The complexion of the United States will change radically over the next 35 years, and policymakers must begin to adjust their thinking now to handle this markedly different future, according to William H. Gray 3d, president of the United Negro College Fund.

"By the year 2000," Mr. Gray said, "85% of all the new workers coming into the labor force will be women, minorities, and new immigrants. And by 2025, one-third of this nation will be minorities."

Addressing a conference sponsored by Municipal Bond Investors Assurance Corp. earlier this month in Naples, Fla., Mr. Gray said the federal government must redirect its spending priorities soon, or the country will become hopelessly uncompetitive in the international markets. The best way to do that is to slash $25 billion annually from military spending and funnel it to the infrastructure and education, he said.

"Most of what you hear about education today is rhetoric, photo opportunities," Mr. Gray said. The country must "provide a new generation of leaders from among the minorities -- the very folk we call economically and socially disadvantaged."

One of the greatest problems standing in the way of reorienting federal spending priorities is debt levels, according to Mr. Gray, formerly the U.S. House of Representative Majority Whip. "The federal government is sinking rapidly in red ink," he said. "There's so much debt in both the public and private sectors that cutting interest rates is not having the same effect of 20 years ago."

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