HRC Blog

Secretary of Defense and Service Chiefs Testimony Questioned by New Legislation

Yesterday, Congressman Duncan Hunter (R-CA) introduced the so-called Restore Military Readiness Act (H.R. 337). This legislation requires that all four military service chiefs certify that implementation of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) repeal does not impact military effectiveness before final repeal of the DADT law can occur. Based on the DADT repeal legislation enacted in December, the President, Secretary of Defense, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff are already required to provide this certification before repeal occurs. Congressman Hunter’s legislation needlessly expands the certification process further down the chain-of-command.

Congressman Hunter’s legislation is a clear rebuke of the testimony provided by Secretary Gates and the service chiefs before the Senate Armed Services Committee in December.  Army Chief General Casey was asked if expanding certification to the service chiefs was necessary.  His response was clear: “I don’t think it’s necessary.” Secretary Gates also testified on this point.  He stated he would not certify DADT repeal until he was "satisfied with the advice of the service chiefs that we had, in fact, mitigated, if not eliminated to the extent possible risks to combat readiness, to unit cohesion and effectiveness." Further, all of the service chiefs testified that they are very comfortable with their ability to provide military advice to Secretary Gates and have it heard. Based on testimony at the hearing, it was clear that the opinions of the service chiefs would be reflected by the certification of Secretary Gates.

This legislation is not only unnecessary, but also misguided. A guiding principle in the American military is respect for the chain-of-command. When the President, Secretary of Defense, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff determine military policy, Congress should not authorize individuals lower in the chain-of-command to veto that determination. This would be unprecedented and damaging to the culture of our nation’s military. During testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee in December, Army Chief General Casey explained that expanding the certification process would “undercut Goldwater-Nichols,” which established the command structure of the U.S. military. However, because Congressman Hunter is grasping for straws to delay the repeal of DADT, he has ignored the testimony of military officials and the military’s established chain-of-command.

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