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Social Commentary from the C-Suite to Main Street℠

A Blog by Gary Wright II

Senate repeal of DADT looks unlikely and how that hurts our military

Monday, December 6th, 2010

Today while aboard the Navy aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln, Defense Secretary Robert Gates confirmed one of my worst fears: He stated that he was "not particularly optimistic" that a Senate repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell (DADT) will happen during this lame-duck session of Congress. The House of Representatives has already passed the repeal, but Senate action was blocked by a filibuster led by Senator John McCain.

I'm a veteran and I love our military, so I would never be in favor of a law or policy that would disrupt operations or harm the military in any way. As a victim of the DADT policy, I have witnessed first-hand how this policy of discrimination negatively affects our troops. Delaying repeal will cause great harm to our military because there are only two paths to ending this policy. If the Senate does the right thing and votes to repeal the law, implementation can take place in an organized manner. Without Senate repeal, the military will be abruptly forced by the courts to end the law which will cause disruption to operations and ultimately will harm the military by a disorganized implementation.

Will the courts rule to end DADT? They already have. Two federal courts have ruled the policy to be a violation of the Constitution, with one judge ordering an immediate stop to DADT enforcement. During an appeal by the federal government, a higher court allowed the the ban to stay in place until the case in finally resolved. In a separate case, the military was forced to reinstate a nurse who had been discharged since they had no proof her presence or behavior had a negative impact on the military. There are hundreds of other legal cases moving forward which will likely have the same outcome. It is interesting to note that during the days that the ban was suspended, there were no negative effects on the troops. In the months since the policy was modified in response to the court ruling, there have been no discharges under DADT.

Secretary Gates agreed that a change in the law is inevitable and stated, "One of the virtues of the legislation that's in front of the Congress right now is that it gives the president and me and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff latitude in how long we take to prepare for this and how long it actually would be to be implemented. Before a change in the law, we would have to certify that we've made enough preparations that it wouldn't affect unit cohesion, morale, retention and recruiting, and so on. The legislation would give us great deal of flexibility. I am not particularly optimistic, though, that it will get done. If the legislation passes, we have to put in place all the training. I think it will take time to do that. I just hope they give us the time to implement it in a thoughtful way so that it doesn't impact our people in the service and it doesn't lessen morale, unit cohesion, combat capabilities and our ability to retain and recruit the people we need."

In Congressional hearings held last week, the results of an in-depth study by a Department of Defense (DOD) Comprehensive Review Working Group (CRWG) were delivered by the heads of each military branch. [See my previous blog entry on the CRWG study and President Obama's statement] All leaders who testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee agreed that a legislative solution would be preferred over a court order demanding an immediate change, but they were mixed in their enthusiasm on implementing the change right now.

President Obama, Secretary Gates, Joint Chiefs Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen, Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Gary Roughead, Air Force Chief of Staff General Norton Schwartz, and Michigan Senator Carl Levin (chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee) all strongly support an implementation of the repeal. I was very disappointed by the statements made by Marine Corps Commandant General James Amos, Army Chief of Staff General George Casey, and Arizona Senator John McCain.

McCain wants more debate on the issue, which is not necessary. If he truly wants more debate, then why did he head a Senate filibuster to block all debate on the issue? General Amos warned of the threat to unit cohesion - a claim that is not valid in light of the thorough CRWG study and further supported by every military that as already integrated gay troops. General Casey stated that the troops already have "enough on their plates" which is not a valid argument. Our troops are used to following orders from their superiors and the study found that the large majority of troops support the full repeal of DADT. I find it offensive that Casey even suggests that the army can't multi-task or adapt to a change in orders. The statements made by Casey, Amos, and McCain are a testament to their lack of leadership and they should either get with the program or retire and get out of the way!

Senator Scott Brown, a Republican from Massachusetts, said, "When a soldier answers the call to serve, and risks life or limb, it has never mattered to me whether they are gay or straight. Having reviewed the Pentagon report, having spoken to active and retired military service members, and having discussed the matter privately with Defense Secretary Gates and others, I accept the findings of the report and support repeal based on recommendations that repeal will be implemented only when the battle effectiveness of the forces is assured and proper preparations have been completed."

Senator Levin noted that there was a greater amount of resistance to integration in the British and Canadian militaries, yet since allowing gays and lesbians to openly serve there has been no evidence of diminished combat effectiveness. When the Senator asked Admiral Mullen about how the leaders of other countries have described the integration of gays and lesbian, Mullins stated, "It was a non-event."

Admiral Mullins stated, "Should repeal occur, some soldiers and Marines may want separate shower facilities. Some may ask for different berthing. Some may even quit the service. We'll deal with that. But I believe, and history tells, that most of them will put aside personal proclivities for something larger than themselves and for each other."

In any organization, there will always be resistance to change, and our military is no exception. In addition to the CRWG study, there are three key areas that provide strong and compelling evidence that supports an implementation of the DADT repeal: Racial integration, allowing women to serve in combat, and the dozens of countries who have allowed gays and lesbians to openly serve in their militaries. During the integration of blacks and women into the military, there were many people who objected and claimed it would destroy our military. None of it was true. There was initial resistance, but the military didn't fall apart. Of the many nations who have already integrated gays, they have all seen a stronger military as the result. Our troops are already serving side-by-side with gay soldiers within the NATO troops and our allies.

There is a big misconception that repeal of DADT means "allowing gays into the military." That is not true - there are already over 64,000 gays and lesbians in our military who are serving honorably and effectively. A repeal of DADT only means that gays will no longer have to lie about their personal lives to their fellow soldiers. The core value of our military is honesty and integrity, so forcing them to lie about anything undermines this core principle. While forcing our troops to serve multiple tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, we are firing thousands of qualified soldiers due to their sexual orientation.

The CRWG report was the most extensive study ever done on a military policy, and all of the evidence says the repeal can - and should - be implemented. Our government was formed with a system of checks and balances. Since the federal courts have already ruled against DADT, Congress should do their job by bringing the DADT policy in compliance with the law. Anything else is a dereliction of their duty, a travesty of justice, and harmful to our military.

Best regards,

-- Gary Wright II

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