USA — ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ Review Process Vital, Mullen Says

WASHINGTON — It’s of vital impor­tance that the Pen­ta­gon gain input from ser­vice­mem­bers and mil­i­tary fam­i­lies on their views about the repeal of the so-called “don’t ask, don’t tell” law, the top U.S. mil­i­tary offi­cer said today.

Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, dis­cussed the pro­posed repeal of the law, upcom­ing oper­a­tions in Afghanistan and the military’s sup­port role in the wake of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mex­i­co dur­ing CNN’s “State of the Union” news pro­gram.

The House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives passed an amend­ment to the Nation­al Defense Autho­riza­tion Bill May 27 that would allow gay men and les­bians to serve open­ly. The Sen­ate Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee passed a sim­i­lar amend­ment that same night.

Mullen not­ed that he has said he thinks the law and the pol­i­cy should change. He also said that both he and Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates believe it is “crit­i­cal to under­stand the points of view of those it will affect the most as we look at the imple­men­ta­tion chal­lenges should the law change.”

The cur­rent “don’t ask, don’t tell” law, enact­ed in 1993, pro­vides only par­tial pro­tec­tion for gay and les­bian ser­vice­mem­bers, in that com­man­ders may not ques­tion mil­i­tary mem­bers about their sex­u­al ori­en­ta­tion. Under cur­rent law, ser­vice­mem­bers may be dis­charged from the ser­vice, if by their actions they’re deter­mined to be gay or les­bian.

Gates has direct­ed a mil­i­tary-wide review of the impact of the repeal, includ­ing town hall meet­ings with ser­vice­mem­bers and their fam­i­lies. The review is to be com­plet­ed by the end of Decem­ber.

Recent con­gres­sion­al activ­i­ty to change the law, if com­plet­ed, would be “leg­is­la­tion involved in a deferred repeal,” Gates said in a May 28 mes­sage to mil­i­tary mem­bers. “In oth­er words,” Gates con­tin­ued, “it would repeal ‘don’t ask, don’t tell,’ but only after — I repeat after — the ongo­ing Depart­ment of Defense high-lev­el review is com­plet­ed, and only after the pres­i­dent, the chair­man of the Joint Chiefs and I all can cer­ti­fy that we are ready to make this change with­out hurt­ing unit cohe­sion, mil­i­tary readi­ness, mil­i­tary effec­tive­ness and recruit­ing and reten­tion.”

Mullen said today on “State of the Union” that he would have “pre­ferred that leg­is­la­tion not be brought for­ward in terms of the change until we are com­plet­ed with that review.” Mean­while, he said, the review is pro­gress­ing.

“So we will com­plete that review and cer­tain­ly incor­po­rate what we learned from that into imple­men­ta­tion when that time comes,” Mullen said.

The admi­ral also addressed Iraq, Afghanistan and the Gulf of Mex­i­co oil spill on the CNN news pro­gram.

Iraq trends “are mov­ing in the right direc­tion,” Mullen said. The U.S. mil­i­tary in Iraq is on track to draw­down to 50,000 troops by the end of August. The Iraqi elec­tion recount has “come out very well,” he added, while a recent spate of insur­gent-inspired vio­lence hasn’t pro­duced sec­tar­i­an blood­shed.

Mean­while, it’s expect­ed that 100,000 U.S. troops will be deployed in Afghanistan by the fall, Mullen said. Kan­da­har, the spir­i­tu­al home of the Tal­iban, will be a focus of the com­ing cam­paign.

“So, what we’re doing in Kan­da­har, what we will do with our Afghan part­ners and in many cas­es with them in the lead and our coali­tion part­ners over the next sev­er­al months will real­ly be crit­i­cal,” Mullen said. “And I think by the end of the year, we’ll cer­tain­ly from a trend stand­point know whether this thing is head­ed in the right direc­tion, or not.” Mean­while, Mullen said, the U.S. mil­i­tary con­tin­ues in a sup­port role as part of the response to the rup­tured BP oil well deep in the Gulf of Mex­i­co. About 1,400 Nation­al Guard mem­bers have been deployed to the Gulf to assist in the effort, he not­ed.

Also, “we have brought thou­sands of feet of booms in terms of being able to try to con­tain this,” Mullen said. The U.S. mil­i­tary, how­ev­er, isn’t the prop­er orga­ni­za­tion to take charge of the oil spill response “because of the tech­ni­cal chal­lenges, quite frankly,” the admi­ral said.

“And, as best as I’ve been able to under­stand, the tech­ni­cal lead for this in our coun­try real­ly is the indus­try,” Mullen said. “You can see, obvi­ous­ly, the chal­lenges that they are going through to try to fig­ure out how to stop this.”

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)