Live Blog: 'Don't ask, don't tell' Senate hearing
Updated 1:51 p.m.
The nation’s top civilian and uniformed military leadership embraced President Obama’s call for a repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that prohibits gays from openly serving in the military and announced the creation of a working group to study the implementation of any repeal.
Despite their personal views on the matter, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, stressed that any final decision rests with Congress and that they eagerly anticipate the findings of the working group.
Gates tapped Defense Department General Counsel Jeh Johnson and Gen. Carter Ham to lead the working group and both he and Mullen begged for patience from lawmakers and the American public.
“There hasn’t been an objective survey of our people and their families,” Mullen said, adding later that, “As urgently as some would like this to happen, it’s just going to take some time to do it.”
Gates also asked lawmakers for a full year to implement any potential repeal, meaning at this point that gays would not be able to openly serve in the military until early 2012 at the earliest.
The hearing shone no new light on a legislative path forward, though the panel’s chairman, Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) at one point appeared to suggest that legislation to repeal the policy would appear in this year’s Defense authorization bill.
"My goal will be to move quickly but deliberately to maximize the opportunity for all Americans to serve their country while addressing any concerns that may be raised," Levin said at the start of the hearing. "We should end 'don’t ask, don’t tell,' and we can and should do it in a way that honors our nation’s values while making it more secure."
The committee’s ranking Republican, Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), wholeheartedly disagreed.
"We should not be seeking to overturn the 'don’t ask, don’t tell policy,'” McCain said at the start of the hearing.
“Numerous military leaders tell me that ‘don't ask, don't tell’ is working and that we should not change it now,” he said. “I agree. I would welcome a report done by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, based solely on readiness... and not on politics.”
Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) noted that the current “don’t ask” policy will make it difficult for the working group to objectively survey gay men and lesbians currently serving in uniform.
“I think that we would have to look very carefully at how we would do that,” Mullen said in response to her concerns.
“We don’t have any kind of issue with morale or cohesiveness…yet when it comes time to evaluating their service, they’re not allowed to talk about it, and so you have a real challenge in getting perhaps some of the most important input you may need,” McCaskill said.
Read more coverage and review The Eye's full blow-by-blow below:
Live coverage of the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on repealing the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy, which bans gay people from openly serving in the military. Leave your thoughts on the hearing and the policy in the comments section below.
1:24 p.m. ET: As Sen. Levin concludes the hearing, he asks Gates and Mullen to explore what they can do to ensure discharged servicemembers get their full discharge benefits instead of just half, as is current policy.
And with that, the 73 minute hearing is adjourned.
1:19 p.m. ET: Please join UCLA demographer and nationally renowned researcher Gary Gates for some post-hearing analysis at 2 p.m. ET. He’s studied the impact of “don’t ask, don’t tell” for years and has produced reams of useful research on the American gay population.
1:14 p.m. ET: Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) just struck at a very critical element of this year-long review.
She asked Adm. Mullen if gay men and lesbians currently serve in the military.
“Yes,” Mullen says.
Then she asks if their service is welcomed, and Mullen says yes. Asked if they’re causing morale issues, Mullen says they are not.
McCaskill then asks him how the military plans to solicit the input of gay men and lesbians currently serving in the military, if the current policy prohibits them from identifying themselves as gay.
“I think that we would have to look very carefully at how we would do that,” Mullen says, nervously clearing his throat.
“That’s the point I would like to leave you with today,” McCaskill says in response. “Unfortunately because of this policy, we welcome their service…. We don’t have any kind of issue with morale or cohesiveness…yet when it comes time to evaluate their service, they’re not allowed to talk about it, and so you have a real challenge in getting perhaps some of the most important input you may need.… I’ll be anxiously waiting how you figure that one out.”
“One approach, Senator, is to talk to those who’ve separated,” Gates says.
Yes, McCaskill says, but she’s concerned the military won’t be able to solicit input from gay men and lesbians who are currently serving.
1:07 p.m. ET: Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) asks Adm. Mullen about the belief that repealing the process would undermine morale.
Mullen says he’s unaware of any studies that suggest that belief.
Gates asks everyone to remove their preconceived notions from this debate until studies are completed.
1:10 p.m. ET: Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.) says he remains opposed to “don’t ask.”
What matters most is that a member of the military is prepared to risk their life in support of the country, not their sexual orientation, Lieberman says.
1:07 p.m. E.T. “At one time my uncles and members of my race couldn’t even serve in the military,” says Sen. Roland Burris (D-Ill.).
