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Susan Collins' testimony at DADT hearing

COLLINS: Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I apologize for my brief absence. I'm trying to do a Homeland
Security hearing at the same time. But this is such a critical issue.

And I want to begin my remarks by thanking General Ham and Mr.
Johnson for doing an excellent job on this report. And I want to
thank you, Secretary Gates, for a thoughtful statement, and you,
Admiral Mullen, for your very heartfelt and strong statement this
morning.

I want to go through some of the objections that we've been
hearing from those who argue that we should leave the current law in
place. Critics of this report state that our troops were not asked
whether they believe that "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" should be repealed.
I would point out that our troops aren't asked whether they should be
deployed to Afghanistan. They're not asked whether we should have a
war in Iraq. They're generally not asked about policy decisions.

However, the fact is, given the extensive feedback that the
authors of the report and the task force did and that they received
from tens of thousands of service members in the forms of survey
responses, e-mails and town hall meetings, the report, in fact, does
convey a sense of what service members think about repealing the law
even if a direct question was not included in the survey.
I was struck by one observation by a special opportunities
operator who said at a town hall meeting, quote, "We have a gay guy in
the unit. He's big, he's mean, and he kills lots of bad guys. And no
one cared that he was gay."

Mr. Johnson and General Ham, is it fair to conclude that your
report does incorporate and fairly represent the views of our forces?

JOHNSON: Senator Collins, I believe it does. We were asked not
to -- we were not supposed to ask the referendum question.

COLLINS: Right.

JOHNSON: However, we did put out a 103-question survey to
400,000 service members. We got back 115,000 responses. The survey
was quite comprehensive in asking in a number of different places for
service members to predict the consequences of repeal in a variety of
contexts.

I would add to that that, in the 72,000 e-mails and in the 24,000
face-to-face interactions that we had, invariably, the discussion and
the input we got was whether to repeal the current law or not. That
was always the topic of discussion. And a lot of that is reflected in
the report in the "What We Heard" section.

And so, we believe that, through this very comprehensive exercise
we went through, we did hear the force on the question of whether we
can do this. And our conclusion is as you see it.

COLLINS: And presumably, if there had been widespread and large
percentages of service members expressing negative views, you would
have reported that in the report, correct?

JOHNSON: As I stated -- as we stated in the report, if the
answer we got back from this exercise was, in effect, "No, we can't do
that," I would have had a professional and fiduciary obligation to my
client to report that. And I know General Ham feels equally as
strongly about that.

COLLINS: Admiral Mullen, the second objection that we hear over
and over and over is that we cannot implement this kind of change in
the midst of a war. And I thought you made an excellent point that
the opposite may be true, that wartime facilitates change in some
ways. And in fact, wasn't President Truman's 1948 order to integrate
our forces actually fully implemented during the Korean War?

MULLEN: It was. Actually, it was implemented throughout that, I
don't think fully until 1953.

COLLINS: And in fact, on page 83 of the report, it says that,
when the personnel shortages of the Korean War necessitated integrated
units, Army field officers placed white and black soldiers side-by-
side?

MULLEN: Right.

COLLINS: So...

MULLEN: Senator Collins, if I could, I...

COLLINS: Yes.

MULLEN: ... I think I find it, in my study of this, somewhat
ironic that, in the year that this was passed -- and if you read the
law in detail, there's a great deal of discussion in the law about
combat, combat effectiveness at a time where we were not at war. We
have been at war -- we're in our 10th year right now, and we
understand what it takes in combat and what combat effectiveness is
better than we did back then just by virtue of that experience.

We have changed dramatically as a military since 2001, which I
would argue puts us in a good position to facilitate additional
change. There couldn't be a better time to do it. We are better led,
in my experience, at every level than we have ever been led.

So leaders can do this. We are able to take advantage of our
ability to change and sustain that combat readiness, and I believe
making a change like this makes us better. It doesn't make us worse.

COLLINS: Thank you.

By Greg Sargent  | December 2, 2010; 5:00 PM ET
 
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