This morning members of the Joint Chiefs have been testifying before the Senate Armed Service Committee. They included Marine Commandant General James Amos, Army Chief of Staff General George Casey, Marine General James Cartwright, Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Gary Roughead, and Air Force Chief of Staff General Norton Schwartz. The results of their testimony depends on who is doing the spinning. Generally (pun intended), it was assumed their statements would be negative. But here are some highlights:
Cartwright stated in his testimony that implementing change at a time of war might actually be preferable because troops are focused on their mission. “The challenges associated with making a change of any kind that seem enormous during periods of inactivity become less distracting when you are defending your nation and comrades,” he said.
Schwartz predicted the risk to his force would be moderate. He suggested, however, deferring any policy changes until 2012 so as not to place any “additional discretionary demands on our leadership cadres in Afghanistan at this particularly challenging time.”
Roughead said it was likely that some highly trained combat sailors, including Navy SEALs, might refuse to re-enlist in protest of the personnel change. But, he said, he did not think any long-term damage would occur if certain steps were taken, such as increased training, and he recommended repeal.
Casey said the policy shift, if implemented properly, wouldn’t keep the Army from doing its job, and he predicted repeal would pose only a moderate risk to his force. But, he added, changing the law now would “add another level of stress to any already stretched force” and be more difficult on the Army, particularly its combat units, than the recent Pentagon study suggests.
Amos: “If the law is changed, successfully implementing repeal and assimilating openly homosexual Marines into the tightly woven fabric of our combat units has strong potential for disruption at the small unit level, as it will no doubt divert leadership attention away from an almost singular focus of preparing units for combat.”
Here is SLDN’s take:
Majority of Chiefs Back Repeal of “Don’t Ask”; Underscore Integrity and Process
“A clear majority of the service chiefs support repeal this year. Now, it’s up to the Senate. The National Defense Authorization Act, which includes the repeal provisions, must be called up in the Senate early next week under a reasonable approach that insures senators on both sides of the aisle a fair shot at amendments and debate. No debate on the merits of the bill will happen unless a handful of Republicans break off and support funding our troops. After the release of the Pentagon report, we now know that 92% of service members are just fine working with their gay, lesbian, and bisexual colleagues; of those 89% in Army combat arms units and 84% in Marine combat arms units. Their attitudes mirror that of most Americans, along with our Commander in Chief, the Secretary of Defense, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. As each of them have said, the time to repeal the discriminatory law is now,” said Aubrey Sarvis, Army veteran and executive director for Servicemembers Legal Defense Network.
Cartwright: “Character and appeal of the [military] lies in its equality, opportunity, and the inclusive character of our organizational ethos.”
Casey: Repeal would not keep us from “accomplishing our worldwide missions – including combat ops.”
Roughead: Repeal “will not fundamentally change who we are and what we do.”
My take: better than expected. Overall, no one said it could not be done. But still no mention of why it MUST be done: DADT removes resources from the battlefield, thus endangering the lives of combat troops. I think the general idea remains that “it might be the right thing to do, but should we do it in a time of war?” Admiral Mullen has made statements that he believes the change is the “right thing to do”, but we still need vets to stand up and say “we will have a better, stronger, more effective military as a result of repeal”.
The voices of combat veterans need to be heard. Anyone who has been in combat and seriously questioned if he or she will survive the next 10 minutes, knows that they don’t care who is fighting next to them so long as they can help them get through those next 10 minutes. DADT dishonors the experiences of combat veterans by trivializing the sacrifices they have made and the battlefield experiences they have endured.
Danny Ingram, National President
American Veterans for Equal Rights.