Top military commanders withhold support for DADT repeal

Posted: Dec 03, 2010 4:29 PM MST Updated: Dec 03, 2010 5:48 PM MST

By Joseph Neese

Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Amos is perhaps the strongest opponent of the DADT repeal.(Source: CNN)

Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey favors a repeal – just not now. (Source: CNN)

WASHINGTON (RNN) – The commanders of three branches of the U.S. military told a congressional committee Friday that they are opposed to an immediate repeal of "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell," the policy that keeps openly gay individuals from serving in the armed forces.

The commanders spoke during the second day of hearings before the Senate Armed Forces Committee, just a few days after Defense Secretary Robert Gates officially released results of a study that show more than two-thirds of active-duty military support repealing the ban.

Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Nolan Schwartz said they might favor a repeal eventually, but not now.

"I do not agree with the assessment that the short-term risk to military effectiveness is low," Casey said.

Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Amos refused to express his views on repeal at all.

The three commanders’ lack of support stood in sharp contrast to testimony by Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen, in which they urged Congress to act quickly to repeal the ban before the courts have a chance to do it. The two men testified before the Senate committee Thursday.

Schwartz and Casey argued that repealing the ban would have short-term risks and would be difficult for combat units, especially the Army.

Casey also expressed concern over adding another layer of stress to military forces already plagued by nearly a decade of war. And while Amos would not express his personal beliefs about the ban, he said that for now, he won’t turn his back on Marines who have expressed concern about serving with openly gay men and woman.

According to the survey, released Monday, 45 percent of Marines said they believe repealing DADT would negatively affect troop effectiveness, readiness and cohesion.

The other half of the high-ranking panel of military officials – Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. James Cartwright, Navy Commandant Adm. Gary Roughead and Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Robert Papp – all recommended that DADT be repealed soon.

Both Roughead and Papp said there are sizable minorities in the Navy and Coast Guard who believe the impact would be negative. Papp said these views won’t be ignored and will be resolved if implementation of the repeal is carefully carried out.

Gen. Cartwright, who also spent time speaking with troops about the issue, expressed his confidence in the results of a Pentagon work study that recommended the repeal.

"I’m inclined to trust the real world opinion of our men and women on the battlefield," he said.

Michigan Sen. Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Service Committee, pointed out that while Cartwright was also a Marine, he had a decisively different opinion from Amos.

Sitting at Amos’ side, Cartwright said that his opinion was largely impacted by the 92 percent of survey respondents who knew gay troops and supported their service.

He said that the negative responses from Marines were returned by those who did not have experience serving with gay troops.

Whatever the chiefs think, the fate of the policy is in the hands of Congress for now.

Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman, in addressing the panel of commanders before him, borrowed a sentiment previously expressed by Gates in regards to orders that would be given to troops should DADT be repealed:

"You will not only follow the judgment of Congress, you will make it work," he said.


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