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DADT Remarks From Gates, Mullen

DADT Remarks From Gates, Mullen

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In prepared remarks released Tuesday with the Pentagon Working Group study on "don't ask, don't tell," Defense secretary Robert Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen praised the report's findings and pushed Congress to act on repealing the 1993 law.

Below are excerpts from Secretary Gates's and Adm. Mullen's remarks, delivered on Tuesday at a Pentagon briefing with reporters:

Secretary Gates:

This past February, I established a high-level working group to review the issues associated with implementing a repeal of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" law regarding homosexual men and women serving in the military and, based on those findings, to develop recommendations for implementation, should the law change. The working group has completed their work and today the Department is releasing their report to the Congress and the American public. ...

The findings of their report reflect nearly ten months of research and analysis along several lines of study, and represent the most thorough and objective review ever of this difficult policy issue and its impact on the American military.

First, the group reached out to the force to better understand their views and attitudes about a potential repeal of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" law. As was made clear at the time, and is worth repeating today, this outreach was not a matter of taking a poll of the military to determine whether the law should be changed. The very idea of asking the force to, in effect, vote on such a matter is antithetical to our system of government and would have been without precedent in the long history of our civilian-led military. The President of the United States, the commander in chief of the Armed Forces, made his position on this matter clear -- a position I support. Our job, as the civilian and military leadership of the Department of Defense, was to determine how best to prepare for such a change should the Congress change the law.

Nonetheless, I thought it critically important to engage our troops and their families on this issue, as ultimately it will be they who will determine whether or not such a transition is successful. I believed that we had to learn the attitudes, obstacles and concerns that would need to be addressed should the law be changed. We could do this only by reaching out and listening to our men and women in uniform and their families. The working group undertook this through a variety of means -- from a mass survey answered by tens of thousands of troops and their spouses to meetings with small groups and individuals, including hearing from those discharged under the current law. ...

The findings suggest that for large segments of the military repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," though potentially disruptive in the short term, would not be the wrenching, traumatic change that many have feared and predicted.

With regards to readiness, the working group report concluded that overall, and with thorough preparation -- and I emphasize thorough preparation -- there is a low risk from repealing Don't Ask Don't Tell. However, as I mentioned earlier, the survey data showed that a higher proportion -- between 40 and 60 percent -- of those troops serving in predominantly all-male combat specialties -- mostly Army and Marines, but including the special operations formations of the Navy and Air Force -- predicted a negative effect on unit cohesion from repealing the current law. ...

In my view, the concerns of combat troops as expressed in the survey do not present an insurmountable barrier to a successful repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." This can be done, and it should be done, without posing a serious risk to military readiness. However, these findings do lead me to conclude that an abundance of care and preparation is required if we are to avoid a disruptive -- and potentially dangerous -- impact on the performance of those serving at the tip of the spear in America's wars.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen:

Let me state right up-front that I fully endorse their report, its findings, and the implementation plan recommended by the Working Group.

The Working Group was given a tall order. Indeed, nothing less than producing the first truly comprehensive assessment of not only the impact of repeal of the law governing Don't Ask, Don't Tell, but also about how best to implement a new policy across the Joint Force.

As the Secretary indicated, the Working Group surveyed our troops and their spouses, consulted proponents and opponents of repeal and examined military experience around the world. They also spoke with serving gays and lesbians.

The result is one of the most expansive studies ever done on military personnel issues, and I applaud the time that was taken to arrive at solid, defensible conclusions.

More critically, I was gratified to see that the Working Group focused their findings and recommendations rightly on those who would be most affected by a change in the law: our people. All of our people.

And so for the first time the Chiefs and I have more than just anecdotal evidence and hearsay to inform the advice we give our civilian leaders. We have discussed this issue extensively amongst ourselves and with the Secretary. And the Chiefs and I met with the President as recently as yesterday. ...

Should repeal occur, I share the Secretary's desire that it come about through legislation; through the same process with which the law was enacted rather than precipitously through the courts.

I further hope that such debate in the Congress will be as fully informed by the good work done in this report as my advice to the Secretary and the President will be.

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