Service Chiefs: Pro- Or Anti-Repeal, They Say The Military Can Do It

The day after Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Michael Mullen again called for Congress to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, the joint chiefs themselves testified on Capitol Hill and, as promised, were “less sanguine” about repeal than their bosses.

But whether for or against repeal, they all said their branch could and would implement it.

“At the end of the day, we are Marines,” said Gen. James Amos, the commandant of the Marine Corps, in his testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee. “Should Congress change the law, then our nation’s Marine Corps will faithfully support the law.”Of the chiefs of the Marine Corps, Air Force, Coast Guard, Army and Navy, Amos is by far the most reluctant to repeal the law. That’s a reflection of Marines themselves, who — according to a Pentagon review — were most likely to predict that the repeal would have negative effects. Amos said he was most concerned that Marines — half of whom, he said, are either serving in Afghanistan or on their way there or back — already have too much on their plates.

But he was not alone.

Air Force Gen. Norton Schwartz and Army Gen. George Casey both recommended that repeal not be implemented yet. Schwartz suggested specifically that repeal not be implemented until 2012.

Even if the law is repealed by Congress now, though, the actual implementation is expected to take at least several months, bringing implementation pretty close to 2012 anyway. The repeal language is written so that DADT couldn’t be repealed until 60 days after the President, the secretary of defense and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs all certify that the military is ready. And according to the Pentagon’s implementation plan, that wouldn’t happen until after the completion of a “pre-repeal” phase that includes training for troop leaders.

Gates has been tight-lipped as to how long he expects that to take.

Navy Adm. Gary Roughead and Coast Guard Adm. Robert Papp both recommended that the law be repealed right away, saying implementation posed little risk to their forces. The Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. James Cartwright also recommended repeal.

Regardless of their individual positions, all of them said they would “faithfully” follow the law and implement repeal if so directed. They also echoed Gates’ concerns about the law being repealed by the judicial system rather than the Congress.

You can read the chiefs’ opening statements here.