by Shaun Knittel -
SGN Associate Editor
Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and the new Marine commandant General James Amos made contradictory statements over the weekend regarding, 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' (DADT), while speculation surfaced about a deal that would remove the repeal provision from the defense funding bill, which has yet to be voted on.
Confused yet? The drama surrounding a possible repeal of the 1993 law banning Gays from serving openly in the military has become all too familiar to Americans, even as recent polling shows that the will of the American people is for the outdated and discriminatory policy to be repealed.
For months now, Secretary Gates, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen, and President Barack Obama have consistently called upon Congress to wait on repeal until the Pentagon delivers its study in December on whether or not troops support a lift of the ban. Gates, however, took a break from this approach on November 6, citing the new GOP takeover of Congress as his reason for congressional action before they have full control.
'I would like to see the repeal of DADT, but I'm not sure what the prospects for that are,' Gates told the Associated Press on Saturday.
While Gates was beating the repeal drum, Gen. Amos voiced opposition to repeal, because with forces still deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq, he thinks that now is the wrong time for any major policy shifts for combat troops.
'This is not a social thing,' he said. 'This is combat effectiveness.'
The Marine Corps has long been the military branch most worried that lifting the ban would hurt the ability to fight, and harm the tight personal bond within military units.
'There is nothing more intimate than young men and young women - and when you talk of infantry, we're talking our young men - laying out, sleeping alongside of one another, and sharing death, fear, and loss of brothers,' Amos said Saturday. 'I don't know what the effect of that will be on cohesion. I mean, that's what we're looking at. It's unit cohesion, it's combat effectiveness.'
Adm. Mullen said he thought the top brass had agreed to make recommendations privately to Defense Secretary Gates.
'I was surprised by what he said and surprised he said it publicly,' Mullen told reporters in Australia, where he attended meetings of defense and diplomatic chiefs.
It seems the Pentagon will need a mop and bucket to clean this up.
Speaking of a mess, additional leaked details of the Pentagon study on lifting the ban surfaced this week, with troops saying that the risks associated with a repeal would be minimal - a direct contradiction to Gen. Amos' observation of unit cohesion.
According to The Washington Post, 'More than 70% of respondents to a survey sent to active-duty and reserve troops over the summer said the effect of repealing the DADT policy would be 'positive, mixed, or nonexistent,' said two sources familiar with the document. The survey results led the report's authors to conclude that objections to open Gay colleagues would drop once troops were able to live and serve alongside them.'
The Post reports that the study document is divided into two parts: one based on survey findings, and the other presenting a potential plan for ending the policy.
'The document totals about 370 pages and is divided into two section. The first section explores whether repealing DADT would harm unit readiness or morale. It cites the findings of a survey sent over the summer to 400,000 active-duty and reserve troops, a separate questionnaire sent to about 150,000 military spouses, the responses submitted to an anonymous online drop box seeking comments, and responses from focus-group participants.'
The second part of the report 'presents a plan for ending enforcement of the ban.'
The Pentagon study is not due until December 1.
In a move that many in the LGBT community could've predicted, there is an effort in the works by Senator Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, to potentially move a stripped-down version of the must-pass National Defense Authorization Act that would exclude repeal.
According to a source close to Levin, who spoke to the Associated Press on the condition of anonymity, 'Levin is making calls under the premise - we can't afford to waste time on controversial provisions, so we'll strip out the controversial provision and be able to get the bill on and off the floor in the available amount of time.'
If all of this speculation is true, then time is not on our side. Senate majority leader Harry Reid has already left the National Defense Authorization Act out of his lineup of three bills to be considered during the week of November 15. Senators will then adjourn for the Thanksgiving holiday and return November 29.
Here's where it gets dicey for pro-repeal advocates. Reid has said that he would like to adjourn for the year early on December 10, which would leave just two weeks to complete the defense bill. What are the possibilities of the Senate working towards repeal in two weeks? Slim to none.
Adding more fuel to the fire on Monday was the Obama administration, which issued an official statement saying the administration does not approve to remove the repeal measure from the legislation.
'The White House opposes any effort to strip DADT from the National Defense Authorization Act,' said Dan Pfeiffer, White House communications director.
Still, President Obama has said his priorities for the lame-duck session include ratifying the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty and extending President Bush's tax cuts for middle-class Americans - both of which require lengthy debate. In other words, once again, LGBT equality takes a backseat in the Senate.
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