This is a partial transcript from Your World with Neil Cavuto, May 16, 2003, that was edited for clarity. Click here for complete access to all of Neil Cavuto's CEO interviews.
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NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: Right now, the threat level remains at an elevated stage. But while most Americans look to our police and armed forces to protect our homeland, my next guest says it’s just not possible to do a good job unless private businesses are doing their part as well. Former AT&T chief C. Michael Armstrong, currently the chairman of Comcast Holdings Corporation, is fresh off the McGraw-Hill Homeland Security Conference that’s been going on in New York. He joins me right now.
Good to see you, Michael, thanks for coming.
C. MICHAEL ARMSTRONG, CHAIRMAN, COMCAST HOLDINGS (CMCSK): Thank you. It’s good to be here, Neil.
CAVUTO: Let’s talk first of all about the security. I mean, last week at this time it would have been very different but this past week we saw the Riyadh bombings. We saw more terrorist activity in Chechnya. Of course, that’s almost sadly routine. But we got reminders, certainly, in Saudi Arabia that Al Qaeda ain’t dead. And now you wonder whether the Al Qaeda could be threat here. What do you think?
ARMSTRONG: Neil, you have to recognize that in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, what was bombed were three compounds housing American companies with American people. That was an attack on America’s private infrastructure as much as an attack on anything. The fact that it took place in Saudi Arabia just tells us that the threat against America is not only in the homeland, it is around the world.
CAVUTO: But what about the threat here? I know you’ve been trying to lead this effort to get, you know, private businesses and the government sort of on the same wavelength here. But everyone fears that there is another shoe to drop. Is there?
ARMSTRONG: Well, we have to recognize that when we talk about homeland security, that 90 percent or better of our homeland is owned, operated and managed by the private sector. Second, that that private sector is under attack, this isn’t something that just happened as of 9/11, as you just mentioned, it just happened in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, against our country and our private sector. So we’ve got to recognize that we are under attack and do a couple of things. We’ve got to get current risk assessments of our business and understand the critical processes to protect our people as well as our assets. We’ve got to put an action plan in place and practice that action plan so it becomes institutionally instinctive.
CAVUTO: You know, here is the rub against this kind of talk, is that people can talk about coordinating things, but when everything hits the fan, it is like a bad Don Knotts episode, everyone is going crazy, they’re just doing wacky stuff. There is no coordination. And all the stuff that you are trying to build, Michael, no offense to you, just won’t happen.
ARMSTRONG: Well, it is happening, Neil. Let me offer a couple examples, please. The Business Roundtable has put in place, that we talked about a year ago, CEO Comlink, which is a private authenticated network that 100 companies of the Roundtable have been validated in as well as the Department of Homeland Security, specifically, Secretary Ridge and Deputy Secretary Gordon England. It has been activated three times already. And it works. It was successful. We interlocked and were able to have the right exchange between the public sector and the private sector, to prepare, given the news that was being communicated.
CAVUTO: So you think it will be different this time, if, God forbid, there is another September 11, it will be different?
ARMSTRONG: Yes, and we are all working on it. It is so far from done.
CAVUTO: OK. Let me switch gears if you don’t mind, Mike. On the president’s tax cut package, I guess the devil is in the details, but it looks like we are going to get one at least $350 billion. It looks like, at the very least, we’ll get speed-up of all those incomes tax rate reductions. And it looks like we’ll get something on dividends, though probably not exactly the whole loaf that the president wanted. What does it do?
ARMSTRONG: Well, the president’s package is an economic stimulus that has many aspects to it including the dividends as you mentioned. Being in this economy, I just would like to share that it is as soft as you hear and that you smell and that you see the metrics representing.
CAVUTO: Will it be changed at all with this tax cut?
ARMSTRONG: Yes, it will. Now.
CAVUTO: It will change guys like you who buy things and commit.
ARMSTRONG: Because it is going to improve the people’s incomes, it’s going to improve people’s opportunities for jobs. It’s going to restore confidence as things begin to grow again. And people are going to become optimistic about the future.
CAVUTO: What about companies that don’t offer dividends now or for very faint ones, would they be more inclined to offer more?
ARMSTRONG: I think some will consider it. And I think certainly Microsoft was an example of that.
CAVUTO: How about you?
ARMSTRONG: Well, right now, we don’t make net income because our industry has invested some $70 billion since the Telecom Act of ‘96 in the infrastructure.
CAVUTO: But would this make you more amenable once you do make net income?
ARMSTRONG: Once we start a net income where we have the available profitability to pay it, it is something, of course, we would want to consider.
CAVUTO: OK, Michael, good seeing you again.
ARMSTRONG: Nice to see you.
CAVUTO: Thanks for coming.
ARMSTRONG: Thank you.
CAVUTO: C. Michael Armstrong, the man who heads up Comcast, doing all this government stuff. I don’t know when he takes a day off.
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