Military Leaders: Go Slow on Lifting Gay Ban
In something of a reversal of recent statements, the senior leadership of the Army and Air Force warned Congress about moving too fast to end the ban on gays serving openly.
Top Army and Air Force officers said Tuesday they would be reluctant to overturn a 17-year policy that prohibits gays from serving openly in the military without more time to ascertain it won’t hurt the services.
“I do have serious concerns about the impact of a repeal of the law on a force that is fully engaged in two wars and has been at war for eight and a half years,” Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey told Congress. “We just don’t know the impacts on readiness and military effectiveness.” As Casey cautioned the Senate Armed Services Committee against moving too fast to repeal the law, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz made similar remarks before the House.
The carefully crafted comments indicate reluctance among the military’s senior ranks to act anytime soon on President Barack Obama’s plan to repeal the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. Obama says the policy is wrongheaded and should change. Defense Secretary Robert Gates agrees but wants to move slowly, and has ordered a lengthy assessment on how to lift the ban without affecting troops and their families.
Officials expect the study to be complete by the end of the year, but that it could be several more years before the repeal is fully implemented.
Gates, JCS Chairman Mike Mullen, and CENTCOM chief David Petraeus have all recently said that lifting the ban could be accomplished without much problem. But today’s statements aren’t terribly surprising: This is a major cultural change and the military is a conservative institution.
The change is coming; the question is whether to implement it immediately or over the course of a few years. The latter is the default position.