Armed Forces Welcomes Cohen
By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Feb. 18, 1997 "I pledge to defend and protect you, as you defend and protect our nation," William S. Cohen promised America's armed forces Feb. 14 as the military officially welcomed the new defense secretary.
"As a global power with global interests to protect, America must maintain the best-trained, best-equipped, most ready and most capable forces on the globe," Cohen told approximately 800 guests gathered at Fort Myer, Va., for the precision display of spit-and-polish troops and patriotic music.
After briskly trooping the line of soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines, Cohen said leading the military is a high privilege, "for I am stirred by your dedication and devotion,inspired by your service and sacrifice, confident in your courage and capability," he said.
Emerging from the Cold War era, America faces a world where the only constant is change, he said, "where threats to American interests can erupt anywhere at any time. ... where rogue states and freelance terrorists can spread fear and death with a truck full of fertilizer, a vial of volatile liquid or a homemade nuclear device. It is a world that demands American leadership and a strong, capable and ready American military force."
Today's challenges, he said, include continuing to reduce Russia's remaining 20,000 nuclear weapons, continuing the Partnership for Peace program, enlarging NATO and stabilizing Bosnia. Other goals include strengthening the U.S.-Japan alliance, promoting Korean reunification and improving ties with China.
Meeting these challenges takes a ready and capable military, Cohen said. "We must continue to put people first, to draw and keep the best America has to offer -- and that means providing a good and decent life for all who wear the uniform and their families," he said.
But, as the 21st century approaches, the secretary said, America must be willing to re-examine the military's size, force structure, strategy and commitments in light of changing threats. "Our challenge is to sustain the best military in the world under tighter fiscal constraints, getting the most from each defense dollar," he said.
As he begins his tenure, Cohen said he looks to military and civilian leaders to serve as a reservoir of wisdom and experience. "It is this DoD family that will ensure I provide the commander in chief with the best possible advice, counsel and choices," he said.
Living up to the standard set by former defense secretary Bill Perry is a daunting challenge, Cohen said. He recalled President Clinton's remarks at Perry's farewell ceremony: "The measure of success for the secretary of defense is a military stronger and a nation safer than when he took office."
"Secretary Perry exceeded that measure," Cohen said. "That measure is now mine to meet."
Deputy Secretary John White and Army Gen. John Shalikashvili, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, hosted the hour-long ceremony.