Schwartz: Services Need Time to Implement ‘Don’t Ask’ Repeal
By Air Force Lt. Col. Sam Highley
Headquarters U.S. Air Force
WASHINGTON, Dec. 3, 2010 Allowing time to adequately prepare servicemembers prior to implementing a repeal of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law is vital to continued mission effectiveness, the Air Force chief of staff told the Senate Armed Services Committee today.
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton A. Schwartz testifies before the Senate Armed Services Committee Dec. 3, 2010. Schwartz, his fellow service chiefs and the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff testified on the Comprehensive Review Working Group report, which addresses the potential repeal of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" law. U.S. Air Force photo by Scott M. Ash
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Gen. Norton A. Schwartz, his fellow service chiefs and the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff testified at a hearing on the potential repeal of the 1993 law that bans gays from serving openly in the military.
“It is my assessment that the U.S. Air Force can accommodate a repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ with modest risk to military readiness and effectiveness, unit cohesion, recruiting, and retention of our airmen,” Schwartz said. However, the general expressed concern about the potential disruption a repeal of the law could cause in combat units serving in Afghanistan.
“It is difficult for me as a member of the Joint Chiefs to recommend placing any additional discretionary demands on our leadership cadres in Afghanistan at this particular time,” the general said. Schwartz said he recommends deferring full implementation of any repeal of the law until 2012 to allow the Defense Department to begin education and training efforts to better prepare the force.
The senior leaders’ comments followed those of Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, who met with reporters Nov. 30 to discuss the release of the Comprehensive Review Working Group report.
“I believe that it would be unwise to push ahead with full implementation of repeal before more can be done to prepare the force –- in particular, those in ground combat specialties and units –- for what could be a disruptive and disorienting change,” Gates said. The working group’s plan, which has a strong emphasis on education, training and leader development, provides a solid road map for a successful full implementation of the repeal, assuming that the military is given sufficient time to prepare the force, the secretary added.
As part of the working group’s review, DOD officials fielded two large surveys to gather feedback from servicemembers and their families.
“The DOD study confirms that Air Force attitudes run roughly 70/30 toward those who see positive, mixed or no effect with respect to allowing open service by gay, lesbian and bisexual airmen,” Schwartz told the senators today. Additionally, he said, the study recognized a number of complicating factors, including cohabitation, privacy and benefits.
“Each of these complicating factors will require focused attention and, in time, will be accommodated satisfactorily,” Schwartz said.
The general also echoed Gates’ preference for legislative action on the repeal, rather than allowing the courts to decide the matter, in which case the military “would enjoy much less latitude to properly calibrate implementation” of the change.
“The Air Force will pursue implementation of repeal, if the law changes, thoroughly, professionally and with conviction,” Schwartz said.