Military chiefs split with Mullen on gays
“I am concerned that the men and women of our military will view this pre-emptive political action as a deep sign of disrespect and unwillingness to consider their views,” said Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, who led the fight to keep the ban.
The service chiefs revolted after Adm. Mullen and Mr. Gates abandoned their no-vote-now stance. Each sent a letter to Mr. McCain on the eve of Thursday’s vote asking lawmakers to wait.
Gen. Casey said he thinks “repealing the law before the completion of the review will be seen by the men and women of the Army as a reversal of our commitment to hear their views before moving forward.”
Gen. Norton Schwartz, Air Force chief, said, “I believe it is important, a matter of keeping the faith with those currently serving in the armed forces, that the secretary of defense-commissioned review be completed before there is any legislation to repeal.”
Adm. Gary Roughead, the Navy chief, wrote: “My concern is that legislative changes at this point, regardless of the precise language used, may cause confusion on the status of the law in the fleet and disrupt the review process itself by leading sailors to question whether their input matters.”
Democrats ignored those pleas and voted anyway. Their concern was that if they waited until the Gates study is complete, after the November elections, Republicans could pick up enough seats to block repeal in 2011.
Perhaps the biggest affront was the fact that the White House, Mr. Gates, Adm. Mullen and Democrats settled on a compromise without allowing the four service chiefs to see it or comment.
Peter R. Orszag, director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, endorsed the official compromise on May 24 in a letter to Rep. Patrick J. Murphy, Pennsylvania Democrat, sponsor of the repeal legislation. Vote now on the amendment to repeal, Mr. Orszag said, and the military can later add policies to regulate it, based on the Gates review.
The next day, in a reflection of how the chiefs were shut out, Gen. Casey said he had not seen the compromise language.
Capt. John Kirby, Adm. Mullen’s spokesman, told The Washington Times that the chairman told the chiefs on May 21 that there probably would be an amendment to repeal the ban.
Capt. Kirby said Adm. Mullen wanted to speak with the chiefs on May 24 about the exact language. “But it was not possible to do so, due to scheduling conflicts,” Capt. Kirby said. “This meeting was held Tuesday the 25th.”
The next day, the chiefs sent Mr. McCain their letters opposing the compromise.
“There was a clear expression of the chiefs, and Congress disregarded that because of a budget director,” said Elaine Donnelly, whose Michigan-based Center for Military Readiness supports the ban. “The White House chef would have as much credibility on this issue.”
Adm. Mullen said on “Fox News Sunday” that he and Mr. Gates will take a methodical approach in deciding exactly when and how the repeal takes effect.
“What I don’t want to do is electrify the force at a time when they’re going through two, in the time of two wars, the length of time that we’ve been at war,” Adm. Mullen said. “And when we get to a point, we get through the review, we’ll understand what it takes to implement it. … I, with the secretary of defense and the president, would certify that we’re ready for implementation at the time that that really should take place.”
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