Military Chiefs Oppose ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ Compromise Legislation
In a big setback for Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Rep. Patrick Murphy’s (D-Pa.) efforts to insert amendments overturning the military’s ban on open gay service in this year’s defense authorization bill, Igor Volsky of ThinkProgress has obtained letters from the chiefs of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force urging legislators to forestall a legislative repeal until after the Pentagon’s Working Group on implementing the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” completes its report in December.
The markup of the Senate version of the bill is underway in the Armed Services Committee. A floor vote in the House is expected tomorrow.
As Volsky observes, the compromise enshrined in the amendments would punt implementation of the repeal until after the Working Group issues its guidance. But I’ve been hearing for days that key Pentagon leaders, despite Defense Secretary Gates’ begrudging support for the legislation, were embittered by the White House’s Monday pledge to LGBT activists to acquiesce to the legislative push. Regardless of the amendment’s substantive respect for the Working Group’s timetable, those leaders thought that the Working Group represented a mechanism for overturning “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” with maximum military buy-in and minimal disruption to wartime operations. (Of all the service chiefs, only Gen. James Conway, the Marine Corps commandant, opposes overturning the ban on open gay service.)
The chiefs’ opposition indicates that the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” fight has fallen into in a briar patch of acrimony, where substantively small differences appear massive due to injured pride and perceived disrespect.