Preparations for repealing the military’s ban on openly homosexual service members have proceeded very well — even among Marines, who have not demonstrated any resistance, the Marine Corps commandant testified Thursday.
“There hasn’t been the recalcitrance or push-back. There has not been the anxiety over it from the forces in the field,” Gen. James F. Amos told the House Armed Services Committee, which held a hearing Thursday on repealing the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.
What’s more, in a survey of military personnel about the issue last year, the Marine Corps had the largest percentage of service members — well over 50 percent — who strongly opposed repealing “don’t ask, don’t tell.”
To carry out the administration’s plan, the four armed services have begun sending training material to 2.2 million active-duty and reserve personnel in preparation for accepting open homosexuals.
“I’m looking specifically for issues,” Gen. Amos said of the preparatory training. “We’ve not seen it.”
He and the chiefs of the Army, Navy and Air Force testified that preparations to allow homosexuals to serve openly are going well, although they cautioned there is still a long way to go to fully implement the proposed new policy.
Gen. Amos said he held a video conference Thursday with the Marine commander in Helmand province in Afghanistan and talked about the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell.” The commander said “he doesn’t think it’s an issue” for Marines there, who were focused on combat, but that “maybe they’ll have questions when they return back to the United States,” the general said.
Gen. Norton Schwartz, Air Force chief of staff, said he was “more comfortable” with the upcoming repeal than he was in December, when the service chiefs last addressed the issue.
Congress approved repealing “don’t ask, don’t tell” in December. But the policy remains in effect until the president and the Pentagon certify that the change will not hurt military readiness. The repeal becomes effective 60 days after that certification.
In Iraq on Thursday, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates told troops at Camp Liberty outside of Baghdad that the repeal implementation is going smoothly and that they should expect little change in how they serve.
“My guess is you won’t see much change at all,” Mr. Gates said in response to a question about what service members could expect as a result of the repeal.
Mr. Gates said the military is in the third and final stage of preparation for the repeal. Having drafted new regulations and prepared training materials, the services now are training specialized instructors who will train senior officers, then more-junior personnel.
The service chiefs said they expect the training to be complete by the summer.
“The whole thrust of the training is you’re supposed to go on treating everybody like you’re supposed to be treating everybody now — with dignity, respect and discipline,” Mr. Gates said.