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Marine chief: 'don't ask, don't tell' repeal could be deadly 'distraction'

Gen. James Amos, commandant of the Marines, defended his position that 'don't ask, don't tell' should not be repealed, saying a repeal could cause problems among combat troops.

By Anna MulrineStaff writer / December 14, 2010

Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Amos (r.) testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington Dec. 3, 2010 during a Senate hearing on the military 'don't ask, don't tell' policy.

Alex Brandon/AP/file



The new commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. James Amos, on Tuesday defended his decision to recommend against repealing "don't ask, don't tell" in Dec. 3 congressional testimony – a position at odds with Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen.

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In a roundtable discussion with reporters, Amos said that a Pentagon report on the impact of repealing "don't ask, don't tell" “sent a very strong message” that marines were against repealing the ban. Though the report recommended repealing "don't ask, don't tell," it also found that nearly 60 percent of combat troops said that a repeal could have negative effects on the force.

“I take that very, very seriously,” Amos said, adding he worried that openly gay troops in Marine Corps combat units would pull focus away from fighting.

“I don’t want to lose any marines to the distraction,” he said. “I don’t want any marines that I’m visiting at Bethesda [National Naval Medical Center military hospital in Maryland] with no legs be the result of any type of distraction.”

Surveys in the Pentagon report showed that the majority of troops believed a change in the law would have a positive or no impact on US military effectiveness. Mullen and Secretary Gates cited these findings in recommending a repeal.

'No margin for distraction'

But Amos took something else from the report: While troops who were not in combat were less concerned about serving with gay comrades, for those who are at war, “there is no margin for distraction,” Amos said.


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