Senate committee hears military chiefs’ ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’ testimony

Senate committee hears military chiefs’ ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’ testimony

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[JURIST] The Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) [official website] on Friday heard conflicting testimony [materials] from top military leaders on the services’ readiness to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) [10 USC § 654; JURIST news archive]. Commandant of the Marine Corps General James Amos [official profile] urged the Committee to delay the policy’s repeal, arguing that ongoing operations in Iraq and Afghanistan would complicate the integration of openly gay service members at this time. Amos’ sentiments were echoed by the Chiefs of Staff for the Army and Air Force, Generals George Casey, Jr. and Norton Schwartz [official profiles], respectively. Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Gary Roughead [official profile] and Admiral Robert Papp, Jr. [official profile, PDF], Commandant of the Coast Guard, however, joined Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General James Cartwright [official profile] in offering a more optimistic perspective. Acknowledging that difficulties will follow repeal, Cartwright reiterated his belief in the military’s inclusivity, saying:

Waiting for a more ideal time to decide this question is obviously one option; however, difficult tasks are rarely well served by delay. It is hard to foresee a time when the men and women of the U.S. military will be more focused and disciplined than they are today. We must be prudent in our approach, but there is little to suggest that the issues associated with a change in the law and [Department of Defense] policy will diminish if we wait on the uncertain promise of a less challenging future.

Regardless of their individual views, each emphasized their readiness to implement the repeal if so ordered.

The SASC hearing was the second in as many days to review a Department of Defense (DOD) [official website] report [text, PDF; JURIST report], released earlier this week, that concluded that repealing DADT would only minimally effect military effectiveness, soldier retention and family readiness. The DOD also released a Support Plan for Implementation [text, PDF], laying out the Comprehensive Review Working Group’s recommendations to proceed with the repeal in a form similar to a military operations order. Last week, US Air Force Major Margaret Witt, who was discharged under DADT, became the first openly gay person to serve in the US military after the Obama administration did not pursue a stay of a previous federal court decision ordering her reinstatement [JURIST reports]. In November, Defense Secretary Robert Gates called on the 112th Congress to repeal DADT [JURIST report]. Gates issued a memorandum in October limiting the authority to discharge openly gay service members [JURIST report] to five senior DOD officials. In September, the US Senate [official website] rejected a cloture motion [JURIST report] on a defense appropriations bill that would have repealed the policy. Since the enactment of DADT in 1993, approximately 13,000 servicemen and women have been discharged from the armed forces as a result of the policy.