HRC Blog

Senate and House Hearings Move DADT Repeal Forward

Today, the Armed Services Committees of the Senate and House held concurrent hearings regarding defense authorization requests for Fiscal Year 2011.  General George Casey, Chief of Staff of the Army, and John McHugh, Secretary of the Army, appeared before the Senate Committee, while General Norton A. Schwartz, Chief of Staff of the Air Force, and Michael Donley, Secretary of the Air Force, appeared before the House Committee. Nearly all of the testimony and questions focused on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the impact of the wars on the force, weapons system acquisition, and other important defense related topics.  Despite the fact that the hearings were focused on these matters, it is clear that some members of both committees had “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) on their minds.  During the Senate hearing, Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee Carl Levin, D-Mich., pointed out that previous testimony before the Committee by Secretary Robert Gates and Chairman Michael Mullen made it clear that these top leaders believe DADT needs to be repealed – and that the military’s only remaining question is “how” to implement this repeal. Moreover, in character with his newfound disregard for the conclusions of the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff that DADT must go, Senator John McCain, R-Ariz., asked General Casey if the service chiefs’ opinions should weigh heavily in evaluating repeal.  Based on this question, it is obvious that Senator McCain has chosen to ignore that the military’s top leaders have already committed to repealing DADT – and are not reviewing “if” discharges should be stopped, but how to implement open service.  He is obviously grasping for straws to support his flip-flop on the issue of repealing DADT.  In 2006, he said, “the day that the leadership of the military comes to me and says, ‘Senator, we ought to change the policy,’ then I think we ought to consider seriously changing it.”  Now that military leadership had done just that, Senator McCain is making desperate attempts to find someone in the military that agrees with how he wants to handle DADT.  On the other side of the Capitol, Congressman Vic Snyder, D-Ark., asked Secretary Donley if he is aware that there are different standards for discharges under the DADT law in different areas of the U.S.  Secretary Donley acknowledged that DADT is being applied inconsistently across the U.S., and that the legal community is aware of the problem.  Based on this acknowledgement, it hard to believe that any inconsistently applied law can be said to be, as Senator McCain has previously put it, “working well.” Commenting on today’s hearings, Jarrod Chlapowski, an advocate on DADT for the Human Rights Campaign, said, “today, there were no surprises in the testimony provided by General Casey and General Schwartz.  In recent testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Secretary Gates and Chairman Mullen made it clear that ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ needs to be repealed and that the military must investigate how to best do so.  General Casey and General Schwartz raised no fundamental concerns with this approach.” Today’s hearings helped move us closer to repeal of DADT by showing that the leaders of our Army and Air Force support the course laid out by Secretary Gates and Chairman Mullen.

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