By C. Todd Lopez, Army News ServiceDecember 5, 2010
WASHINGTON, Dec. 3, 2010 -- Though he believes the law that bans gays from serving openly in the military eventually should be repealed, the Army's senior officer told the Senate Armed Services Committee today, repeal of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" law now would be a distraction during wartime.
Lawmakers heard testimony from Army Chief of Staff Gen. George W. Casey Jr., the other service chiefs and the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff about their take on a report produced by a Defense Department working group that details how repeal of the law would affect the armed forces.
Casey told lawmakers that during wartime, implementing a new policy would be an extra burden on leadership.
"Implementation of the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell would be a major cultural and policy change in the middle of a war," he said. "It would be implemented by a force and leaders that are already stretched by the cumulative effects of almost a decade of war."
The general said that implementation of a repeal of the law policy at this time would add another level of stress to an already stretched force, would be more difficult to implement in combat-arms units than in other units, and would "be more difficult for the Army than the report suggests."
However, the general also said that if the law is overturned and the armed forces must comply, the Army could do so with only "moderate risk" to service effectiveness.
"We have a disciplined force and seasoned leaders, who, with appropriate guidance and direction, can oversee the implementation of repeal with moderate risk to our military effectiveness in the short term, and moderate risk to our ability to recruit and retain this all-volunteer force over the long haul," he said.
Casey also said that after reading the working group's report and the results of surveys the group conducted with servicemembers and their families, he no longer believes in the concepts that supported banning gays from serving in the first place.
"As I read through the report, it seemed to me that the report called into question the basic presumption that underpins the law," Casey said. "That is that the presence of a gay or lesbian servicemember creates an unacceptable risk to good order and discipline. I don't believe that's true. And from the surveys, it appears that a large number of our servicemembers don't believe that is true either. So eventually, I believe, it should be repealed."
The general added that while he believes the law should eventually be repealed, the services will need time to implement the change in the force.
"At this time, I would not recommend going forward, given everything the Army has on its plate," he said.