Former Senator William S. Cohen was sworn in as the 20th Secretary of Defense in White House ceremonies by Vice President Al Gore at 10 a.m., Friday, Jan. 24, 1997.
Cohen's nomination was announced by President Clinton on
December 5, 1996. He was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on January
22, 1997 by a vote of 99-0. He previously served three terms in
the U.S. Senate for the State of Maine (1979-1997) and three
terms in the House of Representatives from Maine's Second
Congressional District (1973-1979).
Cohen was born August 28, 1940, in Bangor, Maine. He
attended Bangor High School, graduating in 1958. He received his
B.A. in Latin from Bowdoin College in 1962, and his LL.B. cum
laude from Boston University Law School in 1965.
Secretary Cohen served on the Senate Armed Services and
Governmental Affairs Committees from 1979-97. He was a member of
the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence from 1983-91 and 1995-
97, and he served as Vice Chairman from 1987-91.
An influential voice on defense and international security
issues, Cohen played a leading role in crafting the Goldwater-
Nichols Defense Reorganization Act of 1986. He was the Senate
sponsor of the GI Bill of 1984 and the subsequent enhancements to
this landmark legislation. Cohen's efforts led to the creation
of the Rapid Deployment Force, which later developed into the
Central Command, and the maritime prepositioning program, both of
which were key to the success of the Gulf War. He also co-
authored the Intelligence Oversight Reform Act of 1991, as well
as legislation designed to overhaul U.S. counterintelligence
efforts and defend against foreign political and industrial
From the Competition in Contracting Act of 1984, which he
authored, to the enactment of the Federal Acquisition Reform Act
of 1996, which he played a key role in drafting, Cohen has been
in the forefront of reforming the federal government's
Committed to bringing accountability and private sector best
practices to government agencies, he also authored the
Information Technology Management Reform Act of 1986 to improve
the way federal agencies manage information technology
investments and streamline the acquisition process.
Cohen served on the board of directors of the Council on
Foreign Relations from 1989 to 1997, and in 1996, he chaired the
Council's Middle East Study Group. He has also chaired and
served on numerous study groups and committees at the Center for
Strategic and International Studies, School for Advanced
International Studies, and Brookings Institute on issues ranging
from DoD reorganization, NATO enlargement, and chemical weapons
arms control. Since 1985, Cohen has led the American delegation
of senior Executive Branch officials and Members of Congress to
the Munich Conference on Security Policy, which brings together
senior officials from NATO and Partnership for Peace countries.
He also led American delegations to the American-Arab Dialogue in
Cairo and the Pacific Dialogue in Kuala Lumpur, regional
conferences on security and economic issues.
In 1974, he was selected by TIME magazine as of one of
America's 200 future leaders. The U.S. Junior Chamber of
Commerce named him one of the Ten Outstanding Young Men in
America in 1975. In 1975, the Boston University Law School
honored him with its prestigious Young Lawyer's Chair, and in
1976, the Boston University Alumni Association presented him with
its Award for Distinguished Public Service. In 1980, he received
the Vanguard award from the Non-Commissioned Officers
Association for his work on behalf of military personnel and in
1983, the same association honored him with the L. Mendel Rivers
Award. In 1996, he received the U.S. Special Operations Command
Cohen has authored or co-authored eight books, including
two books of poetry, three novels, and three works of non-
His wife, Janet Langhart, is president of Langhart
Communications. Cohen has two grown sons, Kevin and Chris.