“I’d say the policy needs to be change, the policy must be changed, and we must have everyone who is capable, willing and able to defend this country, this great American tradition of ours to serve, regardless of their sexual orientation,” he says.
Burris also asks the Senate to consider the House bill introduced by Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Pa.) that would repeal the ban immediately.
1:02 p.m. ET: Sen. James Webb (D-Va.), a former Marine, hasn’t explicitly stated his opinion on the issue, but says he agrees with Gates and Mullen that a full assessment of the military – from commanders all the way down to military spouses – is needed.
“I salute you both for a very responsible and careful approach to how we examine this,” he says.
It appears Webb will wait until the review is completed to weigh in further.
1:00 p.m. ET: About 45 minutes into this, let’s breathe and consider what’s been said:
Sen. Levin wants a full repeal as soon as possible, and his Democratic colleagues agree, though some believe it could happen sooner.
Republicans have reminded Gates, Mullen and their Democratic colleagues that Congress must make the ultimate decision and some believe it’s foolhardy to move on this issue at a time of two wars. McCain has very clearly stated his opposition to changing the currently policy, arguing it’s unnecessary and irresponsible to do at a time of two wars.
Gates and Mullen personally believe the repeal is necessary, but stress Congress will make the final decision. They also want a full assessment of the military and military family before a decision is repealed. Gates also notably requested a full year to implement a repeal if Congress approves it, meaning that at this point a repeal won’t happen until Feb. 2012 at the earliest.
12:53 p.m. ET: Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) asks how the working group study will account for field commanders. Gates assures her it will.
“It seems to me that we’ll get the answers to the questions we need to get asked by not adding to their burden,” says Gates. “The one limitation I would put on this, which obviously does not apply to the combatant commanders, is that we try to have as little impact on the deployed forces as possible.”
12:52 p.m. ET: Gates tells the panel that they can’t measure the military’s opinions unless they conduct a survey, despite what Obama or anyone else might think of the policy.
“We understand from the beginning of this that this must be an act of Congress,” Gates reiterates.
“For me, this is not about command influence, this is about leadership. and I take that very seriously,” Mullens tells Sessions.
12:47 p.m. ET: Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) notes that President Obama has “announced a decision” and that Gates “apparently supports that position” and that Mullen “personally supports that position.”
“I guess if this were a trial, we would raise the undue command influence defense,” Sessions says. “I think we need an open, and objective and a fair evaluation of this. A lot of things have been said on this that I believe are not accurate, that misrepresent certain things. One of them is that 10,000 people have been discharged from the military or voluntarily left under this provision. But that’s over ten year. It’d be one percent maybe if it were one year less than that. … But over a decade, it’d be over one-tenth of one percent or less.”
In response to another question about Sessions on costs, Mullen says, “I have served with homosexuals since 1968. … Everybody in the military has, and we understand that.... But I am not all knowing in terms of the impact of what the change would have and that’s what I want to understand."
12:43 p.m. ET: Sen. Mark Udall (D-N.M.) says that “it’s not clear to me” that the working group needs a full year to study the situation and asks that they focus on “how” to implement the policy, not whether.
Gates said the review is to prepare the Pentagon for a potential repeal.
“It’s critical that this matter be settled by a vote of the Congress” Gates reiterates. “The study is intended to prepare us along those lines so we understand all of the implications involved.… There has not been a study done by the military on this.”
“We would feel it very important that we be given some period of time for its implementation, at least a year,” Gates says – meaning the earliest a repeal and its implementation would begin is Feb. 2012.
“There hasn’t been an objective survey of our people and their families,” Mullen points out. He hopes the study will engage them on their views.
“As urgently as some would like this to happen, it’s just going to take some time to do it,” Mullen says.
12:39 p.m. ET: McCain says he’s “deeply disappointed” by Gates’ statement, noting the Senate vigorously debated the issue in 1993. He says Gates’ statement is “clearly biased” because it doesn’t take the input of Congress into effect.
McCain asks Mullen for the views of the other members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
“I would summarize them by saying that it’s really important for us to understand that if this law changes what’s the impact and how we would implement it,” Mullen says.
“I absolutely agree that how the Congress acts on this is dis positive,” Gates says.
“I hope you’ll pay attention to the views of over a thousand flag and general officers,” McCain says, repeating his previous mention of their opposition.
