Chairman Of The Joint Chiefs: DADT Repeal Compromise ‘Is To Certify Whether We Should Move Ahead’

Chairman Of The Joint Chiefs Of Staff Mike Mullen

Chairman Of The Joint Chiefs Of Staff Mike Mullen

Earlier this month, Senate Armed Services Committee Carl Levin (D-MI) sent a letter to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates clarifying the purpose of the year-long Defense Department review of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy. “Is the purpose of this comprehensive review to determine ‘whether’ to repeal the statute or is it to assess the issue related to ‘how’ to implement a repeal of the statute?” Levin asked. Gates responded that there was broad agreement that DADT should be repealed — “The question before us,” Gates said, referring to his February 2nd testimony, “is not whether the military prepares to make this change but how we … best prepare for it.” In his response to Levin, Gates said that in accordance with his testimony, the working group is charged with assessing the impact of ending the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law and “developing a plan to implement such a repeal in the most informed and effective manner possible.” “The outcome of this review is also intended to fully inform both Presidential and Congressional decision making to ensure a change in this law properly and fully addresses the various and complex considerations involved,” he wrote.

Yesterday, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen reiterated his support for ending the policy through the delayed-implementation compromise developed by repeal advocates, Congress, and the White House, but said that repealing DADT was still an open question:

After reviewing results of the study, Mullen, the service chiefs and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates would provide their recommendations to President Barack Obama. “So having that information will inform me and our leaders about what our recommendations will be,” he said.

Mullen called the “certification trigger” provided in the proposed amendment critical.

“The language in there right now preserves my prerogative – and I believe, my responsibility – to give the best military advice,” he said. “That trigger is to certify whether we should move ahead with that change, even if the law were to repeal it,” he told a reporter following the session.

Rep. Patrick Murphy’s (D-PA) amendment, however, suggests that both the study group and the “trigger” already assume that the policy will be repealed. For instance, the amendment states that the study group will “determine any impacts to military readiness, military effectiveness and unit cohesion… that may result from the repeal of the law and recommend any actions that should be taken in light of such impacts.” The group is tasked with determining “leadership, guidance, and training…appropriate changes to existing policies and regulations….appropriate changes (if any) to the Uniform Code of Military Justice.”

The President, Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs will then review these recommendations (which seek to ensure that a repeal does not undermine military effectiveness) and certify that “the implementation of necessary policies and regulations” pursuant to the repeal are “consistent with the standards of military readiness, military effectiveness, unit cohesion, and recruiting and retention of the Armed Forces.”

Mullen himself has publicly and privately assured lawmakers that he believes the policy should be repealed. As Murphy told me yesterday, “I take both Secretary of Defense Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mullen at their word and that they both have articulated the need to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” “I’m fully confident in the public testimony of both Secretary of Defense Gates of Chairman Mike Mullen and our current Commander in Chief, Barack Obama, that they have been very clear that they want to have a nondiscriminatory policy in place,” Murphy told me.