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Levin Future Discharges A Dilemma

Following is a Q&A between reporters and Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, following Thursday's hearing with Navy secretary Raymond Mabus Jr., Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Gary Roughead, and Marine commandant Gen. James Conway. Levin did not ask the witnesses any specific questions about placing a moratorium on "don't ask, don't tell" discharges, which was a main point of inquiry for him during Tuesday's hearing with the Army secretary and service chiefs.

Question: Have you changed your mind on the moratorium?
Levin: No, not at all.

Why did you ask Secretary Mabus if he knew about Secretary Gates's efforts to constrain the number of discharges even before the law is changed?
Just curious to see how widely known those efforts are and what he can add to them.

Will there still be enough support for a moratorium now that some service chiefs have weighed in against it?
Apparently, the issue of a moratorium has not been raised internally [inside the Pentagon] -- Secretary Mabus said it was not raised. I think it will become more logical as the year goes on, as we see what the implications are of two things: one is the president's decision to try to end the program -- as to whether that is weighed in courts and whether or not people are going to be discharged at the same time the program is being planned for termination.

It's kind of hard, it seems to me, to be discharging people once the commander in chief says the program ought to end. That's a very tough position to justify. That's why I think the moratorium is a great approach because it doesn't prejudge the outcome.

The commander in chief's decision is much more a prejudgment in outcome than a moratorium is, so I think it's a logical way to address the dilemma that you create if people are going to be discharged pending an assessment which is aimed at ending a program which discharges them.

So I think there's a real logic to it and the only thing we'll be waiting for is a legal opinion as to whether there's legal problems for pending cases with either the announcement of the president or the possibility of a moratorium. We need a legal assessment of that.

So to some extent you're saying that Secretary Gates is already trying to shrink down the discharges ...

How they're able to do that, we'll have to wait and see, but that is their goal -- to reduce the number of discharges. But it seems to me it's a real dilemma to be discharging people after the commander in chief says people shouldn't be discharged. And he's going to try to figure out with this assessment how you do that. It seems to me that creates a real dilemma for all of us as to how do you discharge people if the president has decided they shouldn't be discharged.

Some people are concerned that a vote on a moratorium would preclude a vote on repeal.
That's not my concern. My concern would be that the vote on ending "don't ask, don't tell" would be defeated. You've got an assessment under way, you've got a couple service chiefs opposed to it maybe altogether -- I think there would be great difficulty in succeeding to repeal.

I don't favor going to vote if it's going to be defeated. I think that would be a setback for those of us who think the program should be repealed. It's a setback if we lose the vote.

I would much prefer if we could get a moratorium. It's just logical to me -- once the commander in chief says people shouldn't be discharged for simply being gay, I think there's a real dilemma there. And as we think about that during these coming months before the markup, hopefully we'll lead people to see that the moratorium is an attractive position because it doesn't prejudge the outcome of the assessment. If there's going to be discharges, it delays them. Hopefully they won't take place. But at least it's not a setback.

One thing I want to do is advance the cause and not set it back.

Advocate Magazine - KehlaniAdvocate Magazine - Gus Kenworthy

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