Gates, Mullen showed leadership in Senate hearings, but too many remain stuck in the past supporting a policy that does not work, while others play partisan politics with military policy.
Following the House Armed Services Committee hearing this week on repeal of the U.S. military’s anti-gay "Don’t ask, don’t tell" policy, I thought of how the 65,000 LGBT patriots serving in silence must have felt as they listened to this testimony:
"The question before us is not whether the military prepares to make this change but how we best prepare for it."
"It is my personal belief that allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly would be the right thing to do. No matter how I look at this 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. For me personally it comes down to integrity — theirs as individuals and ours as an institution."
These words alone shored up my faith in our military’s adherence to its longstanding heritage of honesty and the supreme leadership qualities that are demonstrated at all levels every day.
But Secretary Gates went on to announce that he has formed a working group to study the issue of implementing the demise of "Don’t ask, don’t tell," and that that study will take the rest of the year to complete.
Study? Study? What can possibly be left to study?
He went on to explain, though, that what the group is charged with doing is to develop an implementation plan; to reach out to the troops to understand their views and attitudes about the impacts of repeal; examine exactly how the change might affect unit cohesion, recruiting and retention; and to examine all of the policies and supporting regulations that might need to be changed.
He said that "the department, as requested by this committee, will ask the Rand Corporation to update its 1993 study."
He gave me hope when he announced that within 45 days he would have recommendations to make the implementation of the current law "more humane and fair" — but only a little hope.
I am not given to the slow walk. I find a year’s delay most distasteful, especially when it means that even more careers will be crushed. But then, I am not Secretary Gates facing a very partisan, contentious Senate Armed Services Committee.
While partisanship has no place in the discussion of repeal, several Republican members did not attend the hearing — and those who did came across as being stuck in 1993, or decades before, and they promptly left the hearing before it ended.
The 1993 study that they tout as being the basis for having DADT includes the section "A Policy for Ending Discrimination," which reads, in part:
"Based on a review of organization theory, implementation research, and the military’s own experience with racial integration, the study team identified several key elements of an implementation strategy:
"• The policy change must be communicated clearly and consistently from the top.
"• The policy selected should be implemented immediately. Any sense of experimentation or uncertainty invites those opposed to change to continue to resist it."
In my opinion, the demise of DADT does not need to follow a serial process. Congress does not need to wait for the DOD Implementation Plan to be fully developed. Hearings and hand-wringing will continue in the Senate and House over the next 45 days. By then, Secretary Gates will have figured out that he can take independent action within his Executive Branch powers (e.g. discounting third-party and anonymous outings.)
Also by then, the Military Appropriations Act will be under debate. That would be an excellent time for the president, the Department of Defense and Congress to kill DADT. After all, the current law was established via attachment to the 1994 Defense Authorization Bill.
I am so glad that our military continues to lead. Now is not the time for our community and our allies to stand down. We must continue to keep the volume turned up on this issue and keep it loud until legislated discrimination ends.
Dave Guy-Gainer retired from the U.S. Air Force with the rank of chief master sergeant and a board member for Servicemembers Legal Defense Network. He and his husband live in Forest Hill.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 5, 2010.