us. Now let us hope the Senate acts with all possible haste. Write to
your Senator today!
Gates, Mullen Endorse Working Group's Report
Tue, 30 Nov 2010 15:26:00 -0600
Gates, Mullen Endorse Working Group's Report
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Nov. 30, 2010 - Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates today
urged the Senate to repeal the so-called "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" law
Click photo for screen-resolution image
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of
the Joint Chiefs of Staff, conduct a press briefing at the Pentagon
discussing the public release of the "Dont Ask, Dont Tell" Comprehensive
Working Group report, Nov. 30, 2010. DOD photo by U.S. Navy Petty
Officer 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image
Gates and Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff,
spoke at a Pentagon news conference unveiling the recommendations of the
working group tasked with looking at the issues associated with
implementing a repeal of the law that bans gays from serving openly in
Gates said any change causes short-term disruptions, but that the
military can handle longer-term impacts. He added that he's recommending
repeal of the law after fully studying the potential impact on military
readiness, including the impact on unit cohesion, recruiting and
retention, and other issues critical to the performance of the force.
"In my view, getting this category right is the most important thing we
must do," the secretary said. "The U.S. armed forces are in the middle
of two major military overseas campaigns - a complex and difficult
drawdown in Iraq, a war in Afghanistan - both of which are putting
extraordinary stress on those serving on the ground and their families.
It is the well-being of these brave young Americans, those doing the
fighting and the dying since 9/11, that has guided every decision I have
made in the Pentagon since taking this post nearly four years ago. It
will be no different on this issue.
"I am determined to see that if the law is repealed," he continued, "the
changes are implemented in such a way as to minimize any negative impact
on the morale, cohesion and effectiveness of combat units that are
deployed, or about to deploy to the front lines."
Gates acknowledged concerns from troops in combat units raised in a
survey on the potential impact changing the law, but added that he
believes they can be overcome if a repeal is handled properly.
"In my view, the concerns of combat troops as expressed in the survey do
not present an insurmountable barrier to successful repeal of 'Don't
Ask, Don't Tell,'" the secretary said. "This can be done and should be
done without posing a serious risk to military readiness. However, these
findings do lead me to conclude that an abundance of care and
preparation is required if we are to avoid a disruptive and potentially
dangerous impact on the performance of those serving at the tip of the
spear in America's wars."
The working group, co-chaired by Army Gen. Carter F. Ham, commander of
U.S. Army Europe, and Defense Department General Counsel Jeh C. Johnson,
took nearly 10 months to research and analyze data in drawing its
conclusions. The mission was to determine how best to prepare for such a
change should the Congress change the law.
Gates said he wanted the group to engage servicemembers and their
families on the issue - not to give servicemembers a vote, but to get an
idea how best to implement the changes.
"I believe that we had to learn the attitudes, obstacles and concerns
that would need to be addressed should the law be changed," he said. "We
could do this only by reaching out and listening to our men and women in
uniform and their families.
The survey results found more than two-thirds of the force do not object
to gays and lesbians serving openly in uniform, Gates said. "The
findings suggest that for large segments of the military, repeal of
'Don't Ask, Don't Tell,' though potentially disruptive in the short
term, would not be the wrenching, traumatic change that many have feared
and predicted," the secretary said.
But the data also show that servicemembers in combat arms specialties -
mostly in the Army and Marine Corps, but also in the special operations
from the Navy and Air Force - have a higher level of discomfort and
resistance to changing the current policy, Gates said.
"Those findings and the potential implications for America's fighting
forces remain a source of concern to the service chiefs and to me," he
The working group also examined thoroughly all the potential changes to
the department's regulations and policies dealing with matters such as
benefits, housing, relationships within the ranks, separations and
discharges. The report says that the majority of concerns often raised
in association with the repeal - dealing with sexual conduct,
fraternization, billeting arrangements, marital or survivor benefits -
could be governed by existing laws and regulations.
"Existing policies can and should be applied equally to homosexuals as
well as heterosexuals," Gates said. "While a repeal would require some
changes to regulations, the key to success, as with most things
military, is training, education, and, above all, strong and principled
leadership up and down the chain of command."
The secretary called on the Senate to pass legislation the House of
Representatives passed earlier this year, which calls for the president,
defense secretary and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to certify
that the military can handle repeal without a lessening of combat
effectiveness before a repeal takes effect.
"What is needed is a process that allows for a well-prepared and
well-considered implementation - above all, a process that carries the
imprimatur of the elected representatives of the people of the United
States," he said. "Given the present circumstances, those that choose
not to act legislatively are rolling the dice that this policy will not
be abruptly overturned by the courts."
The working group's plan, with a strong emphasis on education, training
and leader development, provides a solid road map for a successful full
implementation of repeal, assuming that the military is given sufficient
time and preparation to get the job done right, the secretary said.
"The working group surveyed our troops and their spouses, consulted
proponents and opponents of repeal and examined military experience
around the world," Mullen said. "They also spoke with serving gays and
The chairman called the working group's recommendations "solid,
Mullen said he was gratified that the working group focused their
findings and recommendations "rightly on those who would be most
affected by a change in the law: our people."
The chairman recommended repeal of the law during testimony before
Congress in February, and he called for research into how best to do
this. "For the first time, the [service] chiefs and I have more than
just anecdotal evidence and hearsay to inform the advice we give our
civilian leaders," he said today.
Mullen said strong military leadership will be key in implementing any
repeal of the law throughout the ranks.
"We all have our opinions, and those opinions matter. This is without
question a complex social and cultural issue," Mullen said. "But at the
end of the day, whatever the decision of our elected leaders may be, we
in uniform have an obligation to follow orders.
"When those orders involve significant change such as this would," he
continued, "we need to find ways to lead the way forward. Our troops and
their families expect that from us, and I think the American people do
The admiral added that today's troops expect the force to maintain high
standards of conduct and professionalism throughout the process.
"No special cases, no special treatment, if we're going to continue to
comport ourselves with honor and hold ourselves accountable across the
board to impeccably high standards, repeal or no repeal," he said.
Mullen added that the implementation of a repeal of the law would not be
without its challenges, and that he supports the process taking place
through the Congress instead of the court system.
"We can best address those challenges by having it within our power and
our prerogative to manage the implementation process ourselves," he
Robert M. Gates
Navy Adm. Mike Mullen <http://www.jcs.mil/biography.aspx?ID=9>
Special Report: Don's Ask, Don't Tell
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