Pentagon Officials Explain Repeal Implementation
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jul. 22, 2011 President Barack Obama, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta and Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, are satisfied the military can implement the repeal of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law.
The three men certified to Congress that repeal can be accomplished with no effect on military readiness, military effectiveness, unit cohesion, and recruiting and retention, Clifford L. Stanley, undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, told Pentagon reporters today.
The repeal law, passed in December, mandated that service members receive training on the effects of repeal. To date, more than 1.9 million active and reserve-component service members have received the training, and it will continue through September, said Stanley, who chaired the Pentagon’s repeal implementation effort.
“Throughout this process, we have regularly engaged the services and combatant commands,” Stanley said. “Feedback was consistently positive. Training was being well-received, and there were no issues or barriers arising.”
Stanley stressed that for the military, this change “is all about leadership, professionalism discipline and respect.”
“It remains a 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,” he said. “There will be zero tolerance for harassment, violence or discrimination of any kind.”
Since passage of the repeal act, DOD personnel have worked to prepare the necessary policies and regulations to implement repeal and to train service members, said Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Steven A. Hummer, chief of staff for the repeal implementation team, who also briefed reporters.
“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,” the general said.
Defense Department personnel also identified regulations and policies that have to be revised to make them neutral with respect to sexual orientation.
“These revised policies will be effective upon the date of repeal,” Hummer said. The repeal takes effect Sept. 20, when a 60-day waiting period required by the repeal legislation runs out. “The majority of DOD and service-led policies and regulations remain the same, as they are already sexual orientation-neutral,” the general added.
Repeal means changes to accessions, separations and re-accessions. “Upon repeal, statements about sexual orientation will no longer be a bar to military service,” the general said. “Upon repeal, former service members solely discharged under ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” may reapply for re-entry.”
Standards of conduct will continue to apply to all service members, regardless of sexual orientation, he said. “All are responsible for upholding those high standards, and enforcement of service standards of conduct will continue to be sexual-orientation neutral,” Hummer said.
Living quarters will remain as they are today, and commanders cannot physically segregate members by sexual orientation. Gay service members will be subject to worldwide deployment.
During the next 60 days, Pentagon officials will examine benefits. Right now, eligibility for military benefits will remain the same, Hummer said. Service members may designate partners as beneficiaries for life insurance, the thrift savings plan and survivor benefits, he added.
“The Defense of Marriage Act and existing definition of ‘dependent’ in some laws prohibit extension of many military benefits to same-sex couples,” the general said. “Those examples are health care, housing allowance, transportation allowance, etc. 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.”