Here in Washington, D.C., efforts to finally repeal the discriminatory and ineffective "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (DADT) policy gather increasing momentum by the day. However, some in the Pentagon could do better by more closely listening to the views of Gen. David Petraeus, Commander of U.S. Central Command, and Joint Chiefs Chairman Michael Mullen. In appearances before two congressional committees yesterday, Gen. George Casey, the Army chief of staff, and Gen. Norton Schwartz, the Air Force chief of staff, expressed their mutual concerns about moving too swiftly in repealing DADT.
According to an article by Thom Shanker in today's New York Times, Gen. Casey told the Senate Armed Services Committee: "I do have serious concerns about the impact of repeal of the law on a force that's fully engaged in two wars and has been at war for eight-and-a-half years."
Gen. Schwartz added, in an appearance before the House Armed Services Committee: "This is not the time to perturb the force that is, at the moment, stretched by demands in Iraq and Afghanistan and elsewhere without careful deliberation."
It's important to note that neither Gens. Casey nor Schwartz came out in opposition to the process currently being undertaken by the civilian and military leadership at the Pentagon and in Congress to finally repeal this national security dinosaur known as DADT. Their comments certainly seem less than enthusiastic, however, particularly compared to the comments of Gen. Petraeus and Chairman Mullen.
What I find particularly ironic about the comments of Gens. Casey and Schwartz is that, in attempting to pour cold water on the burning-hot momentum of repeal, they really provide an additional reason why fully repealing DADT is critical and timely.
The Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) has correctly pointed out that the military has discharged almost 800 mission-critical troops and at least 59 Arabic and nine Farsi linguists under "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" in the last five years. To Gen. Casey, I would ask the question: what does firing 800 mission-critical troops do for our military readiness when we are "fully engaged in two wars?" To Gen. Schwartz, does it not "perturb" our forces to eliminate the invaluable language skills of 59 Arabic and nine Farsi linguists?
The simple, undeniable truth is that repealing this counterproductive policy will actually strengthen our national security and military readiness over time, and especially during a time of war as the testimony of Gens. Casey and Schwartz so helpfully point out.