The Department of Defense is moving to accelerate the process for certifying the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, two memos obtained by the Wonk Room reveal. Under the legislation passed by Congress last year, the policy prohibiting gays and lesbians from serving openly in the armed forces cannot be lifted until 60 days after the Secretary of Defense, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and President certify that repeal does not undermine the goals of the military.
“The implementation of the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is a milestone event for the Department,” Secretary of Defense Robert Gates writes in one memo, in which he instructs Clifford Stanley, the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, to prepare a plan “to facilitate the timely and orderly realization” of certification by February 4, 2011. “This is not, however, a change that should be done incrementally,” he writes. “The steps leading to certification and the actual repeal must be accomplished across the entire Department at the same time, and consistent with the standards of military readiness, military effectiveness, unit cohesion, and recruiting and retention of the Armed Forces.” Gates lays out six “guiding principles” for achieving repeal, which do not appear to include the establishment of a new nondiscrimination policy:
- All personnel will be treated with respect.
- No policy should be established that is solely based on on sexual orientation.
- Harassment or unlawful discrimination of any member of the Armed Forces for any reason will not be tolerated.
- Standards of personal and professional conduct will apply uniformly to all military personnel, regardless of sexual orientation.
- Implementation will be timely, deliberate, comprehensive, and consistent with the standards of readiness, military effectiveness, unit cohesion and recruiting and retention of the Armed Forces.
- Implementation standards will be consistent across all Services.”
The second memo from Stanley himself details the changes that will take effect once repeal is certified. These include: (1) all open investigations commenced under the DADT policy will be dismissed, (2) recruits will not be required to specify their sexual orientation, (3) discharged service members will be allowed to re-enlist and (4) the existing standards of conduct will apply to all servicemembers regardless of sexual orientation.
In response to concerns from conservative lawmakers and chaplains, the memo stipulates that “[t]here will be no changes regarding Service member exercise of religious beliefs, nor are there any changes to policies concerning the Chaplain Corps of the Military Departments and their duties. The Chaplain Corps’ First Amendment freedoms and their duty to care for all will not change.”
The memo also directly addresses personal privacy, noting that “the creating of separate bathroom facilities or living quarters based on sexual orientation is prohibited, and Commanders may not establish practices that physically segregate Service members according to sexual orientation.” Citing the restrictions of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the memo says that there will be no changes “at this time” to eligibility standards for military benefits. Medical policies, duty assignments, and release from service commitments will also be left unchanged.
The memo concludes that once the ban is lifted, “The Department will not authorize compensation of any type, including retroactive full separation pay, for those previously separated ” under DADT.
At a press conference about the implementation process, Gen. James Cartwright noted that the Pentagon believes that “moving along expeditiously is better than dragging it out.” He said certification could occur within a year unless something unexpected or unanticipated arises.
,Stanley said that the Pentagon does not believe that it needs to establish a new non-discrimination policy and insisted that individuals would have a way to seek remedy if they are not treated equally.
,Cartwright and Stanley were unsure how a member would be able to claim discrimination based on sexual orientation since it is not recognized as a “protected class.” They promised to follow up with the legal team.