The U.S. Senate is scheduled to vote today on a motion to proceed to debate on the annual defense authorization bill. Normally, such a step is a routine, mechanical one. In this case, though, it is one of the most important national security votes of the year - and will be scored as such by the Center for Security Policy and a number of other organizations in their annual legislative scorecards.
As a proud alumnus of the staff of the Senate Armed Services Committee, I am pained to say that the Senate should not consider this seriously defective product of that panel's deliberations. No Republican or Democrat who cares about national security should vote for this motion.
The reason why a filibuster mounted by that committee's ranking Republican, Sen. John McCain, should be sustained is that the defense bill is being used as a vehicle for several extraneous political agendas. These include: language allowing military hospitals to be used for the first time in decades as abortion clinics, an amendment Majority Leader Harry Reid says he wants to attach that amounts to amnesty for young illegal immigrants, and repeal of the 1993 statute prohibiting openly homosexual persons from serving in the U.S. military.
The last of these is of special concern, as it would, in the words of 1,167 retired generals and admirals "break" the U.S. military. In time of war, do any U.S. senators - most especially Democrats including Sen. Mary L. Landrieu of Louisiana and Sen. Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas who are battling for re-election in conservative states - want to be responsible for such an action?
To be sure, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) activists insist there will only be upsides for the military if the law adopted nearly two decades ago after extensive hearings and debate - neither of which has happened this time around - is repealed. They claim the armed forces will not have to dismiss LGBT persons who come out, or are forced out, of the closet, easing the difficult job of filling the ranks with qualified personnel.
A seven-page memorandum prepared by the superb Center for Military Readiness and provided last week to a Pentagon commission studying the impacts of repeal illuminates myriad ways in which this social experiment would prove incredibly complex, distracting and debilitating for the all-volunteer force in the event the Senate votes down the filibuster. This is especially so if, as the homosexual activists demand, the military adopts a "zero-tolerance" policy toward anyone in uniform who deviates from full acceptance of the LGBT agenda.
A few illustrative examples make the point:
c If LGBT persons are allowed to serve, on what basis could heterosexual male and female personnel be kept apart in accommodations, lavatories and other circumstances in which privacy is limited or nonexistent?
c Would officers in command of units be given career-ending negative fitness reports if they truthfully advised their superiors that there were real problems implementing the new LGBT policy - for instance, by disclosing that consensual or nonconsensual behavior is undermining morale and discipline?
c How many military chaplains will be penalized for not complying with the new LGBT policy that their religious beliefs tell them is immoral (including performing same-sex marriages, conducting diversity programs that promote LGBT conduct as equivalent to heterosexual conduct, etc)?
c How will housing of same-sex couples be handled on military bases in states that do not recognize such relationships with marriage or civil unions?
c How will transgender personnel be accommodated in housing, lavatories, etc.? Will sex-change operations be a covered health care benefit for the military?
c How will the military contend with personnel known to be at greater risk of HIV infection - namely, males who engage in sexual conduct with other men - with regard to medical services and medication, exemption from deployment, emergency transfusions, etc.?
c Most important, what evidence is there that repeal of the 1993 law will strengthen and improve the combat capability, discipline, morale and overall readiness of the all-volunteer force?
The absence of such evidence is the most important reason for supporting Mr. McCain's filibuster. It is outrageous that one or two senators' votes may make the difference between an initiative that will be, at the very best, a new and difficult management burden for a military already overtaxed with its war-fighting responsibilities and that well may prove devastating for the military.
A sense of just how problematic this initiative may be can be found in a statement reportedly made by Lt. Gen. Thomas P. Bostick in Europe last month. According to The Washington Times, the general, who is the Army's deputy chief of staff for personnel and a top member of the Pentagon repeal review, described critics as "racists and bigots" who need to get out if they can't get with the program. Gen. Bostick denies making the statement, but The Times stands by its account. In any event, the remark was really just a more extreme version of one by the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen back in March that opponents of repeal should "vote with their feet."
The fevered swamps of a pre-election season are no place for taking such portentous steps. Senators: Don't break the military. It's the only one we have.
Frank J. Gaffney Jr. is president of the Center for Security Policy (SecureFreedom.org), a columnist for The Washington Times and host of the nationally syndicated program "Secure Freedom Radio," heard in Washington at 9 p.m. weeknights on WTNT 570-AM.
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