Today, President Obama named Rep. John McHugh (R-NY) his Secretary of the Army. McHugh is the ranking member on the House Armed Services Committee, and represents a district that includes the Ft. Drum Army Base. He “brings patriotism and a pragmatism that has won him respect on both sides of the aisle,” Obama said of McHugh.
Notably, neither Obama nor McHugh mentioned the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) policy, an issue McHugh will surely have to address. His congressional record provides few clues as to his position. McHugh has not signed on to co-sponsor to a House bill that would repeal the ban on gays serving in the military, and last year earned only a 15 percent rating from the Human Rights Campaign.
However, in opening and closing remarks during a hearing last year on the DADT, McHugh seemed open to changing the ban on gay servicemembers, asking for further hearings on the issue and chastising the military for having “refused to step forward” and testify on the matter:
[O]ur challenge is to examine and determine whether that conclusion of 1993 remains valid here in 2008. … I share the Chairlady’s disappointment that thus far the services have refused to step forward. I don’t see as an individual member how I fully and fairly consider this question and more importantly the issue of changing this question without the input of those in the active military who have the heavy responsibility of commanding our forces in time of war. [...]
Again, to underscore my opening comments about my disappointment in the military services because we have to at some point I would assume, come to a decision as to whose opinion prevails…And with all due deference, and respect, and appreciation to this panel and the five individuals who have appeared here, that kind of weighty decisions from my perspective ought to be based on a much broader foundation of input.
During the hearing, McHugh studiously avoided revealing his own views about the military’s discriminatory policies. With the Obama administration moving slowly on repealing the ban, it remains to be seen whether McHugh can help nudge the Army toward taking that “step forward” toward greater equality.
Yesterday, Obama signed a proclamation noting the start of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month, in which he reaffirmed his “support” of “ending the existing ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy in a way that strengthens our Armed Forces and our national security.”
,Rudy DeLeon, Center for American Progress Senior Vice President for National Security, released this statement:
Congressman John McHugh (R-NY) is ranking Member of the House Armed Services Committee and has a substantial record of taking care of our troops and ensuring a good quality of life for their families. McHugh has the skills to be a very effective secretary of the Army and open new doors for all Americans who want to serve their country.