Several Service chiefs who have opposed repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell in the past have written letters to Congress expressing their opposition to the new compromise. In these testimonials, obtained by the Wonk Room, the officials stressed their strong support for completing the Defense Department review and suggested that any change in policy would confuse soldiers:
– G. ROUGHEAD, CHIEF OF NAVAL OPERATIONS: “My concern is that legislative changes at this point, regardless of the precise language used, may cause confusion on the status of the law in the Fleet and disrupt the review process itself by leading Sailors to question whether their input matters.”
— JAMES T. CONWAY, COMMANDANT OF MARINE CORPS: “I encourage Congress to let the process the Secretary of Defense created to run its course. Collectively, we must use logical and pragmatic decisions about the long-term policies of our Armed Forces.”
— NORTON SCHWARTZ, CHIEF OF STAFF (USAF): “I believe it is important, a matter of keeping faith with those currently serving in the Armed Forces, and the Secretary of Defense commissioned review be completed before there is any legislation to repeal the DA/DT law…To do otherwise, in my view, would be presumptive and would reflect an intent to act before all relevant factors are assessed digested and understood.”
— GEORGE CASEY, CHIEF OF STAFF (ARMY): “I also believe that repealing the law before the completion of the review will be seen by the men and women of the Army as a reversal of our commitment to hear their views before moving forward.”
Of course, the delayed-implementation compromise addresses all of these concerns by ensuring that nothing actually happens until the Defense Department’s study is completed. The amendment specifically states that “Section 654 of title 10, United States Code, shall remain in effect [the DADT seciont] until such time that all of the requirements and certifications required by subsection (b) are met” — until the review is complete (i.e. the voices of the military are considered) and the President and military officials certify that repeal is “consistent with the military’s standards of readiness, effectiveness, unit cohesion and recruitment and retention.” In 1993, Congress passed DADT before the military had issued final rules on how to implement the policy, and there is no reason it shouldn’t do the same now — particularly when it’s bending over backwards to accommodate the Defense Department.
The more offensive notion — besides Roughead’s belief that our soldiers are so easily confused — is the assumption that openly gay members will undermine the military or that, once the views of American soldiers are considered, policymakers will discover that they’re homophobic.
Former Joints Chief Chairman General John Shalikashvili has sent this letter to Senators Levin and Lieberman responding to these claims:
The legislative compromise fully and affirmatively respects the Working Group process….Furthermore, the proposed implementation and certification requirements contained in the legislative compromise ensure that the views of Service members and their families will be respected and given full weight in determining how best to implement this shift in policy.