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Posts for December, 2010

DADT round-up

Timothy Kincaid

December 3rd, 2010

Yesterday the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Secretary of Defense testified before Congress in favor of repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Today the Service Chiefs testified with mixed messages.

Marine Corps Gen. James F. Amos said that he didn’t want repeal “at this time.” I think it’s pretty clear is that Gen. Amos doesn’t want repeal at any time under any circumstances due to his own personal prejudices.

Army Chief of Staff Gen. George W. Casey Jr. believes that DADT should be repealed eventually but not right now.

Air Force Gen. Norton A. Schwartz thinks that the repeal should occur, but that the report is too optimistic. He recommended repeal, but that the change not take effect before 2012.

Only Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Gary Roughead supported the immediate repeal of the policy (LA Times)

Navy sailors routinely train and work in close quarters alongside the service members of allied navies that allow homosexuals to serve openly, said Roughead. After studying the integration of gay sailors into other navies over the past decade, Roughead described the impact on the effectiveness of the force as a “non-event.”

John McCain, of course, will not be listening to the Navy Chief. Rather, he has been obsessing over the subset of the Marines who oppose repeal. Do you get the impression that if the typists in the stenopool were the only servicepeople who opposed repealing the policy, that McCain would declare them to be the most essential part of the Military operation?

Meanwhile, everything is being held up by the Republican Senators’ cohesive effort to force a vote to extend current tax rates. (And no, this is not a tactic that was created to block DADT.) It is difficult to know whether this block will hold together should a compromise plan be proposed (one that does not define a couple making $250,000 in Los Angeles as “millionaires and billionaires” but draws a higher threshold.)

Eventually, the Defense Appropriations bill will go before the Senate. And even in the new Senate, there may not be enough Republican votes to uphold a filibuster.

To date, at least two Republican Senators have pledged support (and more are likely): Susan Collins of Maine and Scott Brown of Massachusetts:

“I have been in the military for 31 years and counting, and have served as a subordinate and as an officer,” said Mr. Brown, who is in the Massachusetts National Guard. “As a legislator, I have spent a significant amount of time on military issues. During my time of service, I have visited our injured troops at Walter Reed and have attended funerals of our fallen heroes. When a soldier answers the call to serve, and risks life or limb, it has never mattered to me whether they are gay or straight. My only concern has been whether their service and sacrifice is with pride and honor.”

Mr. Brown added, “I pledged to keep an open mind about the present policy on ‘don’t ask, don’t tell.’ Having reviewed the Pentagon report, having spoken to active and retired military service members, and having discussed the matter privately with Defense Secretary Gates and others, I accept the findings of the report and support repeal based on the secretary’s recommendations that repeal will be implemented only when the battle effectiveness of the forces is assured and proper preparations have been completed.”

Meanwhile a very influential voice on the right has joined in calling for an end to the ban.

It is time to recognize the desires of all people competent to serve in our Military and afford them the opportunity to contribute to this noble, often thankless, but very necessary profession.

Dr. Laura was immensely proud of her son’s service in the Marines Army and would often reference it on her show. This endorsement carries a great deal of weight with her listeners.

Although there are various sound-bites that supporters and opponents can latch onto from the past two days of testimony, there is one thing on which all of the Chiefs agree: that legislative repeal will be far less disruptive than a judicial decision ending the policy. And they have good reason to fear just such a decision.

The ONLY defense provided by the Department of Defense in Log Cabin v. the US was that Congress was going to repeal the policy and that they should be allowed to do so. Should Congress fail to take such action, then there is no argument whatsoever that the government has left to make in the appeal to Log Cabin’s victory.

And Log Cabin will not play nice with the administration. They will undoubtedly file with the appeals court that the appeal be tossed out and that, at the very least, the current hold on the injunction be lifted. The Department of Defense can hardly claim a likelihood of success in the courts if they have nothing at all on which to base their defense.

There is a very real possibility that if Congress declines to enact a plan to roll out a gradual repeal, the courts could end the policy immediately. And while McCain would rather play Curmudgeon in Chief, those who care about defense policy should carefully consider the consequences of inaction.

Joint Chiefs Chairman Mullen speaks out for repealing DADT

Timothy Kincaid

May 26th, 2010

Though the Chiefs of the various military divisions want to delay the repeal of the ban, Admiral Mike Mullen has spoken again today in favor of the timing of the compromise. (Forbes)

“Personal opinion? I believe it’s time. I believe we need to change it,” Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told about 500 service members at Peterson Air Force Base.
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However, Mullen stressed that the change had not yet been approved. And if it is, he said he wouldn’t make any final determinations on how to implement it until the military studies the issue and gets input from troops.

