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3 of 4 Service Chiefs Oppose DADT Repeal

The commander-in-chief, secretary of defense, and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff all support removing the ban on gays in the military without further delay. A long-awaited Pentagon study showed no reason not to do so. But three of four Service chiefs disagree.

The top uniformed Army and Marines generals told a Senate panel Friday that letting gays serve openly in the military during wartime would be divisive and difficult, opposition that could undercut President Barack Obama’s push to repeal the “don’t ask, don’t tell” ban.

[...]
“I would not recommend going forward at this time, given everything that the Army has on its plate,” Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

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Both Casey and Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Amos acknowledged that openly gay service was probably inevitable and they played down suggestions that recruiting and retention would suffer dramatically if it was allowed. But, they warned that repealing “don’t ask, don’t tell” would be tougher than a recent Pentagon study suggests and advised that repeal shouldn’t happen so long as troops continue to fight in Afghanistan.

“My suspicions are that the law will be repealed,” Amos said. “And all I’m asking is the opportunity to do that at a time and choosing when my Marines are not singularly tightly focused on what they’re doing in a very deadly environment.”  Amos, whose military branch has expressed the most discomfort with the change, said that “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.”

Their opposition was backed by Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz, who suggested putting off changing the policy until 2012.

[...]
Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Gary Roughead was the only Pentagon service chief to advocate for repeal. 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.

So, of the five four-star officers testifying on the matter[*], only two support an immediate lifting of the ban.  Both of them are Navy men.

Despite my amusement that, of the old naval traditions, the United States Navy has decided to dispense with rum and the lash but retain sodomy, I’d have not guessed this. While sea duty is in some ways more comfortable than the ground combat that Marines and Army infantrymen endure, it’s arduous and as close quarters as it comes.   And the Navy is arguably the most conservative of all the Services in terms of hewing to tradition.

If one Service was going to break from the pack, I’d have bet anything it would be the Air Force.  And, no, not because they’re “more gay” but because they’re the newest and least “military” of the bunch.  From the moment they won their independence from the Army in 1947, they’ve had more relaxed grooming, physical training, and discipline.  They decided from the get-go that their identity was technocratic and that they needed to do things differently to recruit the sort of enlisted soldier who could do the tasks needed to support aerial operations.

Regardless, the three Chiefs who are hesitant to change the policy now — survey be damned — are presumably reflecting not only their own cultural prejudices — these men been in uniform 35 years or more — but reflecting the natural conservatism of the institution.  Sure, there’s evidence that nothing will go wrong.  But what if it does? Gays represent a tiny portion of the potential force, after all, so why take the risk?

But that’s wrongheaded thinking.  Aside from seizing the opportunity to end a form of discrimination that will be looked upon with embarrassment in the not too distant future and complying with the wishes of the commander-in-chief, the fact of the matter is that wartime is when we can least afford to devote time and command attention to ridding ourselves of warriors whose only fault is being born with the wrong sexual orientation.

[*] UPDATE: Actually, the Coast Guard Commandant and the Vice Chairman JCS also testified, even though they’re not mentioned in the story.  So, for that matter, did Army General Carter Ham, who headed up the Pentagon’s survey.

Coast Guard Commandant  Bob Papp, while technically not one of the Service Chiefs (USCG is part of the Department of Homeland Security, not DoD) supported an immediate lifting of the ban.  Marine Corps Gen. James E. Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, did so as well, testifying that, “It is hard to foresee a time when the men and women of the U.S. military will be more focused and disciplined than they are today. We must be prudent in our approach, but there is little to suggest that the issues associated with a change in the law and DOD policy will diminish if we wait on the uncertain promise of a less challenging future.”  Ham, of course, supported the recommendations of his own report.

In terms of prestige with the Senate, the general public, and the troops, the Chairman and the Chiefs are the most important voices here, representing the senior military advisor to the president and the representatives of the four Services.   The commanders in the field, notably CENTCOM James Mattis and ISAF’s David Petraeus, would hold much weight as well.

Regardless, the public debate seems to have been won and maybe the political one as well, with Republican Senators Scott Brown and Olympia Snowe announcing their support for DADT repeal.   It’s only a question of time, now, before the policy ends.

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About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He has a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. ponce says:

    This battle is starting to resemble Vietnam.

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  2. AZB says:

    Your count is wrong–Marine General Cartwirght (Vice Chairman of the JCS) and Army General Carter Ham (Commander, US Army Europe) both testified in favor of repeal of DADT.  Thus we have 4 star Generals from the Army, Navy and Marines supporting a repeal.  I also think that both AF General Schwartz and Army General Casey are a bit more nuanced–both largely opposed implementation of a repeal in the near term, but both made supportive words about a repeal in the not so distant future.  (Schwartz said 2012).  And for what its worth, I have met many other 4 star generals in the Pentagon who quietly support repeal as well.

