In May, Adm. Gary Roughead — the chief of naval operations — sent a letter to Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) registering his support for Don’t Ask, Dont’ Tell and his opposition to moving ahead with repeal. “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,” Roughead wrote.
McCain frequently cited Roughead’s opposition and that of the the other service chiefs to slow down the legislative repeal process. But now, after seeing a draft of the report, Roughead is publicly breaking with McCain and praising the Pentagon’s review of the policy:
“I think the survey, without question, was the most expansive survey of the American military that’s ever been undertaken,” Roughead said during an interview Saturday aboard his plane. “I think the work that has been done is extraordinary.” [...]
“I’ve done a review [of the report] and now I’m just trying to put it all in context,” he said. …But he added that the decision on whether to change the law is ultimately rests with Congress. “I’m eager to see where it goes on the Hill,” said Roughead, who previously served as head of the Navy’s legislative liaison operation.
Roughead’s description of the policy echoes the words of Army Gen. Carter F. Ham — the co-chairman of the Pentagon’s Working Group on Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell — who told Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-MI) last week that the study is, in fact, “the most comprehensive assessment of a personnel policy matter that the Department of Defense has conducted.”
But that’s still unlikely to sway McCain, who has insisted that the Department of Defense conduct an entirely new study on “the effects on morale and battle effectiveness.” McCain made this claim during a recent appearance on Meet The Press, despite the fact that Secretary of Defense Robert Gates’ specifically asked this review to “assess and consider the impacts, if any, a change in the law would have on military readiness, military effectiveness and unit cohesion, and how to best manage such impacts during implementation.”
Yesterday, Gates has announced that he will move-up the release of the study from December 1 to November 30th, to allow Congress more time to review the report and possibly move to repeal the policy in the lame duck session. “[I]f this law is going to change, it’s better that it be changed by legislation than it simply be struck down — rather than have it struck down by the courts with the potential for us having to implement it immediately,” Gates said today at roundtable with reporters in Santa Cruz, Bolivia.