Presenters and full titles: Clifford Stanley, Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness; Major General Steven Hummer, U.S. Marine Corps, Chief of Staff of the Repeal Implementation Team; Virginia "Vee" Penrod, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Military Personnel Policy and Jeh Johnson, General Counsel of the Department of Defense.
DOUG WILSON, ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF DEFENSE FOR PUBLIC AFFAIRS: OK. Good afternoon. The Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal Act of 2010 requires that before the law takes effect, the president, the secretary of defense and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff transmit to Congress written certification by each that statutory prerequisites for certification have been met.
Those prerequisites include confirmation that the Department of Defense has prepared the necessary policies and regulations to implement repeal and that those policies and the implementation are consistent with standards of military readiness, military effectiveness, unit cohesion and recruiting and retention.
Yesterday afternoon Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Michael Mullen, each signed and transmitted to the president that written confirmation that, in their judgment, the statutory prerequisites for certification have been met. As with all aspects of the repeal implementation process, their written confirmation was based on consultation with and advice and input from the service chiefs, service secretaries and combatant commanders, who unanimously reported that the services were now prepared for repeal.
Those two written instruments were transmitted to the White House last night. This afternoon, Secretary Panetta and Chairman Mullen met with President Obama. About an hour ago, the president, the secretary of Defense and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff all signed the certification document, and that document has now been transmitted to Congress.
Per the requirements of the Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal Act of 2010, repeal implementation will come into effect 60 days from now. Specifically, that date will be Tuesday, September 20.
With me here today are the undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, Dr. Clifford Stanley, who led the repeal implementation team effort; Major General Steve Hummer, the chief of staff of the Repeal Implementation Team; Virginia "Vee" Penrod, who is the deputy assistant secretary of Defense for Military Personnel Policy, and was chairwoman of the Repeal Implementation Team; and Jeh Johnson, DoD's general counsel and coauthor of the Comprehensive Review Working Group report on which the Repeal Implementation Team's work was based.
Undersecretary Stanley has a brief statement to make. He needs to depart right after for a previously scheduled and well-deserved leave. And at that point, we will then bring up General Hummer and Ms. Penrod, and open the floor to questions for them on the details of repeal implementation, of the process and of the next steps.
Mr. Johnson will also be available for questions as relevant. I would ask that you hold your questions until General Hummer and Ms. Penrod come up here. And I'll be recognizing questioners.
So Undersecretary Stanley, the podium is yours.
CLIFFORD STANLEY: And good afternoon. I want to thank you for coming here today. And this afternoon, the president, the secretary of defense, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff certified and they are satisfied with the advice of the service secretaries, the chiefs and the combatant commanders that the services are ready to implement the implementation of the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell," consistent with the standards of military readiness, military effectiveness, unit cohesion and recruiting and retention in the armed forces. Per the law, repeal will take effect on September 20th, 2011.
Since we began training the force in March, 1.979 million service members have been trained regarding the policy changes associated with the repeal. And throughout this process, we have regularly engaged the services and combatant commands. Feedback was consistently positive. Training was being well-received, and there were no issues or barriers arising.
As we move forward to repeal and beyond, we will continue to collaborate with the services, staying engaged with the field to ensure we swiftly address any issues or questions that may arise.
I want to thank the Repeal Implementation Team and all those who have been deeply invested in this process since its beginning. Over the past seven months, the people in this department have developed training materials and established training teams and programs, provided that training to almost 1.979 million service members and performed comprehensive policy reviews and updates, all to get us to this point today.
Your contributions have been invaluable to this effort.
I also want to take a moment to thank our service members, the most valuable component of our national defense. These fine men and women continue to represent our nation's best by exemplifying the core values and the oath they took to defend this great nation.
It remains the policy of the Department of Defense that sexual orientation is a personal and private matter, to treat all members with dignity and respect and to ensure maintenance of good order and discipline. There will be zero tolerance for harassment, violence or discrimination of any kind.
This policy change is all about leadership, professionalism, discipline and respect. I know our service members will continue to proudly represent this department and its high standards, as they do each and every day.
MR. WILSON: Mr. Stanley, thank you.
