This morning, during a hearing about the impact of repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mike Mullen, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, and the co-chairmen of the Pentagon’s Working Group study of the policy effectively pushed back against Republican’s efforts to use the report as a reason to keep the current policy in place.
Significantly, Army Gen. Carter F. Ham the co-charimen of the Pentagon’s Working Group studying the impact of repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and a skeptic of lifting the ban announced that he would personally support ending the policy. “It is my personal view that I’m very concerned about the timing of the courts and so personally I think it is time to move debate and discussion to decision and implementation. So yes sir, I think it is time to change,” Ham responded to a question from Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), who was forced to move on to Gates.
For the GOP, it only got worse from there, as the witnesses effectively debunked Republican concerns one by one. Below is only a partial compilation:
- CLAIM: Should not lift ban in a time of war.
MULLEN RESPONDS: I find the argument that war is not the time to change to be antithetical with our experiences since 2001. War does not stifle change, it demands it. It does not make change harder, it facilities it.
- CLAIM: Combat troops believe repeal would be disruptive.
HAM RESPONDS: A subsequent question to that was, under intense combat, what would your response be. And we saw the negative rates drop dramatically.
- CLAIM: 28% response rate is too low.
HAM RESPONDS: Twenty-eight percent overall response rate is well within the historical range of Department of Defense surveys of military personnel.
- CLAIM: 265,000 servicemembers would leave the military.
GATES RESPONDS: Based on the survey itself, experience would dramatically lower those numbers. If I believed that a quarter of a million people would leave the military would leave immediately, if given the opportunity, I would certainly have second thoughts about that.
- CLAIM: Servicemembers should have been asked if they believe policy should be changed.
GATES RESPONDS: I can’t think of a single precedent in American history of doing a referendum of the american armed forces on a policy issue.
Watch a compilation:
The hearings will continue tomorrow, when the four Service Chiefs — who are less “sanguine” about repeal than Gates and Mullen — testify before the committee.