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0100X. Cohen Reminisces, Details Meeting With Rumsfeld

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 10, 2001 – William S. Cohen said being secretary of defense "is the best job that one can have in government best, because youre representing the best military in the world" during his final Pentagon press conference Jan. 9.

Cohen, who is about to leave office after four years on the job, said he has truly enjoyed being around people who are so highly motivated and dedicated. The patriotism and "can do" people in the department make it unique, he said.

Theres no other department, theres no other agency in government that has that kind of spirit, Cohen told reporters.

He said there have been sad moments and talked about being at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., to receive the bodies of those killed during the 1998 U.S. Embassy bombings in Africa. He also spoke about meeting the families of those killed in Yemen last year aboard the destroyer USS Cole.

But I will tell you, this really has been a joy for me and my wife Janet, he said. If she were here she would tell you that even more emphatically what it has meant to us to be with the people who serve the United States.

Cohen said he does not leave the job with regret. A four- year time frame for this job is more than enough, he said. He told reporters that the job -- like the military -- has changed.

Many of you know we have traveled some 800,000 miles in the last four years, and that doesnt count the trips to Capitol Hill or the White House, he said. I think today because of the globalization, because of technology, because of the relations that we have to keep in repair, its a much more demanding job than found in most positions.

Its been the most demanding job, but also the most exhilarating.

Cohen noted President Clintons impeachment was never a factor in any decision involving the use of military force. He called President-elect Bushs selection of Donald H. Rumsfeld as his successor a truly outstanding choice. I have known Don Rumsfeld for a long time and worked closely with him on a number of issues. I think hell be a great secretary of defense.

Cohen said he and Rumsfeld discussed a wide range of issues Jan. 5 when the nominee visited the Pentagon. He said he started to form a list of 10 items to discuss with Rumsfeld, but it grew to 48.

Of all the issues, certainly we have to keep the focus on the people in the military, Cohen said. He discussed recruiting, retention and other quality of life issues with the secretary-designate. Because without having the best and the brightest in the military, then all the sophisticated equipment we have will not be any use to us."

He spoke with Rumsfeld about budget issues and about issues involving Russia and China. I discussed the emerging issues of NATO and the European Union and what [the European Security and Defense Program] really mean, Cohen said.

The two men talked about political and technical aspects of the National Missile Defense program. We also talked about terrorism issues, weapons of mass destruction and those countries that are developing them," Cohen told reporters. "We talked about relationship with enforcing the no-fly zones over Iraq, the sanctions regime and how to perhaps address those issues in the future.

Cohen said he plans to do some consulting after leaving office and would remain engaged in defense matters as an observer.

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