And I'd now like to invite General Hummer and Ms. Penrod to come to the podium. General Hummer has a few opening remarks to give you a sense of where we have been and what the process is at this point and the issues before us.
MAJOR GENERAL STEVEN HUMMER: Thank you.
Good afternoon. What I'd like to do here in a couple minutes is talk about what we were asked to do as a repeal implementation team, give you what we did, what happens for the next 60 days through repeal, what we've reviewed and what we have yet to review.
As everybody knows, the president signed the repeal act on 22 December. Soon after that, in January, the repeal implementation team was activated, in the month of January. We were tasked to conduct implementation with maximum efficiency and minimum disruption to the force.
To do this, the repeal implementation team operationalized the Comprehensive Review Working Group's Support Plan for Implementation. This essentially was the blueprint that we carried out over the last six months. The Department of Defense worked steadfastly over the last six months to prepare the necessary policies and regulations to implement repeal and to train 2.2 million service members, including separate training for our senior civilian leadership, also Chaplain Corps members, judge advocate community, on the implementation -- or implications -- I'm sorry -- of repeal.
It is the general consensus of the military departments that this thoughtful and steady approach to educating and preparing the force and revising policies and regulations has laid the groundwork for a smooth and orderly transition.
Training materials were developed based on the CRWG's support plan and packaged to facilitate a low bandwidth and non-traditional training setting, including slides, narration, vignettes, frequently asked questions, service-specific information, and separate training for senior leadership -- again, Chaplain Corps members, judge advocates, et cetera.
The training focuses on the changes in the policy effected by the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell," a clear focus on four tenets -- leadership, professionalism, discipline and respect -- which will enable any change in policy to be executed with minimal disruption to the force as leadership continues to emphasize and treat all members with dignity and respect.
The services have been carefully executing a deliberate and thorough rollout of the necessary training.
Each service began training on or before 1 March of this year. To date, a majority of the force, 1.979 million service members, have been trained, and training will continue throughout the next 60 days through repeal. The repeal act does not require the services to have completed training prior to repeal. While there's no department deadline for the completion, the services set their own internal goals to complete training of the preponderance of the force. All services have met their timeline goals, and the Army, Guard and Reserve are on track to complete their training on 15 August.
In addition to the training, the forces -- the -- in -- I'm sorry -- in addition to training the force on implications of the repeal, the Department of Defense has undertaken a comprehensive and thorough review of regulations and policies to identify those that require revision to ensure, going forward, policies and regulations will be neutral with respect to sexual orientation. These revised policies will be effective upon the date of repeal, 20 September 2011. The majority of DoD and service-led policies and regulations remain the same, as they are already sexual orientation-neutral.
Here are some of the main policies we've made determinations on.
The first is accessions, separations and reaccessions. Upon repeal, statements about sexual orientation will no longer be a bar to military service. Upon repeal, the services will no longer separate service members under "don't ask, don't tell."
Upon repeal, former service members solely discharged under "don't ask, don't tell" may reapply for re-entry.
With regard to accessions and reaccessions, openly gay or lesbian applicants will be evaluated according to the same standards as all other applicants.
Regarding standards of conduct: Upon repeal, existing standards of conduct will continue to apply to all members, regardless of sexual orientation. All are responsible for upholding those high standards. Enforcement of service standards of conduct will continue to be sexual-orientation neutral.
Moral and religious concerns, policies regarding service members’ individual expression and free exercise of religion already exist, and there will be no changes.
Under personal privacy, the creation of separate bathroom facilities or living quarters based on sexual orientation is prohibited. Commanders cannot physically segregate members by sexual orientation.
So those are the main policies that we looked at, finalized and prepared for repeal. Over the next 60 days and on into repeal, we will now move our focus to other policies that remain important to the department and service members.
Perhaps the largest piece of this is benefits. At the present time, eligibility standards for military benefits remain the same as they currently are. There continue to be benefits for which service members may designate a beneficiary of their own choosing -- beneficiaries for life insurance, thrift savings plan, survivor benefits, et cetera.
