OPP Attends Panel on DADT Repeal

March 24, 2010

On March 23rd, Representatives of the Office of Public Policy attended a rollout of a report by the Center for American Progress on Implementing the Repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT). The Center’s report—available here —makes several recommendations key to instituting a repeal of the 1993 policy effectively and without disruption to military readiness or unit cohesion. Key recommendations included: including sexual orientation in armed forces training programs that deal with nondiscrimination, clearly signaling that the military will not segregate housing, showering, or other common use facilities based on sexual preference, extending familial benefits (such as health insurance) to cover same-sex partners in a committed relationship, and adjusting the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) to accommodate healthy same-sex relationships that do not undermine unit effectiveness or morale. The authors of the report believe that these actions, along with several other reforms, will allow for a fairly seamless transition from DADT to a policy where gay, lesbian, transgender, and bisexual individuals can serve openly in the military.

In addition to the rollout of the report, the presentation included a panel discussion featuring three individuals with expert knowledge of the topic: former U.S. Senator and Virginia Governor Charles Robb, Former Judge Advocate General for the U.S. Navy Admiral John Hutson (Ret.), and former Secretary of the Army Louis Caldera. All three of them spoke passionately about the need to repeal DADT and replace it with a policy that allows everyone, regardless of sexual orientation, to serve openly in the U.S. Military.

Senator Robb, when asked what he thought about assertions that repealing DADT would lower recruitment, replied that he did not think that it would, because young people today are more diverse and tolerant of different viewpoints. “We have a policy that was written by people who were born in the forties and grew up in the fifties being implemented on recruits who were born in the eighties and grew up in the nineties. It’s a different world.” Continuing, he added that DADT was akin to “workplace or hiring discrimination,” and that most people today view it that way, so “DADT actually hurts military recruitment”, and “we should expect to see [recruitment] increase after a successful repeal.”

Additionally, each of the panelists agreed with the basic CFAP report recommendations on how best to proceed with implementing a repeal of the standing policy. All three added the addendum that because of the nature of the military, the repeal must be supported and promoted from the top as “the right thing to do,” as opposed to “an order we have to follow.” Caldera and Hutson indicated that without that proactive, top-down support for the policy, it may face significant hurdles in implementation as individual commanders may feel that top brass do not support the policy change.

Caldera, Robb, and Hutson all also agreed that the repeal of DADT will probably take effect without many difficulties, just as integration of minorities and women in the armed forces did. Hutson made a point of it by reminding everyone that members of the military have been serving with gays, lesbians, and bisexuals for years. “As Admiral Mullen said in his testimony before Congress, we have been serving with them for decades. So for the same reasons that integration [of minorities and women] was not difficult, neither will this be.” Senator Robb added to that, “One Hundred years from now, people will be wondering what all the fuss was about, the same way we wonder that today about integration.”

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