Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” not on fast track

Marshall Hanson
Legislative Director

With a late night vote, the House voted to repeal the ban on homosexuals serving in the armed forces, as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act. In a 234-194 vote, an amendment offered by Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-PA) was passed pretty much along party lines with five Republicans voting in favor, and 26 Democrats voting against. The House later on Friday voted 229-186 to pass the defense bill, H.R.5136.

Also on Thursday, the Senate Armed Services Committee passed 16-12 a companion amendment to repeal DADT. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) was the lone Republican on the committee joining 15 of her Democratic colleagues to approve the measure. Sen. Jim Webb (Va.) was the only Democrat to vote against it. The marked-up version of the National Defense Authorization Act, S.3280, was voted out of committee. Chairman Carl Levin hopes that the bill will go to a floor vote before the summer recess in August.

Based on a compromise between the White House and the Pentagon, if the repeal is signed into law as part of the defense funding bill, the measure would not immediately take effect. DADT would continue as the official policy of the military until two actions occur: the Pentagon completes a study due in December to determine the impact of the repeal on the military, and the President, secretary of defense, and chairman of the Joint Chiefs must certify that repeal will not weaken military discipline and readiness. Once these two events occur, it will take another 60 days to implement the repeal.

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates in a Memorial Day message to the troops reassured serving members that even though Congress voted to repeal DADT, that it was a deferred action, and will take months before there is any change. “The Department of Defense review on this issue that I initiated earlier this year will continue as before and is more important than ever,” Secretary Gates said. “This review is charged with conducting the first thorough and fact-based assessment of the impact of this policy change and developing an implementation plan that minimizes any possible disruption to the Department’s mission and ongoing operations.”

Other issues could delay DADT even further. The Politico reports that the Senate is full of unrelated controversial provisions that have to be reconciled with the House version. This includes a “pull authority” to fund construction of a military detention facility in Illinois to replace the prison at Guantanamo, where House language blocks such money. The Senate bill would cut half the amount of money requested to assist the Iraqi security forces during US withdrawal. The House included dollars for an alternative engine for F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. If the Senate agrees, the White House has threatened to veto the National Defense Bill over the inclusion of an alternative engine.

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