The Ranking Member on the House Armed Services Committee today called the rush by the White House and Congressional Democrats to repeal the Clinton-era “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law and policy as an affront to military personnel and their families.
“The Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff asked Congress to respect the process they developed to study the ramifications of repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Republicans in the House feel we have a duty to honor that request and hear directly from our military personnel—and their families—before making a decision on a sensitive issue that directly affects them,” said U.S. Rep. Howard P. “Buck” McKeon (R-Calif.), the top Republican on the Armed Services Committee.
“The Secretary of Defense has urged caution. Our Service Chiefs have urged caution. Our military service organizations have urged caution. Yet proponents of repeal are intent on rushing a vote to the floor because they fear the votes will not be there if they wait. What message does this send to our warfighters in harm’s way, and to their families who wait back home?”
“After making the continuous sacrifice of fighting two wars over the course of eight years, the men and women of our military deserve to be heard—and have earned that right. Congress acting without that input is the equivalent of turning to our 2.5 million men and women in uniform, and an equal number of family members, and saying your opinion and your views do not count in this debate,” concluded McKeon.
McKeon pointed to the following statements from the Secretary of Defense and the top military leader of each of the services to underscore his point:
- Secretary of Defense Robert Gates: “I strongly oppose any legislation that seeks to change this policy prior to the completion of this vital assessment process. Further, I hope Congress will not do so, as it would send a very damaging message to our men and women in uniform that in essence their views, concerns, and perspectives do not matter on an issue with such a direct impact and consequence for them and their families.”
- General Norton Schwartz, Air Force Chief of Staff: “This is not the time to perturb the force that is, at the moment, stretched by demands in Iraq and Afghanistan and elsewhere without careful deliberation.”
- General George Casey, Army Chief of Staff, expressed “serious concerns about the impact of repeal of the law on a force that’s fully engaged in two wars and has been at war for eight-and-half years.”
- General James Conway, Commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps: “I think the current policy works…At this point….my best military advice to this committee, to the [Defense] Secretary, and to the President would be to keep the law such as it is.”
- Admiral Gary Roughead, Chief of Naval Operations: “There has never really been an assessment of the force that serves….Equally important is the feelings of the families that support that force.”