Gates: Referendum by armed forces on policy matter is ‘dangerous path’ 


When Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., pressed the defense secretary on why not one question was asked in the survey sent to 400,000 service members and families on whether the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law should be repealed, Robert Gates answered, “I think that in effect doing a referendum of the armed forces on a policy matter is a very dangerous path.”

The exchange came after Gates had said, “I can’t think of a single precedent in American history of doing a referendum of the American armed forces on a policy issue.  Are you going to ask them if they want 15-month tours? Are you going to ask them if want to be part of the surge in Iraq? That’s not the way our civilian-led military worked in our entire history.”

Adding, “The ‘should’ question is to be decided by the Congress or the courts, as far as I’m concerned.”

Several times during the Dec. 2 hearing, Gates reminded members of the Senate Armed Services Committee that implementing social policy changes – integration of African Americans and opening military occupational specialties and the service academies to women -- in the military has not always gone smoothly and that training and leadership were needed to assist the process.