Drew Zahn is a WND news editor who cut his journalist teeth as a member of the award-winning staff of Leadership, Christianity Today's professional journal for church leaders. A former pastor, he is the editor of seven books, including Movie-Based Illustrations for Preaching & Teaching, which sparked his ongoing love affair with film and his weekly WND column, "Popcorn and a (world)view."More ↓Less ↑
Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif.
Republican leaders in Congress are talking about new ways of putting the brakes on repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” after top military brass repeatedly told a House committee hearing they “don’t know” how welcoming open homosexuality in the ranks will affect combat readiness.
Though Congress last year repealed the 1993 “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy in the military, open homosexuality in the ranks won’t officially be permitted until after the president, secretary of defense and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff certify that implementation of the change “is consistent with the standards of military readiness, military effectiveness, unit cohesion and recruiting and retention of the armed forces.”
At a full House Armed Services Committee hearing earlier this month, however, those “standards” came into question, as U.S. military leaders wilted under demands from congressional members to justify repeal of the policy.
“[It is] too soon for me to tell,” answered Marine Commandant General and Member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff James Amos. “Some of this will become evolutionary, revealed over time.”
When questioned by Rep. Martha Roby, R-Ala., Gen. Amos reportedly replied, “Ma’am, I can’t tell you at this point. … Will it improve recruiting, retention and combat effectiveness? I can’t address that because I don’t know.”
Army Vice Chief General Peter W. Chiarelli similarly told Hunter, “We don’t know yet how it’s going to affect combat readiness. … But as we work this out over time, inclusive organizations are usually the best kinds of organizations.”
Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Gary Roughead dodged the question altogether.
When asked by Hunter if Navy SEAL combat effectiveness would improve after DADT repeal, Roughead deflected, answering, “I believe that we will see great young sailors, who perhaps otherwise would not serve, able to serve.”
When questioned how recruiting would be affected, Air Force Chief of Staff General Norton A. Schwartz answered, “[DADT repeal] potentially increases the recruiting pool – we will have to see.”
In a letter to Committee Chair Howard “Buck” McKeon, R-Calif., Army Chief of Staff General George Casey – who was unable to attend the meeting – wrote, “I believe it is too early to say what the impact on implementation of the repeal of DADT will have on our morale, unit cohesion, good order, discipline, recruiting and retention in the Army.”
Hunter eventually concluded in the meeting, “I think we heard [all of you] don’t know whether repeal will increase combat effectiveness yet.”
Rep. Vicky Hartzler, R-Mo., reached a similar conclusion and challenged the military leaders: “You are the last force that could stop this onerous policy. And I have to believe … you know this is not the right thing. I appreciate the chain of command … but there is an opportunity to not certify this, and it’s fallen upon you at this time in history, to be able to give the final say to the Secretary of Defense and to [Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff] Admiral [Michael] Mullen, whether you … believe this is going to improve our forces from this time on out and help us win wars. I ask you to consider this … and that you would not certify this.”
Hunter proposes repeal roadblock
Prior to the committee hearing, Rep. Hunter had already proposed House Resolution 337, which would expand the certification requirement to repeal DADT to also include the service chiefs of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps.
Following the hearing, House Armed Services Committee Chair McKeon added his support to the additional requirements, telling C-SPAN’s “Newsmakers” program that he felt the Democrats pushed the DADT repeal through during the post-election “lame duck” session without giving Congress the opportunity to “ask proper questions.”
“I think [Hunter's bill] makes [certification] a better process,” McKeon said. “I think the way this process was rammed through, it was done politically.”
“I’m not in the military,” McKeon added, “but my job is to help protect the military and to see that they have what they need to carry out their missions and to return home safely. If there is something that is going to be a distraction to that, that might put them in a difficult situation, I don’t think we should be doing that. ”
When asked if he would be upset if certification happened and DADT were effectively repealed, McKeon replied, “It’s not going to bother me at all. What I’m concerned about is the troops that it may bother. I don’t have a problem with it, other than what it does to our readiness, what it does to our recruitment, what it does to our retention. I don’t think we have really fully answered those questions.”