by Bob Roehr
WASHINGTON, DC –
The Pentagon appears to be gingerly backing away from the antigay policy known as Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, even while Congress tip-toes toward repealing the ban.
Admiral Michael Mullen was asked about the policy by Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) at his July 31 confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee to be the nation’s highest ranking military officer, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
While affirming his obligation to uphold the current law, Mullen also tried to sidestep responsibility saying, “I really think it is for the American people to come forward, really through this body, to both debate that policy and make changes, if that’s appropriate.”
That is in sharp contrast to his predecessor, Gen. Peter Pace, who in an interview with the Chicago Tribune in March said that gays are immoral and should be banned from the military.
Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) legal director Sharra Greer called Mullen’s comments “a welcome change of pace among military leadership.” Some have suggested that Pace’s outburst contributed to his not being nominated to a second term as Chairman.
Log Cabin Republicans president Patrick Sammon praised Collins for asking the question and for her concern about the readiness of the military. He called Mullen’s remarks “A welcome change to the broken record of politicians saying that they are merely following military commanders on this issue…The reality is that DADT is not a policy but a law that only Congress can change.”
The following day in testimony before the House Armed Services Committee, Michael Dominguez, the Pentagon’s undersecretary for personnel, was artful in dodging questions as to whether Congress should change the law.
He did say that gays “can serve honorably and feel welcomed and appreciated for their service as long as they comply with the law around conduct.”
Rumblings are that a large group of retired senior military officials are preparing to call for repeal of the ban. That would reflect polling data that shows 79 percent of Americans in favor of allowing gays to serve openly, while only 18 percent oppose that.
Three-star admiral Joe Sestak (D-Pennsylvania) was first elected to Congress last fall, after 31 years in the Navy. He is the highest ranking veteran in the legislature. Sestak is one of five lawmakers who recently added their names to the repeal effort. That brings the total in the House to 126 cosponsors. Hearings on the legislation are expected in the fall. .