Last night, Republicans on the House Armed Services Committee attached an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act which openly challenges the competence of President Obama, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mike Mullen to certify that allowing gay people to serve openly in the armed forces would not undermine readiness or unit cohesion. “[T]he President has never been to war and ground combat, Admiral Mullen all due respect has never been to ground combat in Iraq and Afghanistan and Secretary Gates — a political appointee who is a very fine gentleman but has never been in ground combat in Iraq or Afghanistan,” Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA), the sponsor of the amendment that said. His amendment would add the service chiefs to the certification process for repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Currently, the law cannot be repealed until 60 days after the president, the defense secretary and the chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff certify the U.S. military is ready for open service. The amendment passed in a vote of 33-27, with two Republicans voting against and one Democrats supporting the measure.
As Republicans spoke out in favor of the expansion of certification — implying that the addition of openly gay combat troops would be so disruptive that it would need direct certification from military leaders — Democrats wondered why the GOP was suddenly suspicious of the abilities of the nation’s military commanders:
- REP. DUNCAN HUNTER (R-CA): “Frankly, I and others in this room have more combat experience than the people who would sign off on the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
- REP. STEVEN PALAZZO (R-MS): “I’ve yet to find one American, I’ve yet to find one member of the Army National Guard, Air National Guard, Marine Corps, numerous airmen and sailors that I’ve met on my troops who support repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell…. I do not think [World War II veterans] would look upon this as progress…to see their military go down in flames by implementing the DADT policy.
Watch a compilation from the hearing:
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 eager to eliminate the policy than Gates and Mullen, and the GOP has exploited their opposition to try extend the life of the ban. 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.
The panel adopted two more anti-gay measures. Rep. Vicky Hartzler’s (R-MO) proposal to reapply the Defense of Marriage Act to the armed forces passed with a vote of 39-28 and Rep. Todd Akin’s (R-MO) amendment seeking to prohibit the Navy from performing same-sex marriages on its bases passed 38-23.