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Cohen: Nothing Beats Firsthand Look

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

FORT DRUM, N.Y., Sept. 8, 1998 – "I could stay in my Pentagon office every day and just deal with paperwork," said Defense Secretary William S. Cohen. "But you need to see what people are really concerned about."

The secretary traveled to Moody Air Force Base, Ga., in August, and this upstate New York post Sept. 2, to speak with service members and hear their concerns. He will visit Navy and Marine Corps bases later this year. In both places so far, service members are concerned about pay, personnel tempo, housing, medical care and other quality of life aspects.

Cohen said decision papers he receives in the Pentagon are "bloodless" by the time they are through the bureaucratic mill. "You need to hear the sound of the voice of a person these policies affect," he said.

A concern at Moody over parts and personnel shortages didn't emerge at Drum, home of the 10th Mountain Division. The top concerns among Drum soldiers were retirement and the erosion of that military benefit.

"When I was in Congress, it was important to go back to Maine and find out what people were concerned with and how they felt about legislation and decisions," Cohen said. "The same is true in my current job as secretary of defense. I cannot serve the men and women of the armed forces without knowing what concerns them."

Cohen promised to use what he learns when he shapes DoD's budget. He also said he will further convey service members' concerns to Congress.

"Nothing [the service members] said was a surprise to me, but now I know personally how strongly they feel about them," Cohen said.

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