“I’m happy to say we still have a Congress that would have to repeal don’t ask don’t tell, despite your efforts to repeal it by fiat,” McCain concludes.
12:37 p.m. ET: Levin asks Gates if he would support a moratorium on discharges under “don’t ask, don’t tell” during the year-long assessment.
“I would have to look into that, because the problem that we have is that all of the issues that both Admiral Mullen and I described, in terms of what we have to look into in terms of the effect on the force, in terms of everything else is what we need to examine,” Gates said.
12:35 p.m. ET: McCain seems to disagree with Levin’s decision to give lawmakers three-minute question periods.
“This schedule was shared with everybody,” Levin says.
“Not with me,” McCain says with a chuckle
12:31 p.m. ET: Mullen says he and the Joint Chiefs have yet to develop recommendations on repealing the process and plan to use the working group’s timeframe to do so. He says the working group’s co-chairs have the full support of the chiefs.
“It is my personal belief that allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly would be the right thing to do.… I cannot escape being troubled in the fact that we have in place a policy that forces young men and women to lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens. For me, personally, it comes down to integrity. Theirs as individuals and ours as an institution.… But I do not know this for a fact, nor do I know for a fact how we would best make a policy change in a time of two wars. That there will be some disruption in the force, I cannot deny. That there will be legal, social and perhaps infrastructure changes, certainly seem plausible. We would all like to have a better handle on these types of concerns.”
“The American people have spoken on this subject through you, their elected officials, and the result is the law and the policy that we currently have,” Mullen says. “We will obey whatever law and decisions come out of this debate. The American people may yet have a different view. You may have a different view. I think that’s important, and it’s important to have that discussion.”
More: “The chiefs and I also recognize the stress that our troops and families are under, and I have said many times before, should the law change, we need to move forward in a manner that does not add to that stress. We’ve got two wars going on, a new strategy in Afghanistan, and remaining security challenges in Iraq.”
“Our plate is very full,” he says. “And while I believe this is an important issue, I believe we need to be mindful of other pressing needs in our military.”
12:30 p.m. ET: In conclusion, Gates asks lawmakers to “keep the impact” of the ongoing debate on American forces “clearly in mind.”
12:27 p.m. ET: Gates names General Counsel Jeh Johnson and Gen. Carter Ham to serve as co-chairs of the working group.
12:26 p.m. ET: Gates says the working group will ask the Rand Corp. to update its original study on how "don't ask" would impact the military.
12:25 p.m. ET: The working group will do a thorough review of the potential revisions on benefits, base housing, fraternization and misconduct, separations and discharges and many others. "We will enter this examination with no preconceived views," Gates says.
12:22 p.m. ET: Defense Secretary Gates says he support President Obama's call for a repeal.
"We have received our orders from the Commander in Chief, and we are carrying them out accordingly."
"To ensure that the department is prepared should the law be changed, and working in close consultation with Adm. Mullen, I have appointed a high level working group."
"The mandate of this working groups is to ... objectively ... address this question.... by the end of this calendar year. The guiding principle of our efforts will be to minimize polarization... I am confident this can be achieved."
12:19 p.m. ET: More McCain: "I think that we all in Congress should pay attention and benefit from the experience of over a thousand general officers and flag officers and they say that we firmly believe that this law, which was passed to bring good order... deserves continued support. So, I think we should also pay attention to those who have served who can speak more frankly on many occasions than those who are presently serving."
He says he knows that this debate will leave people disappointed: "Ultimately though, numerous military leaders tell me that don't ask don't tell is working and that we should not change it now. I agree. I would welcome a report done by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, based solely on readiness... and not on politics."
12:17 p.m. ET: Ranking Republican John McCain (Ariz.) tells the panel, "We should not be seeking to overturn the don’t ask ,don’t tell policy."
"I want to make one thing perfectly clear up front. I’m enormously grateful for those in uniform... I want to encourage more of our citizens to serve... ... Many gays and lesbians are serving admirably in our armed forces… I honor their sacrifice and I honor them. Our challenge is how to continue welcoming this service amid the vast complexities of the largest, most expensive, most well regarded and most critical institution in our nation, our armed forces. This is an extremely difficult issue, and the Senate vigorously defended this in 1993."
12:13 p.m. ET: The hearing has begun. Levin says they will hold additional hearings on the matter to hear from outside voices.
"My goal will be to move quickly but deliberately to maximize the opportunity for all Americans to serve their country while addressing any concerns that may be raised," Levin said. "We should end 'don’t ask, don’t tell,' and we can and should do it in a way that honors our nation’s values while making it more secure."
