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Secretary Cohen's Remarks at Rock Island, Illinois, May 11, 1998

Presenter: Defense Secretary William S. Cohen
May 11, 1998 12:00 PM EDT

Secretary Cohen: Let me begin. Senator Carol Moseley-Braun, Senator Grassley, Congressman Leach and Congressman Evans, let me say it is a pleasure to have had an opportunity to spend a little bit of time here in the area. And I want to say that the United States military -- there's no question about it -- is the finest in the world. It's the best trained, it's the best equipped, it's the best supported.

Since 1862, Rock Island Arsenal has supported the United States Army, boosting its firepower and keeping it strong. And today, for the first time, I saw firsthand the facilities and the people that make Rock Island an outstanding installation, and, I think, I now understand why the arsenal was recognized by the President's Quality Award Program just this past year.

I would like to thank Senators Moseley-Braun and Grassley and Representatives Leach and Evans for their taking the time to spend with me today to show me the arsenal and to introduce me to some of the local leaders. I know that Rock Island Arsenal is an Army community of excellence, and that's partly because it's supported by an excellent community.

We had a chance to discuss some of the planned reductions in the work force at Rock Island, and since the end of the Cold War, the uniformed military has declined by some 36 percent and the Defense Department civilian work force has declined by 32 percent. For the first time in history, we have made major reductions in the force without losing readiness and we are going to have to continue to find efficiencies in order to generate the funds necessary to train and modernize.

I would like to assure all of you that the Department of Defense is going to work closely with employees and their communities to make these transitions as humane as possible and, indeed, our effort to place workers into new jobs is a model for the private sector.

Before turning the mike over to Senator Moseley-Braun and others, I would like to say a word of thanks to the hundreds of members in the Guard and Reserve in Illinois who deploy each year and support our operations around the world, including Bosnia. These are the citizen-soldiers who help keep our nation strong.

Again, let me say what a pleasure it was for me to see, firsthand, the kind of facilities that are available to help keep our military forces the finest in the world by making sure they are the best equipped in the world.

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