Mullen Endorses Working Group’s Report
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Nov. 30, 2010 The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff today fully endorsed the report of the working group that assessed the impact of a possible repeal of the law that bans gay men and women from serving openly in the military.
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, conduct a press briefing at the Pentagon discussing the public release of the "Dont Ask, Dont Tell" Comprehensive Working Group report, Nov. 30, 2010. DOD photo by U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
During a Pentagon news conference with Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, Navy Adm. Mike Mullen praised the group’s co-chairs, Army Gen. Carter F. Ham, commander of U.S. Army Europe, and Jeh C. Johnson, Defense Department general counsel.
Ham and Johnson led an unprecedented research effort looking at the attitudes of servicemembers and their families and the best way forward should Congress repeal the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law.
“The working group surveyed our troops and their spouses, consulted proponents and opponents of repeal and examined military experience around the world,” Mullen said. “They also spoke with serving gays and lesbians.”
The chairman called the working group’s recommendations “solid, defensible conclusions.”
Mullen said he was gratified that the working group focused their findings and recommendations “rightly on those who would be most affected by a change in the law: our people.”
The chairman recommended repeal of the law during testimony before Congress in February, and he called for research into how best to do this. “For the first time, the [service] chiefs and I have more than just anecdotal evidence and hearsay to inform the advice we give our civilian leaders,” he said today.
Mullen said he and the Joint Chiefs will use the report to formulate the advice they give to Gates and President Barack Obama, and he commented on some of the working group’s conclusions.
“I think it's noteworthy that the working group found strong leadership to be the single most important factor in implementing any repeal,” he said. “That may sound fairly obvious, but it’s a key point.”
Repeal of the law is a complex social and cultural issue, Mullen said. “But at the end of the day, whatever the decision of our elected leaders may be, we in uniform have an obligation to follow orders,” he said. “When those orders involve significant change, such as this would, we need to find ways to lead the way forward. Our troops and their families expect that from us, and I think the American people do, too.”
Servicemembers expect leaders to maintain high standards of conduct and professionalism as the military moves forward, the chairman noted.
“We treat people with dignity and respect in the armed forces, or we don’t last long in the armed forces: No special cases, no special treatment,” Mullen said. “We’re going to continue to comport ourselves with honor and hold ourselves accountable across the board to impeccably high standards, repeal or no repeal.”
The chairman noted that while the report shows the overall risk may be low with respect to readiness, cohesion and retention if the law is repealed, the change still would pose challenges. He also reiterated the belief he and Gates share that if a change is to come, it should be by way of the legislative process.
“We can best address those challenges by having it within our power and our prerogative to manage the implementation process ourselves,” Mullen said. “Should repeal occur, I share the secretary’s desire that it come about through legislation -- through the same process with which the law was enacted, rather than precipitously through the courts.”