(Levin wrote an op-ed Tuesday on this topic for Politico.)
12:03 p.m. ET: Levin just called a five-minute recess.
12:00 p.m. ET The first portion of the hearing continues as Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.) wraps up some final questions. Then a brief recess, then the DADT portion of the proceedings will start.
11:51 a.m. ET: The committee is set to take a brief recess after questions from Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.). Deliberations on DADT will resume after the break.
11:10 a.m. ET: The AP notes that Gates declined to say Tuesday whether he thinks it's appropriate to try self-proclaimed Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in a New York civilian court, not far from the site of the attack.
Gates replied "Yes" when asked if he thought military interrogators should have been present for the Christmas Day interrogation of underwear bombing suspect Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab.
11:08 a.m. ET: Levin says that when the DADT portion of the hearing begins, he will call on senators for questions in the order they arrived at the hearing.
10:33 a.m. ET: Watch the hearing's live video webcast here.
10:25 a.m. ET: Before this morning's hearing began, The Eye spoke with Lt. Daniel Choi, a member of the New York Army National Guard's 1st Battalion, 69th Infantry based in Manhattan, who's emerged as a public face of the DADT repeal campaign. (He also appeared this morning on CBS.)
Choi publicly announced he is gay in a series of television interviews last spring. The military held formal discharges proceedings last summer and he's still waiting for a formal decision.
Choi called the Pentagon's plans to name a new panel to review the policy "insulting" and said the process could be abolished "within seconds."
Disagreements about the policy break down along generational lines, Choi said. He recalled that a younger member of his unit asked him about his decision to come out shortly after his TV appearances.
"All he wanted to know was 'When are we going to meet your boyfriend'" Choi said.
The younger rank and file members of the military think completely differently about the issue than older leaders. Homosexuality in the military "is not an alien concept" among most in uniform, Choi said.
Put another way, "It doesn't take Sherlock Holmes to figure out who is gay in the military," he said.
Choi delivered almost 450,000 letters of support to Capitol Hill today in an effort to convince lawmakers and Pentagon officials to repeal the policy.
"It's quite an autograph book," he said.
9:48 a.m. ET: We should note that Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) asked lawmakers to hold their questions on DADT until that part of today's hearing begins at noon. His opening statement focused mostly on his thoughts about fiscal 2011 budget request the 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review and the 2010 Ballistic Missile Defense Review.
9:00 a.m. ET: Members of the Senate Armed Services Committee are scheduled to spend the next three hours discussing President Obama's fiscal 2011 budget request for the Pentagon with Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen. Then at noon, lawmakers shift gears to discuss "don't ask, don't tell" for at least an hour with Gates and Mullen, who are expected to announce that the military will no longer aggressively pursue disciplinary action against gay service members whose orientation is revealed against their will by third parties.
We don't anticipate much discussion of "don't ask" until close to noon, but if the issue arises between now and then, The Federal Eye will jump in and begin updates. Keep an Eye on this space -- hit refresh often -- and share your thoughts on the hearing and the policy in the comments section below.
Sen. Carl Levin's full opening statement:
The Committee continues our hearing this afternoon to receive testimony from the senior leadership of the Department of Defense as we begin the task of addressing the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on gays in the military. I believe ending the policy would improve our military’s capability and reflect our commitment to equal opportunity.
I did not find the arguments used to justify “don’t ask, don’t tell” convincing when it took effect in 1993, and they are less so now. I agree with what President Obama said in his State of the Union address, that we should repeal this discriminatory policy.
In the latest Gallup poll, the American public overwhelmingly supports allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military. 69% of Americans are recorded as supporting their right to serve - and many are in fact serving. As former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. John Shalikashvili, who supports ending the policy has pointed out, a majority of troops already believe they serve alongside gay or lesbian colleagues. It’s hard to know for sure, but one recent study estimated that 66,000 gays and lesbians are serving today, forced to hide their orientation and at constant risk of losing the chance to serve.
Supporters of this policy argue that allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly would damage unit cohesion and morale, crucial factors in building combat effectiveness. But there is no evidence that the presence of gay and lesbian colleagues would damage our military’s ability to fight. Other nations have allowed gay and lesbian service members to serve in their militaries without discrimination and without impact on unit cohesion or morale. The most comprehensive study on this was conducted by Rand in 1993. Rand researchers reported on the positive experiences of Canada, France, Germany, Israel, the Netherlands and Norway, all of which allowed known homosexuals to serve in their Armed Forces. Senator McCain and I have asked the Department to update this 1993 report.
