Earlier this afternoon, the Senate Armed Services Committee completed the first of two hearings this week on the Pentagon's just-released report on “Don't Ask, Don't Tell” (DADT). The hearing featured testimony from Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Michael Mullen, as well as the two co-chairs of the Pentagon working group that was tasked with producing the report.
Secretary Gates and Adm. Mullen did an outstanding job speaking to the need for the Senate to act and vote to allow for a repeal of DADT. Defense Department General Counsel Jeh Johnson and General Carter Ham both did a good job of explaining the report's conclusions and recommendations, and of standing by them.
As expected, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and other committee Republicans attempted to downplay the significance of the Pentagon's report and its striking conclusions, such as the 69 percent of service members who said they had worked in a unit with a coworker that they believed to be lesbian, gay or bisexual. Of those, 92 percent stated that their unit's “ability to work together” with a gay person was “very good, good or neither good nor poor.”
Try as they did, opponents could not shake the abundantly obvious fact that repealing this discriminatory and unconstitutional policy does not present the kind of “mountain lift” that many had long feared would be the case.
The most compelling moment of the day came as Adm. Mullen delivered his opening statement to the committee. It is obvious that he cares deeply about this issue, and the many men and women whose lives and careers have been harmed by DADT. He ended his testimony by stating:
You do not have to agree with me on this issue. But don't think for one moment that I haven't carefully considered the impact of the advice I give on those who will have to live with the decisions that advice informs. I would not recommend repeal of this law if I did not believe in my soul that it was the right thing to do for our military, for our nation and for our collective honor.
After hearing him speak, it was hard to imagine how anyone could come up with an argument against moving forward with repeal.
Friday's hearing will feature the testimony of the vice chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the four service chiefs, Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines, as well as head of the Coast Guard. Assuming repeal moves forward over the coming weeks and becomes law, these are the individuals who will be tasked with seeing that it is successfully implemented. Opponents of repeal will likely use the hearing as an opportunity to sow dissent among the uniformed leadership of the military with Adm. Mullen, Secretary Gates and President Obama.
Be sure to check back to our website for a post-hearing blog summary following Day 2 in the Senate Armed Services Committee.