William S. Cohean
Secretary of Defense (1997-2001)
In 1974, during his first term in Congress, Time magazine named William Cohen one of “America’s 200 Future Leaders,” and in 1965, the U.S. Junior Chamber of Commerce named him one of the “Ten Outstanding Young Men in America.” In 1978, he was propelled into the Senate and was quickly asked to be chairman of the Armed Services Committee’s Sea Power and Force Projection Subcommittee and the Governmental Affairs Committee’s Government Oversight Subcommittee. He was also chairman of the Senate Committee on Aging and a member of the Select Committee on Intelligence for a decade, serving half that time as vice chairman and also went on to serve on the “Iran-Contra Committee.” He has won awards from the National Federation of Independent Businessmen and the National Taxpayers Union. Secretary Cohen served on the Board of Directors of the Council on Foreign Relations from 1989 to 1997 and chaired their Middle East Study Group. He has chaired and served on numerous other study groups and committees at CSIS, Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, and the Brookings Institution. He established and led U.S. delegations to the annual Pacific Dialogue in Kuala Lumpur, as well as the American-Arab Dialogue in Cairo. Beginning in 1985, he led the U.S. delegation of senior executive branch officials and members of Congress to the annual Munich Conference on Security Policy. Secretary Cohen’s service in the House and Senate was marked by electoral success as well, as he was undefeated in six consecutive Maine elections. In 1996, he decided not to seek reelection, but he announced that he would return to private life to promote international business and a more thoughtful public discourse on national political issues. He also launched the William S. Cohen Center for International Policy and Commerce at the University of Maine. It was at this time that President Bill Clinton asked him to lead the Department of Defense, and he was confirmed as secretary in January 1997. During his tenure, Secretary Cohen held substantive meetings with foreign leaders in over 60 countries. He received his B.A. in Latin from Bowdoin College and a law degree from Boston University Law School. During his 24 years in Congress, he found time to write or coauthor 11 works of nonfiction, fiction, and poetry. He is also an accomplished athlete, and during college, he was inducted into the New England All-Star Hall of Fame. In 1987, he was named by the National Association of Basketball Coaches to the Silver Anniversary All Star Team, and in 2001, the NCAA presented him with its Theodore Roosevelt Award. Secretary Cohen is currently a member of the Board of Directors of CBS Corporation and the U.S.-China Business Council, where he also serves as vice chairman. He is also a member of the Partnership for a Secure America’s Advisory Board.