Secretary William S. Cohen is the chairman and CEO of The Cohen Group, a strategic business consulting firm based in Washington, DC, which assists multinational clients from all sectors to pursue business opportunities and overcome problems in quickly changing markets around the world. The Cohen Group has a strategic alliance with DLA Piper, the world's largest law firm.
Cohen currently serves on the corporate board of CBS and on the advisory board of Barrick Gold International. Cohen is a senior counselor at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and was recently appointed the co-chair of the CSIS US-ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) Strategy Commission with Hank Greenburg. He also serves on the board of directors of the US-China Business Council and US-India Business Council.
Cohen served as the 20th U.S. Secretary of Defense, from January 1997 to January 2001, where he oversaw the largest organization in the U.S. with a budget of $300 billion and three million military and civilian personnel. As Defense Secretary, he was responsible for: reversing a decade-and-a-half of continuous decline in the defense budget and the defense procurement budget, which he increased by nearly 50 percent; the largest military pay raise in a generation; and adoption of electronic commerce and other best business practices in the Defense Department. In addition, under his leadership, the United States military conducted the largest air warfare campaign (Bosnia/Kosovo) since World War II and conducted other military operations on every continent. His term as Secretary of Defense marked the first time in modern U.S. history that a President has chosen an elected official from the other party to be a member of his Cabinet.
As a three-term United States Senator (1979 to 1997), he was a recognized expert on defense and international issues, health care and government procurement. He also served in the U.S. House of Representatives for three terms (1973 to 1979) and as mayor of Bangor, Maine (1971 to 1972). While in Congress, he served on the House Judiciary Committee during the impeachment proceedings in 1974 and the Iran-Contra Committee in 1987.
He was born in Bangor, Maine and received a B.A. in Latin from Bowdoin College (1962) and a law degree from Boston University Law School (1965). He has written or co-authored eleven books—four non-fiction works, four novels and two books of poetry. His most recent book was co-authored with his wife Janet and titled Love in Black and White: A Memoir of Race Religion and Romance (2007). He also wrote the novel Dragon Fire, published in August of 2006.