House Panel Examines DADT Review; Evaluation of Fairer Discharge Methods to be Announced Soon
March 3, 2010
oday, the Military Personnel Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee, which is Chaired by Congresswoman Susan Davis (D-CA), conducted a hearing to examine the Department of Defense Working Group that has been established to investigate how to implement repeal of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law (DADT). Testifying at the hearing were: Dr. Clifford Stanley, Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness; Honorable Jeh Johnson, General Counsel of the Department of Defense; and General Carter Ham, Commanding General, U.S. Army Europe. Mr. Johnson and General Ham are co-chairing the Working Group that is assessing how DADT repeal can be implemented throughout the military. In addition to more information about the Working Group assessment scope and process, the other news out of the hearing was a clearer deadline for release of the recommendations of the separate 45-day review that Secretary of Defense Robert Gates announced last month. The General Counsel of the Department of Defense will provide recommendations to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates on how to apply DADT in a “fairer and more appropriate way” on or about March 19. Obviously, any decrease in discharges is commendable, but continued pressure for complete repeal must continue. In a joint statement on the Working Group assessment, the witnesses announced four key principles that will guide the Working Group:
- soliciting the views of a wide array of individuals from the different services and individuals and groups with diverse views on DADT repeal;
- engaging Members of Congress throughout the process;
- conducting the review without disrupting war efforts; and
- asking all members of the Working Group to be neutral and objective in conducting this assessment.
Based on answers to questions by several congressmen and congresswomen in attendance, which included Chairwoman Davis, Congressman Vic Snyder (D-AK), Congresswoman Linda Sanchez (D-CA), Congressman Hank Johnson (D-GA), Congresswoman Niki Tsongas (D-MA), Congressman Patrick Murphy (D-PA), Ranking Member Joe Wilson (R-SC) and Congressman John Fleming (R-LA), the assessment will also include an update to the 1993 RAND Corporation study on DADT, a review of the prohibition of “sodomy” – which includes oral sex by opposite sex partners – in the Uniform Code of Military Justice, a review of the reasons why women are discharged at a higher rate than men under DADT, and a study of the experiences of other countries that allow open service by lesbian and gay service members. In fact, according to those providing testimony, other countries, including Israel, have already been consulted about their experiences with open service. Notably, in response to a question by Congressman Snyder, General Ham stated that lesbians and gays in active service will have a voice in the Working Group assessment. General Ham acknowledged that this will be difficult to do without triggering a DADT discharge, but he believes their voices could be collected under a policy of strict confidentiality by a non-government source or by some other method. He also stated that DADT discharged, and non-discharged, lesbian and gay veterans will be consulted. In addition, General Ham said that in accessing the views of military families, the Working Group will reach out to a wide range of families – which he seemed to be implying included the families of lesbian and gay service member. He further explained that such outreach to families is important because the opinions of military families effect enlistment and re-enlistment. Finally, Mr. Johnson articulated the objectives of the Working Group assessment, including studies of the impact that DADT repeal would have on military readiness, recruitment and retention, unit cohesion, and “ military family readiness”. He did not expand on how “military family readiness” is defined. Legislation has been introduced to repeal DADT in both the House and Senate. On July 8, 2009, Congressman Murphy became the lead sponsor of Military Readiness Enhancement Act (H.R. 1283), and today, Senator Joe Lieberman (I-CT) introduced a Senate version of the bill.