We should end this discriminatory policy because ending it will contribute to our military’s effectiveness. To take just one example: dozens of Arabic and Farsi linguists have been forced out of the military under “don’t ask, don’t tell” at a time when our need to understand those languages has never been greater. Thousands of troops – 13,500 by one estimate – have been forced to leave the military under the current policy. Certainly that number includes many who could help the military complete its difficult and dangerous missions.
Supporters of “don’t ask don’t tell” accuse those who would change it of trying to impose a social agenda on the military. But at this point in our history, when gays and lesbians openly work and succeed in every aspect of our national life, it is the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that reflects a social agenda out of step with the everyday experience of most Americans.
I have long admired the merit-based system of advancement employed by the U.S. military that allows service men and women of varied backgrounds to advance to positions of high leadership. An Army is not a democracy. It is a meritocracy where success depends not on who you are, but on how well you do your job. Despite its necessarily undemocratic nature, our military has helped lead the way in areas of fairness and anti-discrimination, as it did in ending racial segregation in America. It has served as a flagship for American values and aspirations both inside the United States and around the world.
We will hold additional hearings to hear from various points of view and approaches on this matter. This Committee will hold a hearing on February 11th when we will hear from an independent panel. The Service Secretaries and Service Chiefs will all be testifying before this Committee during the month of February and they will be open to questions on this subject during their testimony.
Change is always hard, especially when it involves social issues or personal beliefs. We will proceed fairly, trying to hear varying opinions. I hope those who favor change will not to mistake open and fair process for undue delay.
My goal will be to move quickly but deliberately to maximize the opportunity for all Americans to serve their country while addressing any concerns that may be raised. We should end “don’t ask, don’t tell,” and we can and should do it in a way that honors our nation’s values while making it more secure.
Sen. McCain's full opening statement, as prepared:
“Thank you, Chairman Levin. And let me thank our two distinguished witnesses, Secretary Gates and Admiral Mullen, for joining us again today.
“We meet this afternoon to consider the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy – a policy that the President has made clear, most recently last week in his State of the Union address, that he wants Congress to repeal. This would be a substantial and controversial change to a policy that has been successful for two decades. It would also present yet another challenge to our military at a time of already tremendous stress and strain. Our men and women in uniform are fighting two wars, guarding the frontlines against a global terrorist enemy, serving and sacrificing on battlefields far from home, and working to rebuild and reform the force after more than eight years of conflict. At this moment of immense hardship for our armed services, we should not be seeking to overturn the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy.
“I want to make one thing perfectly clear upfront: I am enormously proud of, and thankful for, every American who chooses to put on the uniform of our nation and serve at this time of war. I want to encourage more of our fellow citizens to serve, and to open up opportunities to do so. Many gay and lesbian Americans are serving admirably in our armed forces – even giving their lives so that we and others can know the blessings of peace. I honor their sacrifice, and I honor them.
“Our challenge is how to continue welcoming this service amid the vast complexities of the largest, most expensive, most well-regarded, and most critical institution in our nation: our armed forces. This is an extremely difficult issue, and the Senate vigorously debated it in 1993. We heard from the senior uniformed and civilian leaders of our military on eight occasions in this committee alone. When Congress ultimately wrote the law, we included important findings that did justice to the seriousness of the subject. I would ask, without objection, Mr. Chairman, that a copy of the statute, including those findings, be included in the record.
“I won’t quote all of these findings, but three key points must be made. First, Congress found in the law that the military’s mission to prepare for and conduct combat operations requires servicemen and women to accept living and working conditions that are often spartan and characterized by forced intimacy with little or no privacy. Second, the law finds that civilian life is fundamentally different from military life, which is characterized by its own laws, rules, customs, and traditions, including many restrictions on personal conduct that would not be tolerated in civil society. Finally, the law finds that the essence of military capability is good order and unit cohesion, and that any practice which puts those goals at unacceptable risk can be restricted. These findings were the foundation of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and I am eager to hear from our distinguished witnesses what has changed since these findings were written such that the law they supported can now be repealed.
