The rush by congressional Democrats to overturn "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (DADT) - despite the opposition of the Army, Air Force and Marine Corps service chiefs - threatens its advocates with a political backlash from a public that is just beginning to focus on this issue.
Marine Commandant Gen. James Amos, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz and Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey all testified in a hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee that overturning DADT has strong potential to disrupt military readiness and effectiveness and will divert leadership attention away from focusing on preparing units for combat.
Gen. Amos, speaking of the active-duty Marines, said, "We asked for their opinions, and they gave them to us. Their message to me is that the potential exists for disruption to the successful execution of our current combat mission should repeal be implemented at this time."
Gen. Schwartz echoed these concerns. How are Air Force leaders supposed to deal with the complexity of an air war in Afghanistan if they must turn their focus from fighting to implementing a disruptive new policy? Gen. Casey said that overturning the policy would create additional stress on soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. He added that implementing this policy would likely be more difficult than the Pentagon's recently-released report indicated.
The Pentagon survey on DADT itself revealed that an astonishing 23 percent of Marines said they would definitely quit the Corps sooner than they'd planned and another 15 percent said they would consider leaving sooner than planned if the ban were overturned. In other words, nearly 40 percent of Marines would leave or consider quitting the service early if DADT were overturned.
Proponents claim we are losing highly qualified and much needed service members because of DADT, but last year the Department of Defense reported only 75 Marines were discharged for violating DADT - a quarter of 1 percent of all discharges from the Corps. As Gen. Carl Mundy, former Marine commandant, pointed out, more than half of those were still in entry level training - hardly highly qualified service members. Senators should do the math: 40 percent versus a quarter of 1 percent.
Considering this, how can congressional Democrats even contemplate voting to overturn DADT in a lame-duck session of Congress?
The one prominent military supporter of President Obama's proposal is his chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Adm. Michael Mullen.
But Adm. Mullen's views are clearly outside of the military mainstream, as his testimony reveals. Adm. Mullen said that "should repeal occur, some soldiers and Marines may want separate shower facilities, some may ask for different berthing, some may even quit the service. We'll deal with that."
This statement is breathtaking. The key issue is not separate shower facilities or different berthing, but combat effectiveness. And it's not just the views of some soldiers and Marines at issue, but those of three service chiefs.
Also astounding is Adm. Mullen's casual indifference to troops quitting the service. The Pentagon's own survey reveals that 40 percent of Marines and 25 percent of the Army could leave. Adm. Mullen testified that "we'll deal with that," but presented no plan as to how.
Deliberately draining the military's manpower during wartime is madness. One would expect this attitude from the dean of Harvard law school, not the chairman of the Joint Chiefs.
Do we really want Marines quitting in wartime and do Democratic lawmakers want to face accusations that they compromised the readiness of our military to appease liberal special-interest groups?
The rashness of the Democratic Party has become habitual. From a rushed-through stimulus package that failed to stimulate the economy to a health care reform bill that Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Congress had to pass so they could read it and now this lame-duck push on DADT, the willingness of Democrats to rush through liberal agenda items knows no bounds.
But possible policy consequences of overturning DADT aside, Democrats should remember that 63 House members were fired from Congress because they obeyed Mrs. Pelosi, Mr. Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid instead of the American people. The 23 Democratic senators up for re-election in 2012 might want to consider how they will address veterans groups and religious organizations regarding their vote.
On Nov. 2, the American people rejected this rush mentality to passing legislation. Liberals are demanding that DADT be overturned now, but the Marines say no. We stand with the Marines, and so do the vast majority of the American people. Yesterday's cloture vote means the message might be getting through.
Tony Perkins is the president of the Family Research Council and a veteran of the Marine Corps. The Family Research Council and other members of the Freedom Federation wrote senators asking them to delay a vote until the new Congress.
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