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Ready, Fire, Aim on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (Update: Service Chiefs Weigh In)
Posted By Chuck Donovan On May 26, 2010 @ 9:48 am In Security | Comments Disabled
Before the Democratic health bill was passed in March, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi attempted to reassure the public that Congress would have to pass the bill before the public could “find out what is in it.”  And now they intend to use the same tactics to repeal the misnamed “don’t ask, don’t tell” military eligibility policy passed by Congress in 1993.
Democrats are moving swiftly to add the repeal to the must-pass defense authorization bill, leaving it to another day for the public – and most especially the U.S. military – to “find out what is in it.” It’s about time Congress slow down and read some bills before passing them.
This crass political maneuver is an affront to the men and women in the military whose opinions matter, because they will be most affected by any change in the law. Regardless of what one thinks of full repeal—whatever it might mean in practice—lawmakers should wait until the ongoing survey of service personnel is completed and analyzed. Any legislative action now is premature, and a thumbing of the nose at the military.
The sleight-of-hand at work is the notion that since everyone already understands what repeal of the current law means, Congress might as well just repeal the law now. However, since the issues at stake involve not just neutral characteristics like race or national origin, but rather responses to a whole set of behaviors that may affect everything from military family policy to religious liberty, repeal of the military service eligibility law could take any number of forms. The range of implications is profound, from core issues of national security and military readiness, to recruitment and retention, to conduct standards and unit cohesion.
The new liberal power grab leapfrogs the process that has been underway for several months, under which the Department of Defense (DoD) has begun to assess the views of service members and identify the impacts of proposed changes. Providing an example of incremental adjustment, DoD adopted changes  in March that raised the rank of officers authorized to initiate investigations under current law and diminished the likelihood of investigations based on third-party reports. The actions illustrated the degree to which policy changes could vary, falling well short of sweeping measures that would threaten the religious freedom of chaplains , undermine the Congressionally approved Defense of Marriage Act , or severely impact personnel levels.
The power grab also leapfrogs Defense Secretary Gates and Admiral Mike Mullen’s letter to Congress just three weeks ago “strongly opposing” legislative action in advance of completion of the Pentagon’s review. Repealing the current law now, they wrote , would send “a very damaging message to our men and women in uniform that in essence their views, concerns, and perspectives do not matter on an issue with such a direct impact and consequence for them and their families,” a view Secretary Gates apparently continues to hold .
Congress and the Administration should serve our nation and put the armed forces first by declining a politically expedient and hasty vote, allowing the Pentagon to finish the now-in-progress assessment scheduled for delivery this December, and giving members of Congress and the American people time to examine the results of that assessment in an open and exhaustive public debate. That debate can and should address at least the following questions:
Clearly, the answers to these questions have broad import for present and future members of the armed forces.
UPDATE: Each of the four Service Chiefs (General Conway (USMC) , General Conway (USMC) , Admiral Roughead (USN) , and General Schwartz (USAF) ) have submitted letters stressing that any action by Congress should only be taken after the Pentagon finishes its review.
Article printed from The Foundry: Conservative Policy News Blog from The Heritage Foundation: http://blog.heritage.org
URL to article: http://blog.heritage.org/2010/05/26/ready-fire-aim-on-dont-ask-dont-tell/
URLs in this post:
 “find out what is in it.”: http://www.speaker.gov/newsroom/pressreleases?id=1576
 DoD adopted changes: http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2010/03/25/gates-approves-changes-ease-dont-ask-dont-tell-policy/
 threaten the religious freedom of chaplains: http://blog.beliefnet.com/news/2010/04/retired-chaplains-oppose-dont.php
 Congressionally approved Defense of Marriage Act: http://gay-rights-law.suite101.com/article.cfm/if-dadt-repealed-will-gay-spouses-receive-military-benefits
 they wrote: http://tpmlivewire.talkingpointsmemo.com/2010/04/gates-and-mullen-tell-congress-to-wait-on-dadt-repeal.php
 a view Secretary Gates apparently continues to hold: http://www.cnn.com/2010/POLITICS/05/25/congress.military.dadt/index.html?hpt=T2
 General Conway (USMC): http://cmrlink.org/CMRDocuments/Conway%20ltr%20to%20McCain%20DADT.pdf
 Admiral Roughead (USN): http://cmrlink.org/CMRDocuments/Roughead%20Letter%20to%20McKeon%20DADT.pdf
 General Schwartz (USAF): http://cmrlink.org/CMRDocuments/Schwartz%20Letter%20to%20McKeon%20DADT.pdf
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