Gates and Mullen to DADT-supporting 3-Star General: “Vote with your feet”

Timothy Kincaid

March 25th, 2010

MixonMeet Lieutenant General Benjamin R Mixon, the Commanding General of United States Army Pacific. But be careful around General Mixon, he just might find your “conduct” to not be “acceptable”.

On May March 8 he wrote a letter to the editor of Stars and Stripes:

The recent commentaries on the adverse effects of repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy were insightful.

It is often stated that most servicemembers are in favor of repealing the policy. I do not believe that is accurate. I suspect many servicemembers, their families, veterans and citizens are wondering what to do to stop this ill-advised repeal of a policy that has achieved a balance between a citizen’s desire to serve and acceptable conduct.

Now is the time to write your elected officials and chain of command and express your views. If those of us who are in favor of retaining the current policy do not speak up, there is no chance to retain the current policy.

But Mixon may wish to consider whether his superiors consider him to have acceptable conduct. Trying to do an end run around the Commander in Chief and the Joint Chiefs of Staff may not be the wisest of actions.

The Secretary of Defense was not amused. And he let Mixon know what he can do if he isn’t pleased with the process set up to review the policy (ABC).

Everybody participating in the review will have the chance to voice their approval concerns, ideas, their suggestions within this process, but there is an appropriate way to do that. Publicly voicing or politically advocating political positions and actions through the news media is just not appropriate for the men and women in uniform, particularly officers in command positions. Especially when it’s in direct opposition to the policy objectives of the President of the United States, their Commander in Chief. “

Mullen reiterated today that disagreements should also be expressed within the chain of command. But ultimately, “In the end, if there is either policy direction that someone in uniform disagrees with — and I’ve said this before — the answer — and you feel so strongly about it — you know, the answer is not advocacy; it is in fact to vote with your feet. And that’s what all of us in a position of leadership, I think, have to conform to.”

It appears that much of the anger towards Mixon was not based on his opinion, but rather was due to his efforts to subvert the process that the Joint Chiefs of Staff were establishing. Mixon may also have been contradicting a direct order (Stars and Stripes)

But Gates and Mullen suggested Thursday that Mixon’s offense had been speaking out about the policy after commanders were specifically ordered not to do so.

Mullen said the Army had given officers “very specific direction” in written form following Gates’ announcement of his intent to seek the repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” law.

And the Army was quick to distance itself from Mixon and his political activism.

The bottom line is that Lt. Gen. Mixon’s comments do not reflect the Army’s thinking on this issue. He was expressing his personal opinion. The Army clearly supports what the Secretary of Defense is trying to do with his assessment of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. So it is inappropriate for a commander to advocate in such a public way on something that is clearly a policy issue. We have a forum, and that is the Secretary’s ongoing comprehensive review.

Most observers are viewing the Admiral’s words as an invitation for Mixon to submit his resignation. Personally, I would not be surprised to see him decide to pursue a career in political advocacy. He will be considered a martyr and hero by those who believe that “fighting the homosexual agenda” is more important than military cohesion or following the chain of command.

Petraeus supports ending DADT

Timothy Kincaid

February 21st, 2010

When Admiral Mullen stated that it was his personal opinion that the anti-gay Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy should be ended, Senator John McCain became furious.

This put McCain in a difficult position. Just three years earlier he had said, “the day that the leadership of the military comes to me and says, ‘Senator, we ought to change the policy,’ then I think we ought to consider seriously changing it because those leaders in the military are the ones we give the responsibility to.”

The Senator spoke sharply in opposition to changing the policy and immediately news reports noted the apparent change of position. His press agent released a “clarification”:

“One person, speaking individually, not on behalf of the Navy at all, is not going to change Senator McCain’s position,” she told the Post. “There has to be a determination from our military leaders that they think it is a good idea to change the policy. Then of course Senator McCain will listen to them.”

On the face of it, this looked like a flip-flop, but I think something else is going on here. I think that John McCain genuinely believes that the push to repeal the policy is entirely political in nature and that the real military leaders – those who are trying to win the war, not win political battles – oppose allowing openly gay men and women to serve in the Military.