“Has this policy been ideal? No, it has not. But it has been effective. It has helped to balance a potentially disruptive tension between the desires of a minority and the broader interests of our all-volunteer force. It is well understood and predominantly supported by our fighting men and women. It reflects, as I understand them, the preferences of our uniformed services. It has sustained unit cohesion and unit morale while still allowing gay and lesbian Americans to serve their country in uniform. And it has done all of this for nearly two decades.
“I know that any decision Congress makes about the future of this law will inevitably leave a lot of people angry and unfulfilled. There are patriotic and well-meaning Americans on each side of this debate, and I have heard their many passionate concerns. Ultimately, though, numerous military leaders tell me that Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is working, and that we should not change it now. I agree.
“I would welcome a report done by the Joint Chiefs of Staff – based solely on military readiness, effectiveness, and needs, and not on politics – that would study the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy, that would consider the impact of its repeal on our armed services, and that would offer their best military advice on the right course of action.
“We have an all-volunteer force. It is better trained, more effective, and more professional than any military in our history, and today, that force is shouldering a greater global burden than at any time in decades. We owe our lives to our fighting men and women, and we should be exceedingly cautious, humble, and sympathetic when attempting to regulate their affairs. Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell has been an imperfect but effective policy. And at this moment, when we are asking more of our military than at any time in recent memory, we should not repeal this law.”
Opening statement of Adm. Mike Mullen, as prepared:
Thank you Mr. Chairman. And thank you for giving me the opportunity to discuss with you this very important matter. The Chiefs and I are in complete support of the approach that Secretary Gates has outlined.
We believe that any implementation plan for a policy permitting homosexuals to serve openly in the Armed Forces must be carefully derived, sufficiently thorough and thoughtfully executed.
Over these last two months, we have reviewed the fundamental premises behind Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, as well as its application in practice over the last 16 years. We understand perfectly the President’s desire to see the law repealed. And we owe him our best military advice about the impact of such a repeal and the manner in which we would implement a change in policy.
The Chiefs and I have not yet developed that advice and would like to have the time to do so in the same thoughtful, deliberate fashion with which the President has made it clear he wants to proceed.
The review group Secretary Gates has ordered will no doubt give us that time and an even deeper level of understanding. We look forward to cooperating with and participating in this review to the maximum extent possible, and we applaud the selection of Gen. Carter Ham and Mr. Jeh Johnson to lead it.
Both are men of great wisdom and experience, and have our complete trust and confidence.
Mr. Chairman, speaking for myself and myself only, it is my personal and professional belief that allowing homosexuals to serve openly would be the right thing to do.
No matter how I look at the issue, I cannot escape being troubled by the fact that we have in place a policy which forces young men and women to lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens.
For me, it comes down to integrity -- theirs as individuals and ours as an institution.
I also believe the great young men and women of our military can and would accommodate such a change. But I do not know this for a fact, nor do I know for a fact how we would best make such a major policy change in a time of two wars.
That there will be some disruption in the force I cannot deny. That there will be legal, social and perhaps even infrastructure changes to be made certainly seem plausible.
We would all like to have a better handle on these types of concerns. And that is what our review will offer.
We would also do well to remember that this is not an issue for the military leadership to decide.
The American people have spoken on this subject through, you, their elected officials. And the result is the law and the policy we have.
We will continue to obey that law, and we will obey whatever legislative and executive decisions come out of this debate.
The American people may yet have a different view. You may have a different view. I think that’s important. It’s important to have that discussion.
Frankly, there are those on both sides of this debate who speak as if there is no debate … as if there is nothing to be learned or reflected upon. I hope we can be more thoughtful than that. I expect that we will be more thoughtful than that.
The Chiefs and I also recognize the stress our troops and their families are under, and I have said many times before that -- should the law change -- we need to move forward in a manner that does not add to that stress.
We’ve got two wars going on, a new strategy in Afghanistan and remaining security challenges in Iraq. We are about to move forward under a new QDR. We still have budget concerns in a struggling economy. And we have a host of other significant security commitments around the globe.
Our plate is very full, and while I believe this is an important issue, I also believe we need to be mindful as we move forward of other pressing needs in the military.
What our young men and women and their families want -- what they deserve -- is that we listen to them and act in their best interests. What the citizens we defend want to know -- what they deserve to know -- is that their uniformed leadership will act in a way that absolutely does not place in peril the readiness and effectiveness of their military.
I can tell you I am 100 percent committed to that.
Balance, Mr. Chairman, balance and thoughtfulness is what we need most right now. It’s what the President has promised us, and it’s what we ask of you and this body. Thank you.
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