environment Message, is the first of its kind. Never before has our government, or any government, taken such a comprehensive, long-range look at the interrelated global issues of resources, population, and environment.

The Report's conclusions are important. They point to a rapid increase in population and human needs through the year 2000 while at the same time a decline in the earth's capacity to meet those needs, unless nations of the world act decisively to alter current trends.

The United States has contributed actively to a series of U.N. conferences on the environment, population, and resources, and is preparing for the 1981 Conference on New and Renewable Sources of Energy. Following my 1977 Environmental Message, the Administration development assistance programs have added emphasis to natural resource management and environmental protection. My 1979 Environmental Message called attention to the alarming loss of world forests, particularly in the tropics. An interagency task force on tropical forests has developed a U.S. government program to encourage conservation and wise management of tropical forests. The Administration is encouraging action by other nations and world organizations to the same purpose. The United States is a world leader in wildlife conservation and the assessment of environmental effects of government actions. The January 5, 1979, Executive Order directing U.S. government agencies to consider the effects of their major actions abroad, is another example of this leadership.


Over the past four years, there has been steady progress towards cleaner air and water, sustained by the commitment of Congress and the Administration to these important national objectives. In addition, the Administration has developed several new pollution compliance approaches such as alternative and innovative waste water treatment projects, the "bubble" concept, the "offset" policy, and permit consolidation, all of which are designed to reduce regulatory burdens on the private sector.

One of the most pressing problems to come to light in the past four years has been improper hazardous waste disposal. The Administration has moved on three fronts. First, we proposed the Oil Hazardous Substances and Hazardous Waste Response, Liability and Compensation Act (the Superfund bill) to provide comprehensive authority and $1.6 billion in funds to clean up abandoned hazardous waste disposal sites. In November 1980 the Congress passed a Superfund bill which I signed into law.

Second, the administration established a hazardous waste enforcement strike force to ensure that when available, responsible parties are required to clean up sites posing dangers to public health and to the environment. To date, 50 lawsuits have been brought by the strike force.

Third, regulations implementing subtitle C of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act were issued. The regulations establish comprehensive controls for hazardous waste and, together with vigorous enforcement, will help to ensure that Love Canal will not be repeated.


For the future, we cannot,and we must not, forget that we are charged with the stewardship of an irreplaceable environment and natural heritage. Our children, and our children's children, are dependent upon our maintaining our commitment to preserving and enhancing the quality of our environment. It is my hope that when our descendants look back on the 1980's they will be able to affirm:

* that we kept our commitment to the restoration of environmental quality;

* that we protected the public health from the continuing dangers of toxic chemicals, from pollution, from hazardous and radioactive waste, and that we made our communities safer, healthier and better places to live;

* that we preserved America's wilderness areas and particularly its last great frontier, Alaska, for the benefit of all Americans in perpetuity;

* that we put this nation on a path to a sustainable energy future, one based increasingly on renewable resources and on energy conservation;

* that we moved to protect America's countryside and coastland from mismanagement and irresponsibility;

* that we redirected the management of the nation's water resources toward water conservation, sound development and environmental protection;

* that we faced squarely such worldwide problems as the destruction of forests, acid rain, carbon dioxide build-up and nuclear proliferation; and

* that we protected the habitat and the existence of our own species on this earth.


The farm economy is sound and its future is bright. Agriculture remains a major bulwark of the nation's economy and an even more important factor in the world food system. The demand for America's agricultural abundance, here and abroad, continues to grow. In the near-term, the strength of this demand is expected to press hard against supplies, resulting in continued price strength.

The health and vitality of current-day agriculture represents a significant departure from the situation that existed when I came to office four years ago. In January 1977, the farm economy was in serious trouble. Farm prices and farm income were falling rapidly. Grain prices were at their lowest levels in years and steadily falling. Livestock producers, in their fourth straight year of record losses, were liquidating breeding herds at an unparalleled rate. Dairy farmers were losing money on every hundredweight of milk they produced. Sugar prices were in a nosedive.

Through a combination of improvements in old, established programs and the adoption of new approaches where innovation and change were needed, my Administration turned this situation around. Commodity prices have steadily risen. Farm income turned upward. U.S. farm exports set new records each year, increasing over 80 percent for the four year period. Livestock producers began rebuilding their herds. Dairy farmers began to earn a profit again.


Several major agricultural policy initiatives have been undertaken over the past year. Some are the culmination of policy proposals made earlier in this Administration; others are measures taken to help farmers offset the impact of rapid inflation in production costs. In combination, they represent a significant strengthening of our nation's food and agricultural policy. These initiatives include:


The Congress authorized formation of a 4 million ton food grain reserve for use in international food assistance. This reserve makes it possible for the United States to stand behind its food aid commitment to food deficit nations, even during periods of short supplies and high prices. This corrects a serious fault in our past food assistance policy.


The Congress also authorized a significant new crop insurance program during 1980. This measure provides farmers with an important new program tool for sharing the economic risks that are inherent to agriculture. When fully operational, it will replace a hodgepodge of disaster programs that suffered from numerous shortcomings.


Another legislative measure passed late in the 2nd session of the 96th Congress authorizes the Secretary of Agriculture to provide higher loan rates to farmers who enter their grain in the farmer-owned grain reserve. This additional incentive to participate will further strengthen the reserve.


In July 1980, I administratively raised loan prices for wheat, feedgrains, and soybeans to help offset the effects of a serious cost-price squeeze. At the same time, the release and call prices for the grain reserve were adjusted upward.


The Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1980 raised the target prices for 1980-crop wheat and feed grain crops. This change corrected for shortcomings in the adjustment formula contained in the Food and Agriculture Act of 1977.


The food and agricultural policies adopted by this Administration over the past four years, including those described above, will provide a firm foundation for future governmental actions in this field. Expiration of the Food and Agriculture Act of 1977 later this year will require early attention by the Congress. With relatively minor changes, most of the authorities contained in the 1977 Act should be extended in their present form. The farmer-owned grain reserve has proven to be a particularly effective means of stabilizing grain markets and should be preserved in essentially its present form.

Beyond this, it will be important for the Congress to keep a close eye on price-cost developments in the farm sector. As noted above, some of the actions I took last year were for the purpose of providing relief from the cost-price squeeze facing farmers. Should these pressures continue, further actions might be required.

My Administration has devoted particular attention to the issues of world hunger, agricultural land use, and the future structure of American agriculture. I encourage the Congress and the next Administration to review the results of these landmark enquiries and, where deemed appropriate, to act on their recommendations.

Following a careful review of the situation, I recently extended the suspension of grain sales to the Soviet Union. I am satisfied that this action has served its purpose effectively and fairly. However, as long as this suspension must remain in effect, it will be important for the next Administration and the Congress to take whatever actions are necessary to ensure that the burden does not fall unfairly on our Nation's farmers. This has been a key feature of my Administration's policy, and it should be maintained.