June 5, 2011 | by Chris Johnson
Dempsey: Process ‘on track’ for ‘Don’t Ask’ repeal

The nominee to become the next top uniform military adviser to President Obama gave responses to a questionnaire earlier this year indicating he shares the belief that “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal is proceeding smoothly and educating the armed forces is essential before moving forward with open service.

Gen. Martin Dempsey, whom President Obama nominated on May 30 to become the next chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, offered his views on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in written responses to policy questions when his previous nomination to become Army chief of staff was pending before the Senate Armed Services Committee in April.

The responses that Dempsey gave to the committee on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” follow:

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Implementation of the Repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” Policy

What is your assessment of the Army’s readiness and capability to implement the repeal of the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” (DADT) policy?

The Army is on track with its implementation plan in accordance with DOD guidance and timelines, and I believe the Army is fully capable of executing the implementation. Our plan includes periodic assessments to review and consider feedback from the field throughout the implementation.

What in your view are the major challenges, if any, that could confront the Army in implementing the repeal of DADT? If confirmed, what actions, if any, would you propose taking to deal with these challenges?

The most important challenge is that we educate our Soldiers who are in combat situations with a minimum of disruption and risk. We are making every effort to train units prior to deploying. We will also provide the training to currently deployed units and we will follow up with these deployed units to ensure that all Soldiers receive the required training upon their return from deployment.

What measures is the Army taking to focus training on combat units and other deployed units and ensure that repeal of the current policy does not adversely affect combat operations?

The Army is using a Chain Teach methodology, where each commander is responsible for educating his/her subordinates and they in turn train their Solders. Commanders and leaders will carefully manage deployed units’ training to minimize impact on the mission. The Army is making every effort to train units prior to deployment.

If confirmed, what conditions or circumstances would you expect to be achieved, if any, before recommending that the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs certify that DADT can be repealed without adversely affecting the Army?

If confirmed, I would base my recommendation on the input I receive from commanders and leaders consistent with the requirements established by the Congress and Department of Defense leadership. I would also seek to ensure that the Army completes training according to Army guidance.

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Dempsey’s comment that the implementation plan for “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal is on track recalls congressional testimony earlier this year in which the military service chiefs maintained the path to repeal was proceeding smoothly.

Additionally, identifying the education of soldiers as “the most important challenge” in implementing repeal echoes Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ stated desire to train the armed forces on handling open service before “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is lifted from the books.

Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, said the responses Dempsey gave to the committee indicate he’s on board with the idea of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal.

“I think his statements before the Senate were encouraging and indicative that he’s in tune with [current Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff] Adm. [Mike] Mullen and Secretary Gates,” Sarvis said.

Under the repeal law signed by President Obama in December, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” won’t be off the books until 60 days pass after the president, the defense secretary and the chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff certify that U.S. military is ready for open service.

But the decision to certify likely won’t fall to Dempsey. Mullen, a supporter of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal, isn’t set to leave his role until his term expires on Sept. 30 and Pentagon leaders have testified certification could happen mid-summer. If certification hasn’t taken place by the time Mullen retires, it would be delayed significantly beyond expectations.

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

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