The Defense of Marriage Act and existing definition of "dependent" in some laws prohibit extension of many military benefits to same-sex couples. Those examples are health care, housing allowance, transportation allowance, et cetera. The department will continue to study existing benefits to determine those, if any, that should be reviewed based on policy, fiscal, legal and feasibility considerations, to give the service member the discretion to designate persons of their own choosing as beneficiaries.
As we move through the 60-day period and into repeal, we will continue to work closely with the services to ensure we address any questions or issues that arise.
I will tell you I'm very impressed with the dedication and professionalism that's been shown by the multitudes of military personnel and civilian employees who have worked countless hours to create training products, to develop and run training programs, and to pour over policies. This undertaking is a fine example of how the services can come together to get a mission accomplished deliberately, effectively and efficiently.
And I know that the good work will continue. I continue to be proud of the good men and women that make up the military. They embody the very principles that we keep reiterating throughout implementation: the leadership, the professionalism, the discipline and the respect. Thank you very much.
MR. WILSON: Questions? Lita.
Q: A couple of question on things that may be under consideration, but two things. There were several people who were -- had their discharges approved over the last several months by the Air Force, and there may be others who are sort of in the midst of the process.
What happens at this point to people who were sort of in the middle of their process, but not ultimately discharged?
And secondarily, the Navy had initially issued some guidelines, too, about being able to train chaplains, in the event of same-sex unions in states where they are legal. That was then withdrawn for additional study. Has that been resolved yet?
MR. WILSON: Lita, I was going to say, for your first question, I think we may want to ask Mr. Johnson to come up and -- (inaudible).
JEH JOHNSON: Good afternoon.
Concerning your first question, as you may know, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals recently decided to reimpose the stay -- or actually, lift the stay on the injunction that the district court issued last fall. And they then modified it in some respects last week, but the modifications specifically referred to leaving in place the injunction when it comes to actual separation. So at the moment, we are complying with that court order.
We filed a brief today with the 9th Circuit on our motion for reconsideration. Overall, we take the view that once certification and repeal occurs, that lawsuit becomes moot. We've taken that position in court papers. So at the moment, that's where we are in terms of the injunction. We're obviously very sensitive to the timeline that we're in here. We're 60 days from repeal of this law.
Your second question concerned the Navy chaplain community. That question is under legal review right now. There was some -- there was some guidance put out. We received a letter from about 60 members of Congress concerning the applicability of DOMA to the guidelines.
And so the guidelines were -- they're under consideration right now by me and by the personnel and readiness community, and I suspect that we will have that issue resolved before the 60-day period.
Q: Could I just -- I just want to clear on the Air Force people who are in the midst of their discharges. That means they are not technically discharged, then, at this point; is that correct?
MR. JOHNSON: That is correct. There was one that was separated.
Q: Right, but three others were sort of in the midst. So they would have to then go back to their jobs and continue serving as normal at this point, right?
MR. JOHNSON: As far as I know, they're still in the military.
Q: Thank you.
MR. WILSON: Kevin and then Julian. Kevin.
Q: Thank you. A quick one. Well, is the actual moment of repeal midnight going into September 20th, or later in the day --
MR. JOHNSON: That's an interesting question. I suppose it depends on how you count. Sixty days from today is September 20th, and I suppose it's a legal question as to whether the law -- repeal goes into effect on -- you know, at 3:00 or whenever it was the document was transmitted to the Hill on September 20th or some earlier point in that day. I suspect I'll be issuing some sort of legal opinion on that. (Laughter.) But we calculated the day to be September 20th, a Tuesday.
Q: OK. The other question was, at the time that you guys did the survey, the big concern was unit cohesion, disruption of unit cohesion. In the process of training, which we've heard has gone swimmingly and had no problems, has there been any indication that -- you know, separate or different from what you thought coming out of that survey, once we get past training, and we get past the repeal and this really starts and open service is allowed that there will be unit cohesion going all the way down to the combat units, it's a big worry that everyone has.
GEN. HUMMER: The -- as the service chiefs have received information from their leadership, their chains of command, to include combat areas over the last six months, there have been no distractions from unit cohesion that have been reported. So it's been very, very positive, the information that's come from them, through the leadership in this building.
