The House Armed Services Committee is scheduled on Thursday to hear testimony from the military service chiefs on the progress of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal implementation.
The uniform heads of the Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps are set to make an appearance before lawmakers: Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Gary R0ughead, Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Amos and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz. Representing the Army will be Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Peter Chiarelli.
The hearing — which is set to begin at 1 pm in Room 2118 in the Rayburn House Office Building — is scheduled to be split into two panels. Chiarelli is slated to speak during the first panel, while Roughead, Amos and Schwartz are set to speak during the second panel.
Some members of the Joint Staff — especially Amos, who said he feared that open service could cause a distraction that could lead to the loss of Marines’ lives — were against “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal when it came before Congress last year. However, each of the services issued guidance stating that they would proceed to implement repeal after Congress acted to lift military’s gay ban.
Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.), chair of the committee, was among the most vocal opponents of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal last year and cast “no” votes on repeal measures both times they came to the House floor.
A spokesperson for the House Armed Services Committee didn’t respond on short notice to comment on the planned testimony or what McKeon hopes to accomplish with the hearing.
In December, President Obama signed legislation allowing for repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” but the anti-gay law will only be off the books following 60 days after the president, the defense secretary, and the chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff certify the U.S military is ready for open service. Gay service members are still in danger of discharge from the armed services until the certification process is complete.
The scheduled hearing on Friday comes on the heels of a previous hearing the Republican-controlled House held last week on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal, which was before the House Armed Services personnel subcommittee. During the hearing, Pentagon officials said certification for open service could happen mid-summer while GOP lawmakers expressed discontent with moving toward an end to the military’s gay ban.
Those who worked to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” last year said they didn’t anticipate the upcoming hearing would have an impact on disrupting the process leading to implementing open service in the U.S. military.
Alex Nicholson, executive director of Servicemembers United, said the second hearing on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal before the Republican-controlled House “is yet another example of some of these legislators contradicting their own principles.”
“This issue has been settled, the Department of Defense has embraced this change, and trying to re-open this debate is a complete waste of both taxpayer money and the valuable time of these senior defense leaders in the midst of multiple overseas conflicts,” Nicholson said. “The Joint Staff has made it clear that prior predictions of doom and gloom following repeal were misguided and that their respective services are more than capable of handling this change in policy.”
Winnie Stachelberg, vice president for external affairs at the Center for American Progress, said she doesn’t anticipate “much to see” or “bumps in the road” at the upcoming hearing.
“We saw the trailer of the movie last week, and now we’re going to see the full-length film this week,” Stachelberg said. “The service chiefs are all on board, according to their recent public statements. And we’re on track, I think, for certification in the next few months — even before all the trainings are finished.”
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this posting incorrectly stated that hearing would take place on Friday.