PRESIDENTIAL DEBATEOctober 16, 1996
JIM LEHRER: The next question is for Senator Dole from here. Yes, sir?
JASON MILLIGAN: Senator Dole, my name is Jason Milligan, active duty military and a small business owner. And my question is, what is your position on closing the gap between military and civilian pay scales?
MR. DOLE: Jason, I appreciate that very much, being a former military man myself. You know, we have 17,000 men and women today wearing our uniform that receive food stamps. It shouldn't happen in America. We have men and women wearing our uniform in sub-standard housing. It shouldn't happen in America. And it's time we take a look at the pay scales.
Did get a 3 percent increase this year, but that's not enough. If we're going to ask young men and young women to protect us and defend us around the world, and we've had more deployments under this administration than any time in history -- 50 times we deployed troops around the world -- every time you do that, you take a risk -- somebody you know, maybe your son, maybe your grandson, maybe somebody else. But I think anybody who wears a uniform is a great American. Remember Vietnam, remember when people almost used to walk across the street rather than have contact with somebody who was in Vietnam. That's all behind us now, and it should be behind us. And the forgotten war, the Korean War, that I guess, I can just answer you very plainly, Jason, thank you for doing what you're doing. America owes you a debt of gratitude.
PRESIDENT CLINTON: May I ask you a question? What kind of -- which service are you in?
JASON MILLIGAN: I'm in the United States Navy, sir.
PRESIDENT CLINTON: And what kind of small business do you have?
JASON MILLIGAN: I have an Amway business.
PRESIDENT CLINTON: Good for you. Well, let me say -- Senator Dole mentioned this. I just signed a bill that we got through Congress to increase the amount of pay increase we could give for military personnel and to make sure the pay increase this year was above the rate of inflation. I also had presented to the Congress, and they adopted, a large package of quality-of-life improvements which are very important. I spent a lot of time talking to military families, as well as military members, all over the world and in bases all across the United States, and I became convinced after talking to the families and the personnel in uniform that we needed to not only have the pay raise, but we needed to invest more in child care, housing and other things to support families, especially when there are longer deployments because of the down-sizing of the military.
So we're going to better, and we'll do better still. But this is a commitment I think that all Americans share without regard to party.
JIM LEHRER: Senator Dole?
MR. DOLE: Well, Jason, I don't disagree with anything the president said except he waited four years to do these things.
And my view is it ought to be -- it'll be done on day one. We'll start working on it on day one in the Dole-Kemp administration. This is important. Now, we only have 10 divisions now; we used to have 18. We had 25 fighter wings; we're down to 13. We had 536 ships; we're down to 336. I mean, we've cut defense spending too much in the first place. The president told you in '92 he would cut it 67 billion (dollars). He cut $112 billion. So we're right on the edge right now. But the last thing we ought to do is make those who wear the uniform sacrifice.