ffirmative action has been good for America. That does not mean it has always been perfect. It does not mean it should go on forever. It should be retired when its job is done, and I am resolved that that day will come. But ... the job is not done ...
President Bill Clinton
President Clinton is committed to the struggle toward equal opportunity for all and special treatment for none. As we confront our challenges, America does not have a person to waste.
Affirmative action has closed many gaps in economic opportunity, but we still have much to accomplish. Unemployment for African Americans remains about twice that of whites. Women working full-time still earn only 72 percent as much as men. Women and minorities hold less than 5 percent of the senior management positions in the nation's largest companies. The federal government received more than 90,000 complaints of employment discrimination based on race, ethnicity, and gender in 1994. Hate crimes and violence are still ugly realities in the lives of many Americans.
President Clinton believes that we need to mend affirmative action, not end it. There still exists a compelling need for race-conscious affirmative action measures in federal procurement that target assistance to small businesses owned by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals. As we approach the next century, the American Dream must be restored to all Americans, and common ground must be found amid our great diversity. The President is working to strengthen the American commitment to equal opportunity for all by:
Ordering a 1995 review of the federal government's affirmative action programs that concluded that affirmative action is still an effective tool to expand economic and educational opportunity:
The military has set an example by ensuring that it has a wide pool of qualified candidates for every promotion. America's armed forces have given us the world's most diverse and best qualified military leadership. Education Department programs targeted at minorities do a lot of good with a minimal investment -- including about 40 cents of every $1,000 in student aid. The Department of Labor's affirmative action program has prevented discrimination and fostered equal employment for all Americans including women, minorities, the disabled, and veterans -- without quotas or mandated outcomes. Affirmative action has helped build up firms owned by minorities and women and has helped a new generation of entrepreneurs to flourish, fostering self-reliance and economic growth. Directing all federal agencies to comply with the Supreme Court's decision in Adarand Construction v. Pena and to apply four standards to make sure that all affirmative action programs are fair:
No quotas. No reverse discrimination. No preferences for unqualified individuals. No continuation of programs after they have met their goals. Continuing to defend the use of affirmative action contracting under the Small Business Administration's (SBA) 8(a) program in court cases brought since Adarand. Launching the Empowerment Contracting Program to supplement, not replace, existing federal procurement programs. This will offer incentives for government contracting awards to businesses in distressed communities that hire a significant number of residents and that generate significant economic activity in low-income areas.
Building on Our Progress
President Clinton will continue to work to ensure equal opportunity for all Americans. He believes that America will survive and prosper as a society only if we are confident and united. The President will continue to work to renew and strengthen the ideals that foster that unity by:
Continuing to evaluate programs according to the Supreme Court's guidelines in Adarand. The President has proposed procurement reforms that:
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