William S. Cohen

William S. Cohen
  • William S. Cohen is chairman and CEO of the Cohen Group, a global business consultancy based in Washington, D.C. Prior to founding the Cohen Group, he served as U.S. secretary of defense from 1997 until 2000. Reversing a steady decline in defense budgets that began in the 1980s, he succeeded in modernizing the military and maintaining its readiness to fight; reversing recruitment and retention problems by enhancing pay and other benefits; and strengthening security relationships with countries around the world in order to reorient them from the Cold War to the challenges of a new era. Prior to his service as defense secretary, he was a U.S. senator, representing Maine, from 1979 until 1997. During that time, he was chairman of the Armed Services Committee’s Seapower and Force Projection Subcommittee and the Governmental Affairs Committee’s Government Oversight Subcommittee. The former was responsible for tens of billions of acquisition dollars for naval vessels and long-range transport aircraft, as well as U.S. security policy in East Asia, the Middle East, and the Persian Gulf. The latter was responsible for reforming the procurement process for the entire federal government. In addition, he was chairman of the Senate Committee on Aging, where he led efforts to improve the efficiency of Medicare and other health care programs. He was also a member of the Select Committee on Intelligence for a decade, serving half that time as vice chairman. His experience and expertise led to his selection to serve on the “Iran-Contra Committee.” Prior to being elected to the Senate, Cohen served in the House of Representatives, representing Maine’s 2nd District, from 1973 to 1979. Over the years, his broad international expertise has been recognized by his selection to serve on various boards, committees, and study groups, including at the Council on Foreign Relations, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the School for Advanced International Studies, and the Brookings Institution. He is the founder of the William S. Cohen Institute for Leadership and Public Service at the University of Maine in Orono. A published author of 13 works of nonfiction, fiction, and poetry, the Christian Science Monitor has called him “a true Renaissance man.” Cohen is a graduate of Bowdoin College and Boston University School of Law. He is a member of the Board of Directors of CBS Corporation, the Board of Trustees of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), and a world affairs contributor for Bloomberg Television providing analysis and commentary on major domestic and international news stories.