Rep. Hunter Ignores Service Chiefs’ Advice By Demanding Their Approval For DADT Repeal

Our guest bloggers from the Center for American Progress are Lawrence Korb, senior fellow, Laura Conley, research associate, and Alex Rothman, special assistant.

When the House Armed Services Committee marks up the FY 2012 defense authorization bill today, among the proposed amendments will be an effort by Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) to slow down the repeal of the military’s discriminatory “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” law.

Training to implement the repeal of DADT, which prohibits openly gay and lesbian Americans from serving in the armed forces, is already underway. The policy will be phased out 60 days after the President, Secretary of Defense, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff certify that repeal will not undermine military effectiveness, a decision that could come as soon as next month. Hunter’s amendment would insert another unnecessary step in this already comprehensive process, requiring that all four military service chiefs also provide certification before repeal can be implemented.

Hunter claims that the service chiefs should weigh in because they “are far more closely connected to the day-to-day realities facing each respective service than those who are currently required to sign off on the repeal,” but this argument is misleading. The Pentagon has already completed an exhaustive survey of hundreds of thousands of members of the armed forces. On the basis of this survey, a high-level study group formulated recommendations for the type of pre-repeal training currently taking place across the military services. This unprecedented effort more than satisfies Hunter’s requirement for closer examination of the day-to-day realities of the troops.


Moreover, our military leadership, including the service chiefs, has repeatedly disagreed with the need for additional certifiers. In fact, General George Casey, Chief of Staff of the Army until last month, has noted that such a requirement could undermine the role of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who he noted is designated by law as “the principal provider of military advice.” In a December 2010 hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Senator Mark Udall (D-CO) asked each of the service chiefs to weigh in on their input in the certification process:

UDALL: I move to what Secretary Gates said yesterday. He said that the certification process is a critical piece of the legislation and that he would not sign any certification until he was satisfied with the advice of the service chiefs…that we had in fact mitigated, if not eliminated, to the extent possible, risks to combat readiness, to unit cohesion, and effectiveness. I’d like… to ask each of you if Secretary Gates’s comments alleviate some, if not all, of your concerns? General Casey, perhaps I could start with you…

CASEY: I would agree with that statement, Senator. And I would also agree with what I’ve said several times here already. I’m very comfortable with my ability to get my opinions and advice to Secretary Gates and have them listened to.

ADMIRAL GARY ROUGHEAD (Chief of Naval Operations): I agree with that statement, sir.

GENERAL JAMES CARTWRIGHT (Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff): I agree with that statement.

GENERAL JAMES AMOS (Commandant of the Marine Corps): Senator, I absolutely do agree.

GENERAL NORTON SCHWARTZ (Chief of Staff of the Air Force): Likewise.

ADMIRAL ROBERT PAPP (Commandant of the Coast Guard): I agree too, Senator.

Hunter’s effort to insert additional certification requirements is nothing more than another attempt to slow-walk the process with the hope of keeping DADT in place in perpetuity. Hunter, a Marine himself, should instead listen to Cpl. David McGuire, a 24 year old Marine who spoke with Washington Post reporter Ed O’Keefe after a DADT training session last week. McGuire reported that his unit had fervently discussed the policy change. He concluded:

It doesn’t matter what you are, whether you’re black, white, homosexual, heterosexual, as a person, you deserve the respect. As a professional and as a Marine you earn the right to wear the Eagle Globe and Anchor and can’t ask for anything more or less than that.