DOD Releases ‘Don’t Ask’ Repeal Implementation Plan
By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Nov. 30, 2010 Defense Department officials today released an 87-page plan, structured much like a military operations order, laying out the Comprehensive Review Working Group’s recommendations for implementing a possible repeal of the so-called “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law.
The implementation plan accompanied the working group’s report also released today, but focuses on presenting a phased course of action for military services to follow should Congress repeal the law that bans gays from serving openly in the military.
Jeh C. Johnson, the department’s general counsel, and Army Gen. Carter F. Ham, commander of U.S. Army Europe, led the working group. They followed Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in addressing Pentagon reporters today at a news conference releasing the report.
Ham said Gates gave the working group two primary tasks when he established it March 2. The first was to assess the impact of repeal on military effectiveness, unit cohesion, recruiting and retention, and military and family readiness.
“Secondly, he told us to recommend appropriate changes to regulations, policies and guidance in the event of repeal,” the general said. “Additionally, we were to develop a plan of action to support implementation of a repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, should such repeal occur.”
Johnson said the group’s recommendations in the event of repeal rest on the body of regulations already in place governing military conduct.
“We believe that it is not necessary to establish an extensive set of new or revised standards of conduct in the event of repeal,” Johnson said. “We do recommend, however, that the Department of Defense issue guidance that all standards of conduct apply uniformly, without regard to sexual orientation.”
The plan’s sections cover background, a review of literature considered in preparing the plan, and stages of progression: pre-repeal, implementation and sustainment.
Johnson said that if the law is repealed, the key message to the force is, “Gay and lesbian servicemembers must be treated the same as everyone else.”
The plan includes 14 categories of legal, policy and regulatory “action items” the working group recommends for consideration during the implementation stage, from separation for homosexuality to issues of duty assignments, cohabitation, billeting and benefits.
“We recommend that for the time being, all servicemembers not in a federally recognized marriage should be treated as single for the purpose of benefits eligibility,” Johnson said. “We also recommend that [Defense Department officials] study ways to reshape additional benefits into the member-designated category, provided it makes sense from a policy, fiscal and feasibility standpoint.”
The working group also recommends against establishing separate berthing or billeting facilities based on sexual orientation, Johnson said.
Other recommendations include changing the Uniform Code of Military Justice to remove references to consensual sodomy between adults and eliminating homosexuality from regulations outlining causes for separation from the military.
The group also recommends that servicemembers previously separated under the law be permitted to apply for re-admission to the military, provided they meet other eligibility requirements.
The plan designates a key implementation message: “Leadership-Professionalism-Respect,” and emphasizes communication and training as critical to success in the military’s transition should Congress repeal the law.
The working group’s effort in preparing the report and implementation plan, Ham said, represents “the largest, most comprehensive review of a personnel policy matter which the Department of Defense has ever undertaken.”
“Based on all that we saw and heard,” he said, “our assessment is that when coupled with the prompt implementation of the recommendations we offer, the risk of repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell to overall military effectiveness is low.”