- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Commandant on gays

In Washington politics, timing is everything and Marine Corps Gen. James F. Amos was in the right place and time to influence the outcome of the Senate debate on the controversial legislation to repeal the law banning open gays in the military.

Hours before the full Senate on Tuesday failed to garner the 60 votes needed cut off debate on the fiscal 2011 defense authorization bill that contained a provision to repeal the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, Gen. Amos, assistant commandant and nominee for the top post, made clear he opposes allowing open homosexuals in the military.

“In my personal view, the current law and associated policy have supported the unique requirements of the Marine Corps, and thus I do not recommend its repeal,” Gen. Amos stated in written answers to questions made public by the Senate Armed Services Committee for the hearing Tuesday.

“My primary concern with proposed repeal is the potential disruption to cohesion that may be caused by significant change during a period of extended combat operations.”

Additionally, the policy change would be a “distraction” for Marines that “are tightly focused at this point on combat operations in Afghanistan,” he stated.

Gen. Amos said the current review of the policy on open gays in the ranks is under way and “that review should tell us a lot about whether such a change will be disruptive to unit cohesion.”

The Pentagon’s survey of military personnel on the proposed change has produced results indicating that at least most Marines are opposing the change, the four-star general said during Senate testimony. “Sir, I’ve heard, at the Marine bases and the Marine input for the online survey, it has been predominantly negative. But I don’t know that for a fact. I have not seen that.”

Gen. Amos also said there are parts of the proposed policy changes that “we’ve not peeled back yet.”

“And by that, I’m talking some policy issues, some standards-of-conduct issues, the issue of unit cohesion,” Gen. Amos said. “I’m not quite sure what the impact will be on an all-volunteer force, especially a young force like the Marine Corps, predominantly young — 60-plus percent of our Marines are 21 years or younger — and so we’re not quite sure what the impact’s going to be.”

Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican and ranking member of the Armed Services Committee who led the opposition to lifting the ban, expressed anger that the Pentagon’s ongoing survey on the issue fails to address the impact it would have on morale and military effectiveness.

“What it does is ask questions as to how the military would adjust to repeal of the law,” Mr. McCain said. “So therefore, we are now basing a decision by the president of the United States, the secretary of defense, and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, based on a study that does not get to the fundamental question, which is: What is the effect of repeal on morale and battle effectiveness?”

Conducting a study that assumes the law will be repealed is “an incredible act of disingenuous behavior on their part,” Mr. McCain said.

Growing IED threat

The Pentagon unit in charge of countering improvised explosive devices (IEDs) recently published its annual report for 2009 showing that IED bombings in Afghanistan grew sharply, but declined in Iraq.

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