Repeal Rhetoric



COMMENTARY: The Pentagon needs more time and is not ready to follow the decision of a federal judge who ordered the military to suspend all investigations and discharges relating to the “don’t ask, don’t tell” law. That is the view of the Honorable Clifford Stanley, Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness. In this capacity Stanley is the senior most civilian in charge of all personnel matters across the military.

Earlier this week Stanley submitted a declaration to U.S. district judge Virginia Phillips in response to her ruling ordering the Pentagon to halt all activities related to DADT. This followed Phillips's decision last month in the Log Cabin Republicans trial, where she struck down the policy as a violation of gay and lesbian service members’ free speech and due process rights. The Justice Department has appealed the case, and Phillips will consider the government’s request for a stay of the injunction during a Monday afternoon court hearing in Riverside, Calif.

In his declaration, Stanley argues, “During the pendency of that appeal, the military should not be required to suddenly and immediately restructure a major personnel policy that has been in place for years, particularly during a time when the Nation is involved in combat operations overseas. The magnitude of repealing the DADT law and policy is demonstrated by the Department's ongoing efforts to study the implications of repealing DADT[.]”

Stanley seems to forget that the military, and everyone else for that matter, does not have the luxury of deciding when to follow a judge’s orders. In asking for a stay of this decision, the military must demonstrate that the harm of repeal implementation is greater than the harm posed to gay and lesbian service members living under DADT, who must lie about their identity every day and live under the constant fear of being discharged.

Simply stating that this policy has been in place for years boils down to the inertia of “we’ve always done it that way.” And the urgency of our nation being in the midst of two major conflicts highlights the fact that our military needs every capable, patriotic American willing to put themselves in harm’s way. Adm. Mike Mullen, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, alluded to this fact during his February testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, when he expressed his opinion that DADT should become history. If Stanley had his way, our military would continue to discharge Arabic linguists, pilots, doctors, nurses, infantrymen, and many others, simply because he feels we’re not ready yet and need more time to study the issue.

The Pentagon will release the results of its nine-month study to Congress on December 1. The purpose of this study is to address how the Pentagon will implement a repeal of DADT. Even by that deadline, the Pentagon will not be ready, but will in fact need much more time, according to Stanley. He writes: “December 1 is by no means, however, the date on which the Department may be prepared to implement a change to DADT in the event the DADT law is repealed or eliminated. Additional steps that must occur after December 1 include review, assessment, and approval of the Working Groups' report and recommendations by the leadership of the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines; the Secretary of Defense; and by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.”

President Barack Obama must certify that repeal will not be detrimental to the military, according to the repeal legislation that is pending in Congress. There is no reason this cannot be done on December 2, immediately following the release of the Pentagon’s study.