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Cohen Committed to Troop Welfare

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 3, 1997 – Military service requires dedication and sacrifice, and members of the armed forces in turn deserve the nation's full support and to be treated with great dignity and respect, Defense Secretary William S. Cohen said.

During his first press conference with the national media Jan. 31, the new secretary said he is committed to the welfare of America's men and women in uniform. He said his first major task is to present DoD's budget to Congress and get the right balance of resources. The military must always recruit and retain quality people, protect and improve their quality of life, and ensure they have the training and the equipment to do the job, Cohen added.

"My midterm goal is to complete a Quadrennial Defense Review that will provide a framework for strategy, force structure and resource allocation into the 21st century," he said. "I'll also press ahead on the long-term goal of modernizing our arsenal. No matter how strong we are today, we have to be prepared to face the challenges of tomorrow."

Tomorrow's challenges include protecting the nation and U.S. forces overseas from terrorist attack and the spread of weapons of mass destruction. "We should plan on terrorism being not the wave of the future, but the wave of the present," Cohen said. "Our forces are subject to terrorist attack as are innocent civilians. There is a serious effort under way to raise the level of concern and caution on the part of military officials across the board.

"My greatest concern is that we be able to persuade the American people that having a viable, sustainable national security policy is important even when there is no clearly identifiable enemy on the horizon," Cohen said. "We have to persuade the American people that we remain militarily strong, forward deployed and energetically and diplomatically engaged."

Cohen repeated the conviction he voiced at his confirmation hearing: U.S. forces will be out of Bosnia by June 1998, the end of NATO's Stabilization Force mission. Beyond that date, maintaining peace in the region will be up to the European nations, he said.

NATO expansion will enhance stability in Central Europe, he said. Expansion will continue despite Russia's objections and fears that NATO is a threat, he said. "There are efforts under way at high levels to communicate that message, and I assume efforts will be made to ameliorate any concerns they might have."

During his first week in office, Cohen said, he met with the department's top brass, who briefed him on the military's present and future challenges. "Our military is blessed by strong leaders and well-trained, professional troops, and my job is to keep them that way," he said.

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