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IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Release No: 289-97
June 05, 1997

STATEMENT BY SECRETARY OF DEFENSE WILLIAM S. COHENCONCERNING GENERAL JOSEPH W. RALSTON

I have recently learned that, several years ago, General Ralston had an intimate relationship with a woman during a time in which he was separated from his first wife, but before they divorced. I have reviewed the circumstances of this relationship with General Ralston personally, General Shalikashvili, and my senior advisors. Adultery can be especially damaging in a military environment; however, military law does not address adultery unless, under the circumstances, the conduct is either prejudicial to good order and discipline in the armed forces or of a nature to bring discredit upon the armed forces. After consideration of all the circumstances of this relationship, I am satisfied General Ralston's conduct was neither prejudicial to good order and discipline nor discrediting to the armed forces. In my view, these events standing alone do not disqualify General Ralston from possible elevation to the position of Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Beyond the issue of whether a violation of military law occurred, I am mindful that leaders of our armed forces are expected to be a source of moral leadership for our forces and our Nation. The credibility to exercise moral leadership within the military does not come from notions of perfection. It comes from the maturity, wisdom, and courage to learn from our human errors, and the character to acknowledge our mistakes honestly and then make things right. I intend to recommend to the President the next Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff within the next week or two. General Ralston was a leading candidate before I learned of these events in his past, and he is still a leading candidate. If I recommend General Ralston to the President, I will do so with full confidence in his character and leadership.

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