Obama on the Record: News Conference on the Economy

THE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, let’s focus on what we did today. It’s very significant. We are sending millions of dollars in additional equipment to provide more effective surveillance. We are providing hundreds of additional personnel that can help control the border, deal with customs issues. We are coordinating very effectively with the Mexican government and President Calderón, who has taken on a extraordinarily difficult task of dealing with these drug cartels that have gotten completely out of hand.

And so the steps that we’ve taken are designed to make sure that the border communities in the United States are protected and you’re not seeing a spillover of violence, and that we are helping the Mexican government deal with a very challenging situation.

Now, we are going to continue to monitor the situation. And if the steps we’ve taken do not get the job done, then we will do more.

One last point that I want to make about this. As I said, President Calderón has been very courageous in taking on these drug cartels. We’ve got to also take some steps. Even as he is doing more to deal with the drug cartels sending drugs into the United States, we need to do more to make sure that illegal guns and cash aren’t flowing back to these cartels. That’s part of what’s financing their operations, that’s part of what’s arming them, that’s what makes them so dangerous. And this is something that we take very seriously and we’re going to continue to work on diligently in the months to come.

Kevin Baron, Stars and Stripes. Is Kevin here? There you go.

Q Mr. President, where do you plan to find savings in the Defense and Veterans Administrations’ budgets when so many items that seem destined for the chopping block are politically untenable, perhaps?

THE PRESIDENT: I’m sorry, so many?

Q When so many items that may be destined for the chopping block seem politically untenable — from major weapons systems, as you mentioned, procurement, to wounded warrior care costs, or increased operations in Afghanistan, or the size of the military itself.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, a couple of — a couple of points I want to make. The budget that we put forward reflects the largest increase in veterans funding in 30 years. That’s the right thing to do.

Chuck asked earlier about sacrifices. I don’t think anybody doubts the extraordinary sacrifices that men and women in uniform have already made. And when they come home, then they have earned the benefits that they receive, and, unfortunately, over the last several years all too often the VA has been under-resourced when it comes to dealing with things like Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or Traumatic Brain Injury, dealing with some of the backlogs in admission to VA hospitals.

So there are a whole host of veterans issues that I think every American wants to see properly funded, and that’s what’s reflected in our budget.

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