December 3, 2010 at 4:18 pm EST | by Chris Johnson
Service chiefs hold mixed views on ‘Don’t Ask’ repeal

The military service chiefs offered mixed views on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal during Senate testimony on Thursday as they said they had concerns about ending the law, but could implement a change if ordered.

Two the members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff — Vice Chair Gen. James Cartwright and Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Gary Roughead — testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee that Congress should act to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” 

Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Robert Papp — not a member of the Joint Chiefs but a witness at the hearing — also endorsed open service.

In comparison to the other service chiefs, Cartwright offered a particularly strong statement encouraging Congress to take action to lift “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

“My faith in our leadership, from top to bottom, the fair-minded temperament of the American public, and the reputational benefit derived from being a force identified by honesty and inclusivity, rather than concealment causes me to favor repeal of 10 USC 654 and the associated policy known as ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,'” Cartwright said.

But Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey and Marine Corps Gen. Commandant James Amos spoke out against legislative efforts to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz said he wanted full implementation of repeal deferred until 2012. 

Amos, who has previously spoken out against repeal, said he had concern over “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal because of several reasons, including combat operations abroad.

“Based on what I know about the very tough fight on the ground in Afghanistan, the almost singular focus of our combat forces as they train up and deploy into theater, the necessary tightly woven culture of those combat forces that we are asking so much of at this time, and finally the direct feedback from the survey, my recommendation is that we should not implement repeal at this time,” Amos said.

The hearing marked the second day in a two-day series of hearings on the Pentagon’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” report, which was made public earlier this week. During the previous hearing, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen reiterated his belief that gays should be able to serve openly in the U.S. military.

Repeal advocates had been awaiting statements from the service chiefs on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” following the release of the Pentagon report. In May, the service chiefs of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps sent a letter to Congress urging lawmakers not to take action until the study was complete.

While the service chiefs had differing views on whether Congress should act to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” they each expressed concerns to some degree on the implementation of open service.

Roughead expressed unease about how the Pentagon report showed that sailors in irregular warfare specialties, such as the Navy SEALS, expressed greater negativity over the prospects of repeal and a lower propensity to reenlist than other sailors.

“While these effects may not be fully realized, these specialties must be monitored closely to ensure we are positioned and resourced to respond to changes over the long-term,” Roughead said. “We cannot assume these projected retention losses away and we must take into account the past, current and future combat employment of these combat specialties.”

But even the service chiefs who said they opposed repeal expressed confidence in their branch’s ability to implement a change if ordered by Congress.

Casey said if open service in the U.S. military is properly implemented, he doesn’t envision it would prevent the Army from accomplishing its worldwide missions.

“We have a disciplined force and seasoned leaders, who, with appropriate guidance and direction, can oversee the implementation of the repeal with moderate risk to our military effectiveness in the short-term, and moderate risk to our ability to recruit and retain our all-volunteer force over time,” Casey said.

Members of the committee had different interpretations for what the testimony of the service chiefs means for “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal in the lame duck session of Congress.

McCain said the differing opinions of the service chiefs demonstrates the need to hold off on legislative action on ending the military’s gay ban.

“I think it’s pretty obvious from the comments made by certainly the chiefs of staff — the service chiefs of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps today that there is significantly divided opinion on this issue,” McCain said. “It’s very obvious to me that there is a lot more scrutiny and work involved before passing this legislation.”

McCain said he wants to hear from the senior enlisted personnel who would be training service members on the implementation of open service as well as combatant commanders before Congress takes action.

But Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.), the sponsor of repeal legislation in the Senate, noted the chiefs each expressed confidence that they could faithfully execute a new policy if given time to implement a change.

“My conclusion is that really, in the end, all six of you favor repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,'” Lieberman said.

Observing the service chiefs concerns about implementation, Lieberman noted that repeal legislation pending before the Senate requires the president, the defense secretary and the chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to certify that the military is ready for open service before repeal is fully implemented.

The senator noted Defense Secretary Robert Gates said he wouldn’t certify open service until he felt the service chiefs were comfortable with moving forward. Asked by Lieberman whether they were assuaged by this statement, each of the service chiefs said they comfortable with Gates’ decision on when open service could be implemented.

Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.), a strong proponent of repeal, similarly brought out favorable responses for repeal from the service chiefs when he asked each of them if they were comfortable with the certification process and with their ability to implement repeal.

Each of the chiefs said they had confidence in Gates’ decision and their service’s ability to execute the change in law.

“I believe we can implement the policy and will implement the policy with moderate risk to our short-term effectiveness and long-term health of the force,” Casey said.

Alex Nicholson, executive director of Servicemembers United, said he thought the testimony from the service chiefs “actually went better” than what he had expected.

“I think what it really brought out was the point that although the service chiefs and many people may have differing opinions on what they want to happen and varying ways in which they would like to see it go about happening,” Nicholson said. “In the end, they seem to all agree that it’s possible to make it happen and make it happen in a safe and smooth way.”

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

  • Having served in a rifle platoon in Vietnam. I can tell you there is no way to “make it happen” as far as accepting someone and no one with any sense would go into combat this way.

  • A special compliment to the discharged soldiers … you are the finest soldiers indeed … in a battle and a war much greater than you will ever know!

    It is actually a bigger moment in history … soldiers being discharged are indeed exposing something far greater … the realization that there is something far more evil at work … hateful religion which should be discharged from society — period. Kids bullied into suicide …!

    Perhaps the irony might be — that the bogus hogus pogus hate-speech with his hateful leviticus 20:13 might bring the bible and torah into a banned status and the churches and synagogues shut down! Churches are committing hate crimes and more succinctly a violent criminal offence against a federally protected minority namely the gay community.

    A gay pilot may have saved the lives of nine US soldiers recently killed.

    It is written; so therefore it shall be? We are the chosen people? Such a wicked fantasy. To see the religious lunatics manipulate government and our lives is shameful.
    If the black community or women had it written that they should be put to death; how would they like that?

    If blacks’ or women’s rights were cast to the masses to decide … then the majority or lunatic religious fringe in this case — has the advantage to decide minority rights.

    Being black or left-handed or being gay is just as natural.

    How would you like it … if hate speech was directed to your brother or sister as you sat in the pew; spewed by some better than thou religious lunatic with a hateful black book about Leviticus — under his arm?

    This holier than thou – written so there it shall be — fallacy; must be stopped! It is a criminal offence to cause harm onto others physically or with written items … the bible and torah have been getting away with this for ages.

    This bogus religious filth should be banned. It exists as a tax exempt structure which discriminates against human rights. The pope, bishops and mormons are cult members promoting discrimination against minorities.

    That bogus black book called the bible should be banned. Religion and the churches should now be exposed as a bigoted structure that gets away with hate mongering. Love between two guys or girls existed long before these cults existed. By enjoying their tax exempt status and benefits from the state it also puts churches at the mercy of the state; to be forced to adhere to the human rights laws.

    Religion is thriving like a cancerous growth on society that should be stopped in its tracks; outlawed & banned.

    There is no scientific evidence to prove any of the cross related bogus elements of christianity. Our early human ancestors; on this earth … go back more than 6 million years … 5,996,000 years before the Greeks, Romans and the Jews. Christianity is basically a 2010 year old fictional cult.

    In the year 300 AD when Emperor Constantine, who to some was the first pope; went on to fabricate & market Christianity – a fantasy – which turned out to be one of the most hateful & evil concoctions ever perpetrated on the world. Moses was one of history’s biggest hate-mongers who supposedly wrote that Leviticus filth in 1445 BC!
    Bibles and the torah which includes leviticus — should be immediately banned … for promoting hatred against minorities … namely the gay community and the crosses removed from all schools and churches.

    The Right Honourable Prime Minister of Canada Jean Chretien told the Vatican that there was to be no cross erected over the Canadian Parliament buildings figuratively speaking; when the Pope demanded the Prime Minister go against gay rights. An Alberta bishop had the audacity to say that The Canadian Prime Minister would go to hell for going against the church. Such outrageous evil threats. The Right Honourable Prime Minister in return; basically told the Pope to go to Hell!

