The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told the Senate Armed Services Committee it was time to end the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy regarding gays and lesbians openly serving in the military.
Testifying Feb. 2, Adm. Michael Mullen said, “For me, personally, it comes down to integrity, theirs as individuals and ours as an institution.”
He added it is wrong to have a policy that causes people “to lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens.”
When pressed by Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., on whether the repeal was going to happen even before the study began, Mullen said, “This is about leadership, and I take that very, very seriously.”
At the same hearing, Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced the Pentagon’s yearlong study lead by Jeh Johnson, DoD’s general counsel, and Gen. Carter Ham, the Army’s commander in Europe on the effects of repealing the 15-year-old policy.
Lines of study include reaching out to the force and families for their opinions, reviewing the personnel system and benefits available if the law is changed, gathering the opinions of outside experts including an update of the 1993 RAND study that help guide Congress in its deliberations. “The overarching imperative is to get this right.”
He also said the department is reviewing over the next 45 day aspects of the policy that could be changed under existing law.
At the suggestion of Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., committee chairman, the review should include a possible moratorium on discharges until the more detailed study is complete.
Gates said he fully supports the president’s position on repealing the law.
Mullen and Gates and a number of senators acknowledged how controversial the subject is. The secretary asked that deployed service members not be involved in the study. “Keep the impact it will have on our forces firmly in mind,” Gates added.
“The guiding principle of our efforts will be to minimize disruption and polarization within the ranks,” he said.
Adding, “It’s critical this matter be settled by vote of Congress;” and if Congress approves the repeal, he said it would take at least a year to implement.
Levin, in his opening statement, said the armed forces have led the way in matters of fairness and equality. He added the committee will hold a series of hearings on the policy, including questioning the service chiefs and combatant commanders on their views during their posture statements’ appearances.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., the ranking member, said, “Has this policy been ideal? No, it has not. But it has been effective.”
In his State of the Union address Jan. 27, President Barack Obama called for an end to the policy. “This year, I will work with Congress and our military to finally repeal the law that denies gay Americans the right to serve the country they love bccause of who they are.
Rep. Ike Skelton,D-Mo., chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, has not scheduled any hearings on changing the policy.
Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Pa., an Army veteran of the Iraq war, has introduced a bill to repeal the policy. It has 187 co-sponsors, 31 short of a majority in the House.
The Servicemembers Legal Defense Network told the Wall Street Journal that more than 13,500 members of the armed forces have been discharged under the policy since 1994 and about 430 last year.