96 members of Congress have sent a letter to Defense Secretary Robert Gates calling for detailed information on the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) policy that bans openly gay service personnel.
The letter, penned by Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA8), requests information on the numbers of service personnel discharged in 2009, coupled with information on what branch those persons served in, their job specialties and their years of service. Congress will debate a DADT repeal early next year with the Senate expected to take up the issue in late January and the House in February.
An extract from Moran’s letter reads (link added FYI):
“This discriminatory policy results in the Department of Defense losing tens of millions each year in unrecoverable recruiting and training costs. The 2006 Blue Ribbon Commission’s report on DADT (.pdf) found that the Pentagon wasted over $360 million due to this policy from 1994 until 2003, the last year studied. Since its enactment in 1994, over 13,500 service members have been discharged under DADT, including 730 mission critical soldiers and over 65 Arabic and Farsi linguists vital to the war on terrorism.
“To increase transparency on the effects the DADT policy is having on our military and by extension our national defense, we request that the Office of the Secretary of Defense provide data on the current number of DADT discharges since January 1, 2009 to the present, no later than January 15, 2010. In addition, we request monthly reports thereafter to Congress detailing the number of enlisted service members and officers discharged under the policy including their job specialty (MOS), time in the service and branch of the military. Through these monthly updates, Congress and the public will get a clearer picture of the continued costs and damage to our national security inflicted by this policy.”
Out of all the legislators who added their names to the letter (list after the fold at the bottom of this post) only one of them was a Republican, and that was Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. An absence of Republican names on the letter is disappointing but not entirely unexpected.
The DADT repeal will likely be attached to the Defense Authorization Bill for 2011 as indicated by Rep. Barney Frank early last month. This could be contentious.
Senator John McCain (R-AZ) recently reiterated support for the military’s DADT policy. He was a vocal adversary of hate crimes legislation, especially when it was added to the Defense Bill for 2010, calling it “non-germane” and an “abuse of power”. He’ll probably be one of the leading voices against attaching the DADT repeal to the Defense Authorization Bill, and may try to defeat the DADT repeal when it comes to the floor in the Senate.
It is also a rather bitter circumstance that, in order for gay service personnel to testify before Congress on their experiences with DADT, special legislation has had to be introduced to prevent those personnel from being discharged under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” rules.
Aaron Belkin, Director of the Palm Center, an organization actively researching and campaigning against DADT, noted that there were members of Congress who were not receptive to discussing the repeal, presumably because of the impending congressional elections, but that this letter might help keep the debate prominent, saying:
“It’s clear that some in Washington are looking for ways to avoid discussing DADT in 2010. This letter from 96 Congressional offices keeps the pressure on the White House, Pentagon and Congress by illustrating the costs of discrimination with concrete data.”
While not directly indicative of the Pentagon’s own views, this perhaps demonstrates a marked change of opinion, than, say, in 2007 when the Pentagon and President Bush defended the policy as being necessary for unit cohesion. Notably, there have also been several cases that have emerged this year which appear to show that the US Army is already selectively applying DADT to fulfill the need for skilled service members. No doubt these issues will also come up when Congress debates “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in early 2010.
Hastings (D-FL), Baldwin (D-WI), Polis (D-CO), Frank (D-MA), Patrick Murphy (D-PA), Judy Chu (D-CA), Berkley (D-NV), Wu (D-OR1), Hinchey (D-NY), Jackson Jr (D-IL), Hare (D-IL), Doggett (D-TX), Olver (D-MA), Dingell (D-MI), Massa (D-NY), Gutierrez (D-IL), Walz (D-MI), Capuano (D-MA), Filner (D-CA), Quigley (D-IL), Cohen (D-TN), McGovern (D-MA), Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Grijalva (D-AZ), George Miller (D-CA), Capps (D-CA), Sherman (D-CA), Cheeks Kilpatrick (D-MI), Courtney (D-CT), Andrews (D-NJ), Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), Wexler (D-FL), Rothman (D-NJ), DeGette (D-CO), Ed Markey (D-MA), Schwartz (D-PA), Serrano (D-NY), Blumenauer (D-OR), Schakowsky (D-IL), Stark (D-CA), John Hall (D-NY), Langevin (D-RI), Maloney (D-NY), Tsongas (D-MA), Clarke (D-NY), Delahunt (D-MA), Bobby Scott (D-VA), Himes (D-CT), Lofgren (D-CA), Owens (D-NY), Israel (D-NY), Weiner (D-NY), Hank Johnson (D-GA), Pingree (D-ME), Richardson (D-CA), Crowley (D-NY), Nadler (D-NY), Waxman (D-CA), Christensen (D-VI), Roybal-Allard (D-CA), Gwen Moore (D-WI), Kagen (D-WI), Meeks (D-NY), Lujan (D-NM), John Lewis (D-GA), Connolly (D-VA), Engel (D-NY), Holmes Norton (D-DC), Ackerman (D-NY), Woolsey (D-CA), Adam Smith (D-WA), Shea-Porter (D-NH), Farr (D-CA), Fudge (D-OH), Kennedy (D-RI), Welch (D-VT), Carnahan (D-MO), Tierney (D-MA), Rush (D-IL), Honda (D-CA), Holt (D-NJ), Sestak (D-PA), Dahlkemper (D-PA), McDermott (D-WA), Kucinich (D-OH), Yarmuth (D-KY), Harman (D-CA), Titus (D-NV), Robert Brady (D-PA), Gonzalez (D-TX), Loretta Sanchez (D-CA), Speier (D-CA), Van Hollen (D-MD), Woolsey (D-CA)
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