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William Cohen Warns Congress Don’t ‘Hollow Out’ Military

William Cohen

Former Defense Secretary William Cohen is realistic about the future of the U.S defense budget.

“There are ways to go about cutting the defense budget and we will have to,” he said at a Sept. 29 speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “Our force structure under the circumstances is just not sustainable.”

The former Clinton Administration official warned his audience that past cuts in research, development, education and modernization spending hollowed out U.S. military forces.

This is one of Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s principal positions against budget cuts.

And Cohen points the finger directly at Capitol Hill to ensure this does not happen.

“The real issue… is political,” he said. “It’s a question of leadership and I think the danger for us is that we’ll do what we’ve done in the past… we’ll fail to invest in the future.”

Cohen acknowledges that while it is impossible to “do more with less”, the U.S. is capable of developing a “very powerful, very efficient and very expeditionary” military force.

He praised savings generated by the Base Realignment and Closure Act and called for reforms to military retirement benefits and healthcare.

“Technology is going to continue to evolve at ever faster levels,” he said. “The real issue is, do we have a regulatory system that can support it as technology exponentially increases? We can’t stay behind the curve. To me, that’s a danger. We’ve got to make sure that as technology races ahead that we remain consistent in preserving the right civil privacy and accountability.”

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