WASHINGTON (AP) _ Defense Secretary William Cohen felt generous, so he called his designated successor, Donald Rumsfeld, the other day to share a few ideas about the most pressing and difficult issues on the Pentagon chief's plate.

``I said, `Don, I'm sitting here, I'm making a list of 10 things I think you should address,''' a grinning Cohen told reporters Tuesday in what he said would be his last Pentagon news conference. ``Unfortunately, however, it's now up to 48.''

Cohen, a former senator from Maine who is the only Republican member of President Clinton's Cabinet, said he and Rumsfeld discussed all 48 topics in a two-hour meeting last Friday. Topping the list of items: ``Keep the focus on the people in the military,'' he said. Other priorities included the need to address issues that affect recruiting, retention, and the quality of life in uniform, he said.

``Without having the best and the brightest continue to be in the military, then all of the sophisticated equipment that we have will not be of any use to us,'' Cohen said. ``So focus upon what we need to do to make sure that we continue to retain and to recruit the best possible people.''

Cohen said he also advised Rumsfeld to keep an eye on relations with Russia, China and the European allies; the battle against terrorism and weapons of mass destruction; and containment of Iraq's military power.

On the controversial topic of national missile defense, Cohen said he offered his opinion knowing President-elect Bush may have ``a much different view'' but that it was important ``to talk about the political dynamic as well as the technical aspects of that.''

Bush, who has said he will push for a robust system of missile defense, was scheduled to visit the Pentagon on Wednesday to meet with Cohen and the joint chiefs of staff.