Last month, in a final effort to derail the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) tried to attach an amendment to the stripped-down National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that would have required the Service Chiefs to certify that implementation did not compromise military readiness or unit cohesion. The amendment would have likely extended the current certification process — which already includes the Secretary of Defense, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and President Obama — and undermined the intent of the legislation and the wishes of military leadership. Now, AmericaBlog’s Joe Sudbay notes that Rep. Duncan Hunter Jr. (R-CA), who infamously said that the military “isn’t the YMCA” during floor debate, is similarly planning to “introduce legislation next week designed to put the brakes on repeal of the military’s ban on openly gay troops”:
The measure by Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) would add the four military service chiefs to the list of those who must sign off on repealing the policy before it can be officially scrapped.
Hunter, an Iraq and Afghanistan war veteran, is concerned that the bill passed in December repealing the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy “excluded the service chiefs from the certification process,” said one congressional aide.
Republicans have long sought to include the Service Chiefs because as a group, the Chiefs are generally less sanguine about repeal than Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mike Mullen. During their testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee in early December, two of the Service Chiefs endorsed the Pentagon Working Group’s recommendation to lift the ban, while two others had mixed reactions. Gen. James Amos, the commandant of the Marine Corps, has warned lawmakers that repeal could endanger the lives of Marines. Regardless of their views, however, all four Chiefs said they trusted Gates to address their concerns before eliminating the policy and warned Republicans that expanding the certification process could undermine the chain of command:
Senator THUNE: Do you believe that the implementing legislation, if in fact this moves forward, should allow for the chiefs, the servicemembers, any of you, to certify? [...]
General CASEY: Senator, as I said to Senator Lieberman, I am very comfortable with my ability to provide input to Secretary Gates and to the Chairman that will be listened to and considered. So you could put it in there, but I don’t think it’s necessary. [...] It might take it up a notch. But believe me, I will make sure that my views are heard. The other thing. If you put that into the law, I think it undercuts the Goldwater-Nichols, that we’ve been trying to put the Chairman as the principal provider of military advice. So that’s something for the committee to consider.
Senator THUNE. Anybody else care to comment on that?
Admiral ROUGHEAD. Sir, I’m very comfortable with the access and the input that we’ve had. In fact, as the report came along I could see the changes that we were recommending. So I have no concerns whatsoever about my advice not being heard.
Watch it around 4:30:
While Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), the staunchest defender of DADT, has made peace with its bipartisan repeal (the measure passed in the House by a vote of 250 – 175 and 64-31 in the Senate), Hunter isn’t the only Republican who is still clinging to the ban. Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty (R) has also promised to reinstate the policy.
The Military Times reports that Hunter’s bill has 16 co-sponsors:
As of Friday, 16 lawmakers — all Republicans — had signed onto the bill, which could be introduced early next week.