Will the Repeal of Don?t Ask Don?t Tell Policy Hurt the US Military?

on July 25 2011 7:12 AM

On Friday President Barack Obama, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, and Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff,  sent the certification to the Congress setting the end of Don't Ask Don't Tell (DADT) policy for September 20, 2011. The policy which prohibited military personnel from discriminating against or harassing closeted homosexual or bisexual service members or applicants, while barring openly gay, lesbian, or bisexual persons from military service was the official U.S. policy on homosexuals serving in the military.

The certification comes after a prolonged preparation required by the military leaders and Pentagon officials many of whom had reservations about the repeal of the 17 year policy.

While President Obama and other leaders like Mike Mullen and former Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman, Shalikashvili have spoken publicly against the policy, some military leaders are of the opinion that the repeal of the policy could be detrimental to U.S. military interests as it would promote promiscuity and indiscipline among the servicemen.

Marine Commandant Gen. James Amos opposed the repeal on grounds it would result in a "potential disruption to cohesion that may be caused by significant change during a period of extended combat operations." He was also concerned that any change would serve as a "distraction to Marines who are tightly focused at this point on combat operations in Afghanistan."

"When your life hangs on a line, on the intuitive behavior of the young man... who sits to your right and your left, you don't want anything distracting you," Amos told reporters at the Pentagon in December 2010

"I don't want to lose any Marines to distraction. I don't want to have any Marines that I'm visiting at Bethesda (hospital) with no legs," he said.

In an article written by a military personnel, the author stated that he had served with many gay servicemen who were very capable in the battle field. However, citing a research, he added that if the policy was repealed then the presence of open homosexuals in ships or military units could undermine the nonsexual bonding essential to unit cohesion, good order, discipline and morale which was very essential in the military.

The question is whether this fear is well founded or not. Other leaders have been vociferous in their support for the repeal of the policy. Obama in his first State of Union address in 2010 said that the law denied "gay Americans the right to serve the country they love because of who they are."

Shalikasvili also wrote that the U.S. needed the service of "any American who was willing to do the job" and "that if gay men and lesbians served openly in the United States military, they would not undermine the efficacy of the armed forces."

There have been many homosexual servicemen in the military some of whom have even written about their experiences under DADT.

Public opinion mostly sides with the right of every American to serve in the armed forced regardless of sexual orientation. A December 2010 Washington Post-ABC News poll showed that 77 percent of Americans believed that gays and lesbians who publicly disclose their sexual orientation should be able to serve in the military. From the military's point of view, US troops think that allowing gays to serve openly in the military would have a minimal effect on US war efforts, according to a Washington Post newspaper report. Some 70 percent of troops surveyed said that the effects of repealing the ban would be positive, mixed or nonexistent, the paper said, citing a Pentagon report.

At present 24 countries around the world, including Britain and Israel do not have any bans on homosexuals from joining their military. The repeal of the policy has certain financial advantages. According to the Government Accountability Office, over a six-year period (2004-2009), 3,664 service members were separated under "homosexual conduct policy" - including four out of ten who held military critical occupations.

This cost Americans $193 million to "separate and replace" these uniformed men and women. Moreover, the repeal of the policy would help remove biases not only in Military bases, but also in society.

While Obama certified that the American military is ready for the repeal of DADT, Penatagon officials said that nearly two million service members had been trained in preparation for gay men and women serving openly in their ranks. The enactment of the repeal would come in September 2011, and the Pentagon said that they would be looking at "grey areas" in the next two months that might allow them to extend some benefits to same-sex married couples in the military.

Under current law, particularly the Defense of Marriage Act, the Pentagon is prohibited from giving federally financed benefits like housing, health insurance to those couples.

Whether the US will do good from following the examples of countries like Israel by lifting the ban on DADT is yet to be seen. But many view this as a progressive step in the right direction.

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