Not so fast on 'don't ask, don't tell' repeal, say top Pentagon brass
Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs Chair Adm. Mike Mullen have been strong backers of a repeal of 'don't ask, don't tell.' But the heads of the Army, Marines, and Air Force said Friday the repeal could cause problems and should be delayed.
The heads of the US Army, Marines, and Air Force recommended against repealing the "don't ask, don't tell" ban on openly gay troops, at least in the short-term, in testimony on Capitol Hill Friday – clearly dissenting from the secretary of Defense and the nation’s top military officer.Skip to next paragraph
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The Air Force chief of staff, for instance, said repealing "don't ask, don't tell" could impact military effectiveness. He called some of the assessments endorsed by Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen on the subject "too optimistic."
The Army chief of staff recommended repealing "don't ask, don't tell" only after America pulled back from its current war footing.
The testimony provided Republican opponents of the repeal with plenty of ammunition. Sen. John McCain (R) of Arizona suggested that many more hearings on the issue might be needed before Congress makes a decision.
Meanwhile, the testimony marked a setback for Democrats eager to overturn the ban, as well as Mullen and Secretary Gates, who traveled to Capitol Hill this week to “strongly urge” Congress to repeal "don’t ask, don’t tell" – a policy that became law 17 years ago this month. Mullen said it is the right thing to do “for our nation, our military, and our collective honor.”
Service chiefs have their say
Last month, Mullen publicly rebuked the new Marine Corps commandant, Gen. James Amos, for expressing his reservations about repealing the ban, which were based on the fact that marines work and live in close quarters.
But the service chiefs spoke openly about their reservations Friday. Among the service chiefs, only Chief of Navy Operations Adm. Gary Roughhead recommended repealing the ban now.
Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey, who commanded the war in Iraq before Gen. David Petraeus took over, said in his opening statement that in the near-term repealing the ban “will add another level of stress to an already stretched force.”
What’s more, Casey told the committee repealing the ban would be “more difficult for the Army than the report suggests.”
That said, he added that the Pentagon’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” report, released Tuesday, provides a suitable framework for moving forward, and the Army could implement repeal with “moderate” impact on military effectiveness.