It seems inconceivable to him that the military’s culture would not be homophobic. So this all seems to be political posturing which will harm the military. He’s holding out for the real military leaders.

Well, it doesn’t get much more real than General David Petraeus, commander of the military efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan. And say what you may about Petraeus, he’s not the kind of man who will put “social engineering” and “political correctness” ahead of achieving his military goals.

Which makes it particularly effective that Gen. Patreaus supports Adm. Mullen’s intentions. Speaking today on Meet the Press:

MR. GREGORY: General, with the, the military engaged in two wars, with a country fighting terrorism in other forms as well, is this an appropriate time for the military to revisit the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy?

GEN. PETRAEUS: Well, there’s a process at work here now, David, and I, and I think that it is a very sound and good process. The secretary and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs announced, when they were testifying, the creation of a review be headed by General Carter Hamm, U.S. Army four-star, and DOD General Counsel Jay Johnson. I don’t think this has gotten enough prominence frankly. It is very important to this overall process. It will provide a rigorous analysis of the views of the force on the possible change. It will suggest the policies that could be used to implement a change if it, if it does come to that, so that it could be as uneventful as it was, say, in the U.K. or the Israeli militaries or, indeed, in our own CIA and FBI. And then it will assess the effects, the possible effects on readiness, recruiting and retention.

MR. GREGORY: What do you say?

GEN. PETRAEUS: Very important for that process to move forward. We’ll hear from the chiefs, the Joint Chiefs on this I think, probably their personal assessments and personal views in the course of the next week or so…

MR. GREGORY: But…

GEN. PETRAEUS: …when they’re on Capitol Hill. And then the geographic combatant commanders, the other combatant commanders and I, will have our turn on Capitol Hill in a few weeks.

MR. GREGORY: But what, but what, what do you say, General? Should gays and lesbians be able to serve openly in the military?

GEN. PETRAEUS: Well, I’ll provide that, again, on Capitol Hill if, if asked at that time. I, I know you’d like to make some news here this morning. I support what our secretary and, and chairman have embarked on here. I will–I’m fully participating in that process. And I think it’s very important, again, that these issues be handled and discussed and addressed by this review that will be so important in informing decisions as we move forward.

MR. GREGORY: Do you think soldiers on the ground in the field care one way or the other if their comrades in arms are gay or lesbian?

GEN. PETRAEUS: I’m not sure that they do. We’ll see. Again, that’s why this review panel. You know, all we have are, are personal soundings to go on, and I’ve certainly done some of that myself. I mean, you’ve heard General Powell, who was the chairman when the policy was implemented, had a big hand in that, who said that, yes indeed, the earth has revolved around the sun a number of times since that period 15 months (sic: years) ago. And you’ve heard a variety of anecdotal input. We have experienced, certainly, in the CIA and the FBI, I know. I served in fact in combat with individuals who were gay and who were lesbian in combat situations and, frankly, you know, over time you said, “Hey, how’s, how’s this guy’s shooting?” Or “How is her analysis,” or what have you. So–but we’ll see. Again, that’s the importance of this review that will be conducted by General Hamm and also by the DOD general counsel. I think it is hugely important that we have the answers from the questions that they’ll be asking in a very methodical way, something we’ve not done before because of the emotion and the sensitivity of this issue.

Yes, Petraeus danced and put it off on the review, but ultimately he knows that soldiers in wartime care a lot more about skills and abilities than they do about sexual orientation. That concern is a luxury of legislators who are in less danger and have more free time to imagine bunking arrangements and shower configurations.

Troops to Mullen: what DADT controversy?

Timothy Kincaid

February 16th, 2010

Admiral Mullen went to Jordan expecting troops in the field to have concerns over his decision to move in the direction of repealing the military’s anti-gay Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy. He didn’t find any. (McClatchy)

Navy Adm. Michael Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was nearing the end of a 25-minute question and answer session with troops serving here when he raised a topic of his own: “No one’s asked me about ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’” he said.

As it turned out, none of the two dozen or so men or women who met with Mullen at Marine House in the Jordanian capital Tuesday had any questions on the 17-year-old policy that bars gays and lesbians from serving openly in the military — or Mullen’s public advocacy of its repeal.

It seems that the soldiers had already moved on.

At Tuesday’s session, which included not only Marines, but members of the Army and the Air Force, both male and female service members explained why they were nonplussed by the issue: They’d already served with gays and lesbians, they accepted that some kind of change was imminent, and, they said, the nation was too engulfed in two wars for a prolonged debate about it.

