From his very first days in Washington, Secretary William Cohen was singled out as a future American leader. In 1974, during his very first term in Congress, TIME magazine named him as one of “America’s 200 Future Leaders,” and the following year the US Junior Chamber of Commerce named him one of the “Ten Outstanding Young Men in America.”
In 1978, he was propelled into the Senate, defeating a highly respected incumbent. During his first weeks in the Senate, He was singled out to be chairman of two powerful subcommittees, 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 US 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. As Chairman of the Senate Committee on Aging, He led efforts to improve the efficiency of Medicare and other health care programs and was a central player in the health care reform debates of the 1990s. He also was a member of the Select Committee on Intelligence for a decade, serving half that time as Vice Chairman, overseeing a large budget involving some of the Nation’s most advanced technology.
His experience and expertise led to his selection to serve on the “Iran-Contra Committee.” His sustained leadership on environmental issues gave him the distinction of being the only Republican Senator endorsed by the League of Conservation Voters re-election after re-election, while his efforts on behalf of small business and early leadership in reversing federal deficits won him awards from the National Federation of Independent Businessmen and the National Taxpayers Union.