Pentagon: Repeal 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell,"

By Kenneth Jost, Associate Editor, CQ Researcher
     Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, the nation’s top military officer, called Tuesday (Feb. 2) for ending the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on gays in the military.
     Gates told the Senate Armed Services Committee that he is awaiting recommendations due in 45 days to ease enforcement of the policy, which bars openly gay men and lesbians from serving in the military. Gates also said he was appointing a high-level task force to complete a study by the end of the year on how to end the policy altogether.
     Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the study would provide “objective” information on the effects of the policy. But Mullen added that he personally favors repeal.
     “No matter how I look at the issue, I cannot escape being troubled by the fact that we have in place a policy which forces young men and women      to lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens,” Mullen said.
     Gates’ and Mullen’s statements came after President Obama included a call for repealing the policy in his State of the Union address last week. Obama had previously called for ending the policy during his campaign and in appearances before gay rights groups as president.
     Democratic senators generally welcomed Gates’ and Mullen’s statements. “We should repeal this discriminatory policy,” said Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., chairman of the committee.
     But Republicans criticized what they depicted as a political move to undo the policy that Congress enacted into law in 1993. Sen. John McCain of Arizona’s, the committee’s top Republican, said the policy “has been effective” and emphasized that repeal would be up to Congress.
     As interim steps to ease enforcement of the policy, Gates said the Pentagon could “raise the bar” on what constitutes reliable information or a reliable source to initiate an investigation of a service member’s sexual orientation. He also said the department could “reduce the instances in which a service member . . . is outed by someone with a motive to harm” him or her.
     In answer to Levin’s question, however, Gates said he believed current law would not permit the Pentagon to impose a moratorium on discharging service members for violating the policy.
     The move to repeal the policy comes after a year in which discharges of gay and lesbian service members declined by about 30 percent from the previous year: from 619 in 2008 to 428 in 2009. Mullen acknowledged that most discharges result from voluntary acknowledgments by gay or lesbian service members.
     The gay rights group Servicemembers Legal Defense Network applauded Gates’s and Mullen’s statements, but criticized the one-year study as “far too long and unnecessary.” From the opposite side, Elaine Donnelly, president of the Center for Military Readiness, said the plan outlined by Gates and Mullen would create confusion and demoralize the troops “in order to help President Obama deliver on a political promise.”