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DoD News Briefing: Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen

Presenter: Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen
January 27, 1997
News "This Week"]


Q: Do you have a case of divided loyalties as the Republican member of the cabinet?

A: Not at all. In fact, I would not have accepted the position if I didn't feel I could work with this administration to build a bipartisan consensus on national security policies. So, I have no hesitation whatsoever.

Q: What do you think are going to be the toughest bipartisan challenges?

A: I think that because we are living in a time of constrained budgets that we are going to have to look across the board at all of our systems, from our strategies to our force structure, end strength, readiness, humanitarian missions, infrastructure -- all of that is currently on the table for examination by the so-called Quadrennial Defense Review, the so- called, "QDR." Once that examination is made, it will be supplemented by a National Defense Panel, which is now being constituted to review the recommendations; and all of that, I think, is going to pose some very tough choices for those of us on Capital Hill and the Executive branch, and also for the country itself. We have eliminated all of the easy options, the tough choices are coming now in terms of what trade-offs are going to be necessary, if any, or else whether or not the Congress and the country will support higher spending in order to achieve what we need for the future.

Q: Mr. Secretary, Private Jessica Bleckley, the young woman who brought the sexual harassment charges at Aberdeen, was given a hardship discharge two days ago and has since come forward with some new allegations, including as recently as two weeks ago she was the victim of another session of harassment, and they asked her what would keep her happy and in the military and she was promised a duty assignment in Germany, and other allegations, sir ....


What can you tell us, specifically, about her case and how it was handled; and also, women, in general, in the military, and creating an atmosphere where they can (inaudible).

A: Well, with respect to her case, I spoke with the Secretary of the Army, Togo West, this morning and that matter is currently under investigation by the CID. So, it's being thoroughly investigated as we speak. But, in addition, I want everyone to know that I have a zero tolerance policy as far as sexual harassment/discrimination; it's not acceptable in any form. And, that's the policy that is going to be enforced. Obviously, in my position, I have to be very careful that I do not indicate in any way that I am seeking to exercise any kind of undue influence, or command influence, and so we'll have to wait for the proper investigation to be completed before coming to any judgment. But, I'm satisfied that certainly the Army is taking this very seriously and we're looking at it on a system-wide basis as to whether or not these alleged abuses are systemic or isolated.

Q: Ms. Albright, today, referred to the "Yeltsin- Chernomyrden government," is that some sort of indication that the [U.S.] government is considering some changes happening there?

A: Not to my knowledge, no.

Q: With Madeleine Albright as the first female secretary of state, how do you think that will change the way men and women in uniform treat women in the military?

A: I think Madeleine Albright's being chosen as secretary of state sends a very strong signal that this administration is committed to providing the very highest positions to those who are qualified. She has, as she indicated today, broken and shattered that glass ceiling, and I think it's a very positive signal to women throughout the country, but also to men throughout our society that women are to be treated with respect and dignity and as equals.

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