What do past Military leaders say about Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell?

Timothy Kincaid

February 16th, 2010

gates mullenThose who are desperately looking for an excuse to continue supporting Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, the anti-gay military policy, are trying to downplay the efforts of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Secretary of Defense as being an anomaly. They remind the public that the call for the repeal of a ban on open gay service men and women is their “individual opinion” and act as though it is non-representative.

But Admiral Mullen is not the only person to serve as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Robert Gates is not our first Secretary of Defense. Nor are they the first to weigh in on this issue.

Not all such military leaders have public statements. And some have positions that can only be deduced from indirect statements. But here is what I’ve found:

Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

Secretaries of Defense

It would appear that Mullen and Gates are closer to the rule than to the exception.

Cheney supports Mullen’s DADT repeal efforts

Timothy Kincaid

February 15th, 2010

In an interview the ABC’s This Week, Dick Cheney said that it is time to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

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KARL: OK, “don’t ask/don’t tell” — you’re a former defense secretary — should this policy be repealed?

CHENEY: Twenty years ago, the military were strong advocates of “don’t ask/don’t tell,” when I was secretary of defense. I think things have changed significantly since then. I see that Don Mullen — or Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has indicated his belief that we ought to support a change in the policy. So I think — my guess is the policy will be changed.

KARL: And do you think that’s a good thing? I mean, is it time to allow gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military?

CHENEY: I think the society has moved on. I think it’s partly a generational question. I say, I’m reluctant to second-guess the military in this regard, because they’re the ones that have got to make the judgment about how these policies affect the military capability of our — of our units, and that first requirement that you have to look at all the time is whether or not they’re still capable of achieving their mission, and does the policy change, i.e., putting gays in the force, affect their ability to perform their mission?

When the chiefs come forward and say, “We think we can do it,” then it strikes me that it’s — it’s time to reconsider the policy. And I think Admiral Mullen said that.

This is not the first time that Cheney has indicated skepticism for anti-gay attitudes in the military. As early as 1991, Cheney (then Secretary of Defense under George H.W. Bush) called the military policy that considers gay servicepersons a security risk is “a bit of an old chestnut.”

Gates and Mullen ask for another year before dismantling DADT

Timothy Kincaid

February 2nd, 2010

gates mullenChairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates spoke about “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” before the Senate Armed Services Committee today. Both recommended reversing the law but asked for another year to figure out how to implement the change in policy. (NY Times)

To lead a review of the policy, Mr. Gates appointed a civilian and a military officer: Jeh C. Johnson, the Pentagon’s top legal counsel, and Gen. Carter F. Ham, the commander of the United States Army in Europe. Pentagon officials said the review could take up to a year.

In the interim, Mr. Gates announced that the military was moving toward enforcing the existing policy “in a more humane and fair manner” — a reference to the possibility that the Pentagon would no longer take action to discharge service members whose sexual orientation is revealed by third parties or jilted partners, one of the most onerous aspects of the law. Mr. Gates said he had asked the Pentagon to make a recommendation on the matter within 45 days, but “we believe that we have a degree of latitude within the existing law to change our internal procedures in a manner that is more appropriate and fair to our men and women in uniform.”

I have a better idea, gentlemen. Rather than wait for your report, Congress should pass the law that entirely eliminates the ban on open service in the Military and give the Pentagon a year in which to put a new policy in place. That way we don’t find ourselves a year down the road with a different Congress and insufficient votes.

In a signal that this policy change will face Republican opposition – regardless of the wishes of the Pentagon – Sen. McCain spoke strongly in opposition. He relied on Elaine Donnelly’s petition which found 1,000 former officers who were willing to put their name down in opposition to equality. McCain presented the petition as though it was a representative study.

Mr. McCain said that a thousand retired admirals and generals had signed a petition against change, and that their views reflected the honest beliefs of military leaders as a whole, whatever Admiral Mullen’s personal view.

However, such bogus sampling may not hold up to the findings of studies. In addition to the review by Johnson and Ham,

For further information, Mr. Gates said he would ask the Rand Corporation to update a 1993 study on the effect of allowing gay men and women to serve openly. That study concluded that gay service members could serve openly if the policy was given strong support from the military’s senior leaders.

However, timing is crucial. Any shifting in the Congress towards more Republicans (almost a certainty in this mid-term election) can become an excuse to yet again delay equality for gay Americans.