A Republican-controlled House Armed Services subcommittee on Friday is set to hold a hearing to oversee the implementation of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal.
The witnesses scheduled to testify at the hearing — slated to begin at 9:30 am at Room 2212 of the Rayburn House Office Building — are top Pentagon officials. Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel & Readiness Clifford Stanley, who’s charged with overseeing repeal of the military’s gay ban at the Pentagon, and Vice Adm. William Gortney, director of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, are set to testify.
According to the committee website, the title of the hearing is “Review of the Implementation Plans for the Repeal of Law and Policies Governing Service by Openly Gay and Lesbian Service Members.”
The House Armed Services personnel subcommittee, which will hold the hearing, is chaired by Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.), who’s renowned for shouting “You Lie!” to President Obama during the 2010 State of the Union address. Wilson was a vocal opponent of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal last year and cast a “no” against ending the military’s gay ban.
The House Armed Services Committee didn’t immediately respond to the Washington Blade’s request to provide details about the hearing or explain its purpose.
Eileen Lainez, a Pentagon spokesperson, said during the hearing Stanley will “provide an update on the progress of training efforts and policy revisions supporting [‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’] repeal implementation.”
The hearing apparently has the endorsement of U.S. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio). Asked via e-mail whether the speaker supports the hearing to oversee “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal implementation, Michael Steel, a Boehner spokesperson, replied, “That seems to be appropriate.”
Drew Hammill, a spokesperson for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), chided Republicans for scheduling this hearing after Congress completed action to repeal the anti-gay law last year.
“This issue has been resolved in the Congress and in the minds of the American people,” Hammill said. “The American people want action on jobs not more ideologically driven social policy from right wing Republicans.”
But R. Clarke Cooper, executive director of the National Log Cabin Republicans, said he backs congressional oversight to monitor the process of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal.
“As a current Army Reserve officer, I strongly support the congressional oversight on the measured progress of the Pentagon’s [repeal implementation team],” Cooper said. “In my capacity as an officer, I have already provided input to the [repeal implementation team] as well as several Republican members of the [House Armed Services Committee] and [Senate Armed Services Committee].”
According to Cooper, a full House Armed Services Committee hearing on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal is scheduled for April 7. The Washington Blade couldn’t immediately confirm with the committee that an additional hearing has been set for that day.
“Both [House Armed Services Committee] hearings provide the necessary transparency and accountability for Department of Defense leadership, training and implementation of open service and open recruitment,” Cooper said.
Alex Nicholson, executive director of Servicemembers United, said his organization supports the routine practice of congressional oversight, but added the purpose of the House hearing is “rather transparent.”
“Some House Republicans, including and especially the chair of the House Armed Services Committee, would like nothing more than to derail the Defense Department’s thus-far successful planning for repeal implementation, or at least slow it down considerably,” Nicholson said. “This cadre of reactionaries needs to understand once and for all that this issue is settled and no more time or taxpayer money should be wasted trying to take us backwards on this.”
President Obama in December signed legislation that would allow for repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” but the gay ban will remain in effect until 60 days pass after the president, the defense secretary and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff certify the military is ready for open service. Defense Secretary Robert Gates has said he won’t issue certification until the training for open service is implemented throughout for the military.