MR. WILSON: Julian.
Q: The Obama administration has said they are no longer appealing challenges to DOMA [Defense of Marriage Act]. If DOMA was to fall in a -- in a circuit court and only partially, you know, be invalidated in a portion of the country, do you have contingency plans to extend benefits to military families -- same-sex military families in those areas?
MR. JOHNSON: Well, Julian, my understanding of the administration's position on DOMA is that the law, as long as it is on the books, should continue. We continue to apply it.
But in court, in litigation in which the government has sued under DOMA, we will -- I believe this is correct -- concede that a strict scrutiny constitutional analysis applies with regard to the law. So it's not -- it's not quite that we're not defending the law, it's just we've conceded that the strict scrutiny level of constitutional analysis applies.
Whether the administration later takes a different legal view is up to -- is up to the, you know, Department of Justice in consultation with the president.
Q: But the exact question would be, if a court was to rule that law unconstitutional, is this department prepared to extend benefits in the portions of the country where that would be the case?
MR. JOHNSON: Well, again, we would normally -- this is really a question for the Department of Justice. When do you -- when do you in effect concede the circuit court's ruling and analysis without going all the way to the Supreme Court? And that's really a question for the Department of Justice. There are a lot of considerations that go into that.
And so, you know, if we got a circuit court decision -- I'm a little out of my league here today, because we're talking about DOMA, not DADT. But if we got a circuit court decision, it would be up to the Department of Justice to decide whether to continue to appeal that or accept a remand or whatever.
MR. WILSON: Elisabeth.
Q: Just some housekeeping. You're talking about 2.2 million active-duty uniformed service members, correct?
GEN. HUMMER: Yes, ma'am [sic: 2.2 million includes the active duty, guard and reserve].
Q: And then are -- that's not -- that does not include the guard, reserve, which are separate. There -- you said there were senior civilians in that number as well?
GEN. HUMMER: They were not -- the senior civilians were not included in that number.
GEN. HUMMER: Those senior civilians were trained, especially those that have uniformed members that work for them, so that they're familiar with the policies.
Q: OK. Thank you. For those of us not familiar with the training, I was told it was anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour and 15 minutes in groups of 50 to 250. Is that accurate?
GEN. HUMMER: That's pretty accurate. The training was made up -- and I think most people know of a -- kind of a one-way presentation, like a PowerPoint presentation --
Q: Was that in every case, the PowerPoint --
GEN. HUMMER: I'd -- yes. I'd say yes.
And then as part of that were the frequently asked questions and the vignettes, and that's where you get the dialogue going. So it depends on the leadership how they're going to present, what level is being prepared or being trained or educated, and how long those discussions go.
So it could be anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour and a half.
MR. WILSON: OK. Julian -- and Chris.
Q: And I --
MR. WILSON: I'm sorry. Do you have a follow-up --
Q: I -- well, but --
Q: I wanted to follow up on hers.
MR. WILSON: OK, go ahead.
Q: What were the frequently asked questions? You mentioned a number of revisions. I'm curious to know also which revisions they might have had the most problems with. You know, were there any sensitive, you know, reactions to these revisions that you outlined?
GEN. HUMMER: Well, actually, probably the revisions were pretty straightforward because they had to do with accessions and separations. So those were primarily the policies.
Some of these other ones were frequently asked questions that we prepared for policies that probably we're not changing like benefits, like what chaplains can do and what they cannot do. Those that -- it's actually in the -- toward the repeal, the things that we've looked at, there's probably less that's actually changed than things that have changed. So just to take care of the uncertainty there, the frequently asked questions and the vignettes were to try and allow to pound those home.
Q: I guess what I'm getting at is did they express any -- did the 2.2 million people that you train here [sic: DoD has trained 1.979 million of a total force of 2.2 million] express any serious issues with, for example, sharing restrooms, sharing bunks, that kind of thing -- sharing bedrooms, you know?
GEN. HUMMER: There were occasions where people would bring up and discuss those type of concerns in training.
MR. WILSON: Viola.
