Top leaders in the Army and Air Force on Tuesday expressed concerns during a congressional hearing about lifting “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” before the Pentagon completes its study on implementing repeal.
In a hearing on the defense budget request President Obama submitted, Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey told Congress that he had reservations about repealing the ban on open service at this time.
“I do have serious concerns about the impact of a repeal of the law on a force that is fully engaged in two wars and has been at war for eight and a half years,” Casey said. “We just don’t know the impacts on readiness and military effectiveness.”
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz made similar remarks to the House. He reportedly said he was concerned there is “little current scholarship on this issue” and wants to wait until Gates finishes his assessment.
“This is not the time to perturb the force that is, at the moment, stretched by demands in Iraq and Afghanistan and elsewhere without careful deliberation,” Schwartz said.
The Pentagon study on implementing repeal, unveiled earlier this month by Defense Secretary Robert Gates in congressional testimony, is expected to be complete by the year’s end.
In a statement, Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of the pro-repeal Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, noted that neither Casey nor Schwartz expressed opposition to the proposal Gates advanced earlier this month.
“We expect they will work within the framework the Pentagon has laid out,” he said. “There will continue to be differences around the margins, but, at the end of the day, we expect the chiefs will salute the commander in chief, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen.”
Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) is set next week to introduce legislation in the Senate that would repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” House legislation sponsored by Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Pa.) was previously introduced.