Marine Chief Conway Does Not Express Opposition To Repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell But Opposes Moratorium

Leaders from the Navy and the Marine Corps echoed the Army’s opposition to instituting a moratorium on Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell discharges, claiming that a freeze could complicate the review and confuse soldiers. Today, during a hearing before the House Armed Services Committee, Admiral Gary Roughead, Chief of Naval Operations and General James Conway, Commandant of the U. S. Marine Corps, said they accept the President’s decision, support the military’s review efforts but stopped short of personally supporting the repeal.

“I believe that [a moratorium] would be extremely confusing to the force and I do not recommend that,” Roughead said. Conway stressed that the military should take precautions to ensure that a repeal does not interfere with readiness:

CONWAY: Our Commander in Chief has spoken and the Secretary of Defense has devised a way, through a working group, to examine the data…I support his efforts…However I would encourage your work, mine, and that of the working group to be focused on a central issue and that is the readiness of the armed forces of the United States to fight this nation’s wars…My concern would be if somehow that central purpose and focus were to become secondary to the discussion because that’s what your armed forces is all about… In terms of the moratorium…I would encourage you to either change the law or not, but in the process half measures I think will only be confusing in the end.

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Some reports had indicated that “Conway has emerged in internal Pentagon deliberations as the most outspoken opponent of permitting gay men and women to serve openly in the U.S. military,” and many proponents of a repeal had feared that an overtly negative statement could jeopardize the effort.

Conway’s tepid response is reassuring, but his fears about openly gay members undermining military readiness seem unfounded. A new survey of the 25 nations that allow gay members to serve openly found that “transitions to policies of equal treatment without regard to sexual orientation have been highly successful and have had no negative impact on morale, recruitment, retention, readiness or overall combat effectiveness.” In fact, American service members have repeatedly said that “the most important factors for unit cohesion and readiness were the quality of their officers, training and equipment,” not their sexual orientation.