Q: Yes. I wanted -- two questions. Why was it decided to go ahead and certify before all of the training was completed? And one of the advocacy -- or at least one of the advocacy groups is saying that their next step is going to be trying to get an executive order to prohibit discrimination and harassment based on sexual orientation in the military. Have you been working on something like that? Is that in the works?
GEN. HUMMER: All --
Q: (Off mic.)
GEN. HUMMER: All service members, irrespective of their sexual orientation, are entitled to an environment that is free of any bars that would prohibit their full growth to as high a responsibility as they could reach.
Q: So you're saying that you -- are you suggesting it doesn't require an executive order?
GEN. HUMMER: I believe it does not.
MR. WILSON: Chris.
Q: But --
MR. WILSON: Yes.
Q: -- but why did you decide to go ahead with this before the training was finished?
GEN. HUMMER: It was never set as a criteria (sic) that a hundred percent of the force would be trained. A predominance of the force was what we said we would train, and that's where we are now.
Q: Thank you.
Q: Well, going back to the issue of benefits, I know that DOMA is in place and that prohibits a lot of the benefits that are going to gay service members and their partners. So I was wondering if the Repeal Implementation Team was able to identify any sort of administrative change that could be done, or some sort of regulatory change, that would enable some benefits to flow despite DOMA.
MS. PENROD: When we looked at the plan for implementation of the law, our priority was to develop the training and ensure that the force is trained. And looking at that priority, we realized the benefits, although very important -- that we would wait until repeal before we decided to look in the benefits; which we will do upon repeal.
Q: Is that going to be the next focus of the implemenation (inaudible) -- is it going to stay in place and look at benefits now, or will there be a new group that's going to take a look at that?
MS. PENROD: It'll be part of the same group, and it depends on the services. We always work with the services when we look at benefits or any policy. And we will use many of the members that remain from the Repeal Implementation Team. And then we will use, of course, service members.
MR. WILSON: Back to here, a question?
Q: (Off mic) -- a question about benefits?
MR. WILSON: It's about benefits? Go ahead.
Q: Yeah, it's just -- you know, you said that the next two months that's what you were going to do, is focus on benefits. But you also said that the majority of benefits aren't going to change, because of various laws. So what is the universe of changeable benefits you're looking at over these two months?
MS. PENROD: Well, there are some benefits that -- like General Hummer said, the Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance, that a member can already designate to their beneficiary.
There are some gray-area benefits possibly where is it policy and not law that we could possibly change and then of course there are the benefits that are restricted by law. And so we need to review all of those benefits to determine legally and fiscally which benefits we can then provide to all service members – make them sexual orientation neutral.
Q: But can you give an example?
Q: It doesn't sound like there's a whole lot you can actually do.
Q: (Inaudible) -- gray area. What --
MS. PENROD: We have, like, legal policy for -- where an individual could come in and would request legal assistance. And whether or not is that just for the service member or can I bring in my partner and also have assistance, and so that's an example. There are just some that are not by law, but it's by policy.
Q: Yeah, a question about the mootness issue, the argument that the 9th Circuit case is moot after implementation. Can you respond to the question about the -- in the lack of an executive order or a court of the law that mandates nondiscrimination, one of the concerns by the people bringing the suit is that the declaratory judgment contained in Judge Phillips' order would require the military going forward regarding people who have been discharged, regarding the separation pay, give them additional benefits that they don't have now that they won't be able to be guaranteed to have if you vacate that judgment.
MR. JOHNSON: Do you have a law degree? (Laughter.) OK. That lawsuit is about the constitutionally of 10 USC 654 [DADT]. That's what that lawsuit is about. 10 USC 654 is being repealed. We're -- as the president said in the last major step toward repeal, it is not a class-action.
It is not a far-reaching class action. It involves a named plaintiff. And the issue in the case is the constitutionality of 654. It's not about benefits. It's about 10 USC 654, and the Congress has repealed 10 USC 654, and in 60 days it will be off the books. So that's why we say the lawsuit should be dismissed because the issue is moot.
