Gates Effort To Delay Action On Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Will Hurt Military More Than Help It

Former Assistant Secretary of Defense and CAP/CAPAF Senior Fellow Larry Korb — who recently issued a report urging the administration to expedite the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell — has penned a new column this morning criticizing Secretary of Defense Robert Gates for trying to delay Congressional action on DADT until after the Pentagon completes its review of the policy. “The Pentagon working group should lead the process of informing how the military should go about implementing the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,'” Korb writes. But “Congress must also move forward now to provide the legal authority to ensure that the law is repealed this year and implemented upon successful completion of the working group’s study.”

In other words, repeal legislation can facilitate the needs of the study group and the two entities can work concurrently to end the policy this year:

Consulting our troops should certainly be a component of the process to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” but leaving the decision up to the troops alone would be unprecedented, and in fact, would undermine the chain of command. Our allies’ experiences repealing similar bans, as well as our own experience in implementing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” suggest that a drawn-out process is unnecessary and that the military’s recommendations do not need to be completed before Congress exercises its legal authority to overturn the law.

Three of the United States’ closest allies—Israel, Canada, and the United Kingdom—have successfully removed all restrictions on gays and lesbians in their armed forces since the early 1990s. All three countries made quick, successful transitions to policies of open service…Contrary to what Gates and Mullen set forth in their letter, our allies’ experiences suggest that repeal will be a straightforward process and that a swift policy reversal sends the appropriate signal that both uniformed and civilian military leaders are on board with the decision.

Korb also points out that that Congress led the way on DADT when the policy was first implemented in 1993. “The United States adopted ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ in 1993, the bill had passed both houses of Congress by October, but the Pentagon did not issue final rules on how to implement the policy until December. And DOD was still making adjustments to the implementation policy in early 1994. As this experience suggests, DOD will still have ample opportunity to weigh in on the measures needed to implement the repeal if Congress acts to overturn this damaging policy before the Pentagon working group has finished its study.”

Indeed, it’s unclear what Gates and the White House are so afraid of. Since the working group is studying how best to repeal the policy and not whether it should be repealed, the administration should learn form the experiences of our allies and move quickly, not slow walk the process. That, after all, is what’s best for the military.


Servicemembers Legal Defense Network has issued this alert:

Tell President Obama that backsliding on his own promise is not real leadership. There is a path forward to repealing DADT and allowing the Pentagon Working Group to finish its review on how best to implement repeal. Senator Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Pa.) are working right now on a winning compromise.

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