Tuesday, May 25, 2010

White House, DoD and Lawmakers Maneuver on Don’t Ask Don’t Tell

CAPT Marshall Hanson
Legislative Director

An agreement was announced by the White House claiming that they have received consent from Pentagon leaders, laying the groundwork for action to be taken in both the House and Senate to repeal the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT) law.

Last week, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi declared that the Pentagon's "Don't ask, don't tell" policy will be nothing but a memory by year's end. She proposed that a repeal of DADT should be considered as an amendment to the House’s version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). ROA responded with a letter to both the Speaker and House Minority Leader John Boehner, suggesting that such legislation would be “hasty action.” ROA indicated that the Pentagon should be allowed to complete its report on the impact of a repeal of DADT, allowing serving members and their families an opportunity to provide feedback.

Read ROA's letter to Speaker Pelosi and House Minority Leader Boehner

Senator Carl Levin, Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, announced that he planned to include similar legislation in the mark-up of the Senate NDAA, which would be based on legislation introduced by Senator Joe Lieberman earlier in the year. “There is no evidence that the presence of gay and lesbian colleagues would damage our military’s ability to fight. Gay men and women are serving now, and their fellow service members know they are serving with them. Their service is not damaging unit cohesion and morale,” said Senator Levin in an opening statement in a March hearing on DADT.

Despite leadership support in both chambers, uncertainty existed among conservative Democrats and Republicans about appealing the law. Many had mixed feelings about not allowing the Pentagon to complete its study on the impact of such a repeal on the military. A letter was sent by the Pentagon at the end of April, requesting that any proposed legislation be delayed until after the December 1 due date.

The White House became involved to open dialogue with Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates and Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs to see if common ground could be found. In a letter from the Office of Management and Budget it has been reported that the White House and Pentagon leaders are both on board with a compromise approach that would allow Congress to repeal the law, but delay its implementation until after the review is completed, and after the president, secretary of defense, and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff certify that the repeal would be consistent with the military’s standards of readiness, effectiveness, unit cohesion, recruiting and retention. There is no timetable or deadline associated with this compromise.

The Associated Press reports that the endorsement by Secretary Gates is lukewarm, and that he would prefer that Congress wait to vote until he can talk to the troops and chart a path forward.

Even with an agreement between the White House and the Pentagon, there will still be resistance in Congress. Opposition among some lawmakers casts doubt on whether Congress will lift the 17 year old ban this week. Speaker Pelosi has indicated that if she doesn’t have the votes in the House, the amendment will not be brought up for consideration on the floor.

No comments: