Army Gen. Carter F. Ham — the co-chairman of the Pentagon’s Working Group on Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell — told Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-MI) during his confirmation hearings this morning that he does not anticipate that the review group would be able to release its study of the policy before December 1, noting that the Service Chiefs were still commenting on its findings:
HAM: “Mr. Chairman, I think it will take until the first of December. The key factor remaining for us in the review group is to receive the review and comment by the Service Chiefs and service secretaries, which is ongoing. We anticipate their comments soon, Mr. Johnson and I will review those comments, make final adjustments to the report, which is currently in draft form and deliver to the Secretary of Defense on 1 December.
LEVIN: Would you make every effort to deliver prior to December 1, if possible?
HAM: “Yes sir, in consultation with the Secretary’s office.”
Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and Susan Collins (R-ME) have also asked the Pentagon to release its study as soon as possible, noting that an earlier release date would allow Congress more time to review and debate the issue. Still, the Service Chiefs’ review and acceptance of the report could prove critical, since they opposed changing the policy in May (and had written separate letters to Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) articulating that position).
Later in the hearing, McCain — who strongly opposes repeal — asked Ham about the preamble of the study, essentially confirming that the Pentagon was anticipating a change in the policy. Ham also described the work of the study, for Lieberman, a sponsor of the repeal amendment in the Senate, noting that the group was charged with assessing “should repeal occur,” “understanding those impacts” and “develop a plan for implementation so that if the law is repealed and the policy changes, the Defense Department is prepared for that.”
Ham reiterated that the study surveyed servicemmebers and their families about repealing the policy, “conducted a number of engagements across the force in groups both large and small,” established “an online inbox” for members of the military “to provide anonymously their comments to us with regard to their thoughts about Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and established a “confidential conversation mechanism” to incorporate the views of closeted gay servicemembers.
“We believe this is probably, as far as I could tell, the most comprehensive assessment of a personnel policy matter that the Department of Defense has conducted,” Ham concluded. Watch it:
Last night, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) announced that he would bring the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) — and the DADT repeal amendment that it contains — to the floor of the Senate after the Thanksgiving recess. Levin has asked Reid “to make his motion to bring up the matter after my committee and the public have received the Defense Department’s report and following the hearings that I plan to hold on the matter, which should take place during the first days of December.”
Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA) — a key swing vote who has said he would wait for the Pentagon’s study before deciding whether to vote for repeal — praised the comprehensive nature of the report:
WEBB: I can’t, again having spent five years in the Pentagon. I can’t remember a study on this type of issue that has been done with this sort of care. Not even having seen it or knowing the results, but I know the preparation that went into it. So it’s going to be a very important study for us to look at and examine.