Yesterday, Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) announced that he would “offer an amendment to require that all four military service chiefs certify that implementation of the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT)’ repeal won’t impact combat readiness and effectiveness” when the House Armed Services committee marks up the defense authorization bill later this week. “The amendment mirrors legislation previously introduced by Hunter—H.R. 337, the Restore Military Readiness Act,” his office said.
Republicans have long sought to include the Service Chiefs in the certification process of repeal as a way to slow down the elimination of the policy. Under the bill signed into law by President Obama in December, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” cannot be repealed until 60 days after the president, the defense secretary and the chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff certify the U.S. military is ready for open service. Despite recent testimony that they had not run into any major problems in training the Armed Forces for repeal, the Chiefs have generally been less sanguine about eliminating the policy than Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mike Mullen and the GOP has exploited their opposition to try and maintain the policy. Whatever their personal positions, however, all four Chiefs have said they trusted Gates to address their concerns before eliminating the policy and warned Republicans that expanding the certification process could actually undermine the chain of command:
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? [...]
ARMY CHIEF OF STAFF 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.
THUNE. Anybody else care to comment on that?
NAVY CHIEF OF STAFF 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:
Hunter introduced this bill back in January and the measure now has 25 co-sponsors, including House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-CA). “I think it makes it a better process,” McKeon told C-SPAN last month. “I think the way this process was rammed through, it was done politically.”
McKeon employed a far softer tone several days earlier, when speaking to the Service Chiefs testifying before his committee. “[M]y concern was more the procedure of how it was all laid out,” he said, describing his opposition to the policy. “But that’s past and now we’re moving forward,” he told them. By accepting this amendment, however, McKeon is indicating that he is far too happy to re-litigate the fights of last year.