Q: I mean, the judgment was broad, and there are collateral effects that are faced by service members who were discharged under 654, and they will still have been discharged under 654 even after repeal. I mean, the half pay -- the ACLU has said today that they are going to be continuing with that lawsuit about separation pay. I mean, so why is the -- the outcome of the lawsuit was actually more broad than what you just described.
MR. JOHNSON: Well, you just -- you just made my point for me. There's a separate lawsuit brought by different plaintiffs about separation pay. That is an issue in another case which we will address. The Log Cabin Republicans case is about the constitutionality of 10 USC 654.
Q: Is that something that the repeal implementation team is looking at? (Inaudible.)
MR. JOHNSON: You heard the -- you heard the recommendations concerning reaccession. That does not involve the issue of separation pay. It is the case that service members, irrespective of sexual orientation, always have the right to go to a Board for the Correction of Military Records.
MR. WILSON: Charley, do you have -- (inaudible)?
Q: A question to you all. Congressional critics still maintain that the services had reservations about repeal.
And they're asking for the administration to release those assessments. I was wondering whether you could speak to that in general and whether that possible release is under consideration.
MR. JOHNSON: That request has been made. It's been made by people on the Hill, as well, and it's under consideration.
Q: And could you just fine tune that statement that was made earlier about how there was unanimous support?
MR. WILSON: There was unanimous support for implementation of repeal at this time, that the conditions had been met.
MR. JOHNSON: I think what -- I think what Doug said was that they were unanimous in saying that their services were prepared for repeal.
GEN. HUMMER: That's right.
MR. WILSON: Yes.
Q: You mentioned the magic date of September 20th, 2011. After that date, what are you preparing for? Any challenges? Also, on that date we can say that DADT is history?
MR. JOHNSON: Our objective and our hope is that repeal will be as smooth as possible. This was done by act of Congress, signed into law by the president, versus as a result of litigation. So it was done in an orderly process that took several months to implement through education and training, writing new policies. And what we believe we've done here is create a sexual-orientation-neutral environment in which all members can operate, do their jobs, serve in their units with dignity, professionalism and respect.
And so we believe that we've done this in an orderly manner and that we can transition to a new environment where all service members, irrespective of sexual orientation, can serve. And it's our hope that there will not be continued claims, lawsuits and so forth.
Q: So you --
MR. WILSON: Yes, go ahead.
Q: So you are not expecting, or is there a preparation going on which you don't want to talk?
MR. JOHNSON: Like I said, it's our hope that we don't continue to face litigation in this area.
MR. WILSON: Jim?
Q: Sir, just to clarify, are there going to be any restrictions on the worldwide assignment of gay service members, and especially to countries where homosexual acts may be illegal?
MS. PENROD: All service members will be treated the same, regardless of sexual orientation. When members are provided assignments overseas, they're provided briefings on cultural norms of a particular country. But no, there'll be no restrictions.
MR. WILSON: This'll be the last question. Kevin?
Q: Just to go back to the service pay issue, if repeal is something the administration sought, Congress approved, even the courts are prepared to toss it out? -- what's -- why not give -- why not go back and give out service pay? Isn't that an inevitable follow-up or even, you know, the logical next step? Why fight it or resist it or not be prepared to do it already?
MR. JOHNSON: We've tried to create an environment where everyone is treated the same, irrespective of sexual orientation. And so service members can reapply on the same terms as everybody else. That's the environment we've tried to create here.
MR. WILSON: OK.
Q: One more question?
MR. WILSON: OK.
Q: General, we're now going to be entering into a period where we will have different families treated -- getting different benefits. Is there any threat to unit cohesion, or would you -- are you -- will commanders be worried that because some people will get more housing, some people will get, you know, more benefits, and other families will not have the same benefits, that that may cause friction in units?
GEN. HUMMER: Well, the first thing I'll say is that we'll continue to follow the law. But leaders are responsible for administrating the standards of conduct for the good order and discipline of a unit irrespective of sexual orientation. And as Mr. Johnson has said, we want to continue with the dignity, respect and fairness for people that are in the military, including those with -- or neutral -- you know, looking at neutral sexual orientation.
MR. WILSON: Thank you very much. Thank you.