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CMR Sitrep
Thursday, February 25, 2010
Obama Proposes, Congress Disposes, and the Military Opposes

As with a lot of things coming out of the Obama Administration these days, the more questions that are asked, the worse its ideas look.

A month ago, in his State of the Union address, the President said, "This year, I will work with Congress and our military to finally repeal the law that denies gay Americans the right to serve the country they love because of who they are."

The President did not, however, offer any repeal legislation of his own. Not unlike another issue you may have heard about lately, health care, in which case only until today did the President provide his own legislative proposal. But Congress did not complain, and has gone to "work" to "repeal the law," to quote the President.

The early results cannot be impressive to the White House. After a week of annual defense budget hearings featuring the leaders of the four military services, Congress' idea for repealing the law making homosexuals ineligible for military service, (usually mislabeled "Don't Ask, Don't Tell") has been met with a resounding thud. The proposal, spearheaded by Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) Chairman Carl Levin, for a "moratorium" on discharges of gay personnel, met with considerable skepticism from the Committee's ranking member, Senator John McCain. Senator McCain led the way in strongly criticizing a "'moratorium'...before any decision is made. ...[I]t [a moratorium on homosexual discharges] flies in the face of what the Secretary of Defense committed to."

When asked his position on a moratorium by Chairman Levin, Army Chief of Staff General George Casey, Jr., answered:

Senator, I would recommend against it. Aside from the legal issues that the [Secretary of the Army John McHugh] mentioned, it would complicate the whole process that Secretary Gates had laid out. We would be put in a position of actually implementing it while we were studying implementation.

The "process" Casey cites refers to a so-called "study" or "review" by the Pentagon, proposed by Defense Secretary Robert Gates before SASC on February 2, 2010, on "implementation" of repeal. What General Casey came all around saying, but could not say directly as a leading official appearing before a co-equal branch of government, is that this "moratorium" proposal amounts to de facto repeal. As CMR President Elaine Donnelly has said, "by definition, a Defense Department task force producing a pre-determined paper on 'how' and not 'if' Congress should repeal the [law making homosexuals ineligible for military service] will not be an objective 'study.' And a 45-day search for excuses to suspend enforcement of suggests that the Executive Branch can pick and choose which laws to enforce and which laws to ignore. This is worse than pointless-it is irresponsible." And a moratorium, or suspension, of discharges while the so-called study proceeds has the same effect.

General Casey went on to say to Levin: "Chairman, this process is going to be difficult and -- and complicated enough. Anything that complicates it more I think I would be opposed to." He said much the same thing today to the House Armed Services Committee.

At that same hearing today, Army Secretary John McHugh said he was "strongly opposed to a moratorium," and noted that Secretary Gates had informed him of the Defense Department's opposition to a moratorium as well.

The House fared no better with the Department of the Navy. Yesterday, Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Gary Roughead gave his personal view that he was in agreement in going forward with the review ordered by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. He added that the review would survey "the force and families," and emphasized the importance of doing so. He also noted that focus should be on the United States military, "not another country's force---our force." He stated his view that a moratorium would be "confusing" to the force, concluding that he did not support it.

Marine Corps Commandant General James Conway said any review needs to focus on readiness, and stated that the "current construct [the law making homosexuals ineligible] supports that purpose," and that any consideration of the issue now should do the same. He agreed with the CNO on the moratorium, saying either "change the law or not, ...half measures will only be confusing in the end." In testimony before the Senate today, Gen. Conway stated that "unless we can strip away the emotion, the agenda, and the politics...and we somehow enhance the warfighting capabilities of the United States Marine Corps by allowing homosexuals to openly serve, then we haven't addressed it from the correct perspective. At this best military advice to this committee, to the Secretary, and to the President would be to keep the law such as it is."

The Air Force brass has had less to say, but only because it has been under less pressure. Their only appearance thus far in the annual congressional defense budget process has been before the House Armed Services Committee (HASC), whose Chairman, Rep. Ike Skelton, opposes repeal. Under questioning from HASC Ranking Member Howard "Buck" McKeon (R-CA), who asked General Norton Schwarz if he thought the law should be repealed, the Air Force Chief of Staff offered that with two wars going on, now is "not the time to perturb the force," and echoed CNO Roughead that information on military families was necessary before deciding on repeal.

As with the year-long efforts to close Gitmo and reform health care, this Administration seems to have a nasty habit of making big promises with no plan on how to deliver. In this case, lucky for the United States military. While people of good conscience may disagree on any array of other issues, the unity of our military experts opposing a moratorium on discharges of homosexuals, which amounts to de facto repeal of the law, cannot be ignored. These leaders have devoted lifetimes to the service of our nation and are ultimately responsible for lives affected by the policies they impose or Congress enacts. We ignore their sage wisdom at our national security peril.

--Tommy Sears
posted by CMR Editor @ 2/25/2010 05:30:00 PM

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