As the White House met with congressional leadership Thursday afternoon in an effort to avert the impending government shutdown, members of the House Armed Services Committee sought answers from military officials on the implementation of "don't ask, don't tell" repeal -- a hearing derided by critics as a waste of time and taxpayer money.
The hearing included testimony from Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Gary Roughead, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton A. Schwartz, Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James F. Amos, and Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli.
Similar to an armed services subcommittee hearing last week on "don't ask, don't tell," some DADT repeal detractors used the hearing in part to question the wisdom of the repeal bill, which President Barack Obama signed into law in December. In opening remarks, committee chairman Rep. Buck McKeon of California said that research on ending the policy lacked "in-depth analysis" and led to a "rush to judgment" by Congress, which passed the bill during the lame-duck session.
The four officials, some of whom expressed concern about the impact of repeal on military readiness in congressional hearings last year, reported no problems thus far with initial training, however -- nor was there any indication that recruitment efforts were being harmed as a result.
"The U.S. Navy can successfully implement repeal of the law," Roughead said in prepared remarks. "Repeal will not change who we are or what we do."
Amos, who said in December that repeal could lead to "distraction" and possibly endanger the lives of Marines, told the committee that on a recent trip to Afghanistan he noticed, "there hasn't been the recalcitrant push-back, there's not been the anxiety from the forces in the field. ..."Overall I am confident that Marine leaders at all levels will ensure compliance" of DADT repeal, Amos said.
Meanwhile, Pentagon officials dealt with more pressing matters for service members than the hearing -- namely the government's ability to pay them. Defense secretary Robert M. Gates told Army troops in Baghdad Thursday that a government shutdown lasting a week meant that troops would receive only half of their April 15 paycheck, The New York Timesreports. Should the shutdown last until the end of the month, troops would lose an entire paycheck.
are more worried about seeing that a government shutdown does not happen so that they can still get paid next week than they are about
the 'don't ask, don't tell' policy coming to an end," Servicemembers United executive director Alex Nicholson said.
Rep. Adam Smith, the ranking Democrat on the committee, said in a statement for Thursday's hearing: "The debate on whether to allow gays and lesbians to serve in uniform has ended. It is time to focus on preparing the force and ensuring that leadership, professionalism, and respect is the hallmark in how we treat all members of the Armed Forces."
LGBT organizations echoed the sentiment. "Senior military leaders have said repeatedly that implementation of 'don't ask, don't tell' repeal is being accomplished carefully, methodically and without disruption, and we're confident that will be reiterated in today's hearing," Human Rights Campaign spokesman Michael Cole-Schwartz said Thursday prior to the hearing. "Unfortunately, it's also likely that the House Republican majority will use the hearing as an opportunity to grind a political ax."
Thursday's testimony follows a hearing last week in the House Armed Services Military Personnel Subcommittee, where Pentagon officials informed committee members that 200,000 service members, or about 10% of the overall force, had thus far been trained on DADT repeal implementation. Implementation could be completed by September after it is certified by the president, secretary of Defense, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and followed by a 60-day waiting period.