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  3. James Joyner says:

    @AZB
    Yes, I was correcting the post as you commented.  And still forgot about Ham.  I was just going from the AP story that I linked but, yes, there were many more voices at the hearings.

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  4. floyd says:

    DADT should never have been implemented in the first place, it was a bad idea in1993 and remains so, like boiling a frog, incrementalism usually leads to bad conclusions.

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  5. [...] 3 of 4 Service Chiefs Oppose DADT Repeal [...]

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  6. JKB says:

    You know it’s all well and good but the people who are going to have to find a way to fill the holes left by the disruption are the ones that aren’t supporting doing this now.  It’s not that the change shouldn’t be done but these guys know they can’t just run an ad for experienced operators but rather it’ll take time to fill the billets.
     
    So they repeal DADT, some combat skillsets end up with a shortage of bodies due to departures, who’s going to cover while things smooth out?  Are the chattering classes going to be clamoring for force retention of those who’d rather seek other opportunities?  It’s not that the disruption will last forever but for the short term, I’d say all those for repeal should be willing to pick up a weapon and jump out of the plane.  Just for a year or so, till the change is absorbed.

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  7. gay rino says:

    How do you know that being gay is something you are born with???

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  8. gay rino says:

    “It’s only a question of time, now, before the policy ends.”

    in another 17 years??????????

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  9. gay rino says:

    Floyd,

    Correct. Gays should never be allowed to serve in the military. Period.

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  10. If one Service was going to break from the pack, I’d have bet anything it would be the Air Force. And, no, not because they’re “more gay” but because they’re the newest and least “military” of the bunch. From the moment they won their independence from the Army in 1947, they’ve had more relaxed grooming, physical training, and discipline.

    From what I hear, the Air Force has a much higher ratio of openly political evangelical christians in it than the other service branches, so this actually isn’t suprising.

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  11. anjin-san says:

    I am tired of watching people play kick the can down the road with this. It’s not a political game. Real service men and women who are ready to die defending their country are being discriminated against. It’s un-American. It’s unacceptable.

    What exactly is the position of the dissenting service chiefs… that they only accept missions that are easy to carry out?

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  12. James Joyner says:

    What exactly is the position of the dissenting service chiefs… that they only accept missions that are easy to carry out?

    I think their position is pretty simple: We’ve got all we can handle right now and don’t need any more challenges.

    The civilian leadership can — and in this case, I think should — overrule them. But it’s not an indefensible position.

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  13. Davebo says:

    “From what I hear, the Air Force has a much higher ratio of openly political evangelical christians in it than the other service branches, so this actually isn’t suprising.”

    Yet another good reason to abandon the air force all together. NAVAIR is where the projection has always been anyway.

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  14. [...] 3 of 4 Service Chiefs Oppose DADT Repeal [...]

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  15. davod says:

    Will repeal of DADT mean the DOD will also have to take into consideration not only gay and lesbian but also transgender?

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  16. gay rino says:

    “From what I hear, the Air Force has a much higher ratio of openly political evangelical christians in it than the other service branches, so this actually isn’t suprising.”

    Probably b/c of all the gays in the Air Force

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  17. davod says:

    Part of a response to a Powerline entry on DAD – “A Marine officer writes to comment on Paul’s posts on don’t ask, don’t tell -

    “…For the time that DoD was compiling the survey, I received 6 snail-mail letters and a dozen emails to my work email and my personal email address, telling me to access the survey with a special code, then input another special code as my password before I answered a bunch of questions about DADT. Of course, according to the emails and letters, my input would be completely anonymous. Riiiiiiiiiiight. Anonymous input requires 15 digit log ins.

    I think that anyone who has been in the military more than a couple of years recognized what was going on. The decision to seek repeal has already been made and this survey is just part of the show trial. The results from the junior enlisted would be dismissed as ill-informed and contrary to “evidence,” just as you suggested. The results from officers and senior enlisted foolish enough to actually provide negative answers will be used later to “remediate” those whose answers showed that they were not with the program…”

    http://www.powerlineblog.com/archives/2010/12/027827.php

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  18. scott says:

    What does someone sexual preferences have to do with their roles in the military, can’t they keep their sexual preferences in the closet at least while at work???

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  19. scott says:

    Are the leading brass in the American military who favor homosexual openess gonna charge homosexual males for harassment of heterosexuals, if the homosexuals make heterosexuals feel “uncomfortable in the workplace” from homosexual sexual innuendos???

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  20. anjin-san says:

    > can’t they keep their sexual preferences in the closet at least while at work???

    Good point Scott. Are you ready to sign an agreement at you job that says you will be fired the next time you mention your wife or girlfriend?

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