    Minority rights must be decided by a dignified judicial system and/or a compassionate government.

    Tell them to take that cross and shove it where the sun don’t shine and pay their taxes along the way before they take that cross down forever with its final station; extinction.
    My father fought at the front on D-Day in Normandy … through the Battle of the Scheldt to Germany and grandfather was a Sgt. Major at Vimy. My Dad who was a catholic — is alive today at 87 and doesn’t believe in santa claus — an easter bunny or any of that bogus cross related filth.

    United States is supposedly fighting for democracy but within the U.S. they treat gays like secondary citizens.

    I am the son of a catholic father who never went to church and a protestant mother who took us to church and Sunday school. Onward christian soldiers; I think not. Such absolute drivel. To be manipulated by a santa claus; an easter bunny and worst of all a bogus cross? One should appreciate each day of life and not expect another and if there is it might be given by a God of Love.

    The Vatican basically supported Hitler and religion is responsible for more corruption and violence in the world. Pope Ratzinger was involved in the Nazi youth. The Pope with his blatant witchcraft related to the bible and its hateful beliefs; tries to rule with extreme prejudice against a world … that may fall victim to religions’ absolute evil. Many theologians state quite correctly that the birth; crucifixion; resurrection and other elements of christianity actually didn’t even happen! The pope is running a bigger fraud than Madoff’s $50 billion ripoff. Today’s evangelical extremists are like the nazis who cast others into ovens & are actually supremacists – who practice their bogus hocus pocus – and are trying to suppress and deprive others of their happiness and their legal rights in an open and proud society.

    Einstein stated in a letter recently auctioned that the bible was a collection of primitive legends. He said believing in God was childish and he as a Jew is no different than another person and are not chosen by God.

    Do you want to be lambs at the slaughter or be wise and reject religious cultist manipulation? Mean & nasty; run by evil and bogus religious cults from Rome or wherever. Is this the world you want? The pope talks about ending prejudice and hate; what a hypocrite!

    Religion is a crutch for the insecure. Appreciate every day and if there is no tomorrow; then know that you were fortunate to have lived on this earth!

    A great story pertains to a boy at a catholic school in Oshawa, Ontario who wanted to take his boyfriend to his school prom. The evil catholic school forbid this. A father of one of the boys is an employee with General Motors Canada and the courageous union leader Buzz Hargrove stood up for the boys’ rights. The boy took his case through the courts and because the evil catholic school was benefiting from government funding which demands equal rights void of discrimination; the judge ordered the school to allow the two young boys to attend together. Their limo arrived at their prom with adoring onlookers.

    To think of Matthew Shepard choking on his own blood after being savagely beaten; virtually sanctioned by the church is evil beyond comprehension; yet is the same as boys being bullied into suicide; most likely being supported by the bullies parents’ religious cults. Bigotry and hatemongering against gays should be banned. It is a sometimes rare occurrence to fall in Love and to hold that person in your heart and be loved in return … it is something that should be celebrated! If it is between two guys or girls all the better. It takes even more courage to defend that LOVE!

    Abused gay people should definitely talk to or write to their parents; friends; teachers & school principal … about the issue. Your story may save another person! You should strive to be great and one day you may have a respected platform to help others … like Elton John, Elizabeth Taylor, Ellen Degeneres & David Geffen.

    China respects its gay people … Shanghai Pride is a month-long celebration of gay culture in China’s largest city.

    According to biblical law, a father can sell his daughter as a slave.

    This holier than thou – written so there it shall be — fallacy; must be stopped!

    Tony Perkins and his The Family Research Council’s opposition to gay rights have landed the outfit onto a list of “hate groups,” like the KKK.
    It is a criminal offence to cause harm onto others physically or with written items … the bible and torah have been getting away with this for ages. Anti-Semitic speech isn’t allowed – nor is violent anti-gay … hate mongering. It’s now time to shut down the churches and synagogues with bibles and the torah with leviticus 20:13.

    Perhaps religious establishments have pushed too far from San Francisco to Washington — and it may backfire to such a degree that the churches and synagogues themselves should be shut down!

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