- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 15, 1999

The Pentagon ordered a new review of its ban on open homosexuals just four months after issuing a statement vouching for the policy’s fairness.
In August, the department released new guidelines for commanders on the policy, known as “don’t ask, don’t tell,” and re-released a 1998 statement that said the prohibition was working.
A working group, the Pentagon said, “concluded last year after an extensive review of the implementation of the policy that, for the most part, the policy has been properly applied and enforced.”
Despite this favorable assessment, the impending 2000 election has prompted three leading Democrats President Clinton, his wife and probable Senate candidate, Hillary Rodham Clinton, and Vice President Al Gore to criticize “don’t ask, don’t tell” as unfair.
The comments come as Democrats seek votes and campaign contributions from homosexuals for Mrs. Clinton’s expected run in New York and Mr. Gore’s quest for the presidency. Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Gore called for scrapping the policy to allow open homosexuals to serve. Mr. Clinton said enforcement is “way out of whack” but should not be ditched.
On Monday, Defense Secretary William S. Cohen ordered another review. The Pentagon inspector general will survey command climates over the next 90 days to ensure the regulation is enforced as intended.
P.J. Crowley, a Pentagon spokesman, said yesterday a new inspector general’s review is needed because since the August report there have been new reports of purported harassment against homosexual personnel. Mr. Cohen has condemned such actions and ordered the four military branches to start anti-harassment training.
“I think the secretary just made a judgment: Let’s find out more information from the field on how the policy is being implemented,’ ” Mr. Crowley said.
But the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee said any change should wait for the politics of the issue to cool off.
“The wise and fair course for future congressional action, particularly in view of the profound impact of these issues on military readiness, is not to take legislative action in the heated rhetoric of an election year,” said Sen. John Warner, Virginia Republican.
“Congress should await a complete review by the next administration, and then promptly consider any specific recommendations,” he told the Associated Press.
The 1994 policy, a compromise between Mr. Clinton and Congress, allows homosexuals to serve as long as they keep their sexuality private. An admission of homosexuality or engaging in homosexual conduct is grounds for dismissal. Congress also passed a stricter law that states homosexuality is incompatible with military service.
Homosexual rights groups charge that an increased number of discharges under “don’t ask, don’t tell” is the result of overzealous commanders seeking out service members who are homosexual.
But Rep. Steve Buyer, Indiana Republican and chairman of the House Armed Services Committee panel on military personnel, said the reason more homosexuals are being discharged is that the Clinton administration put out the welcome mat despite the strict federal law.
Intimate living conditions in the military explain “why you have an increase in discharges under the Clinton administration,” he said. “When you have those kinds of living conditions, it doesn’t take long for lesbians or homosexuals to be discovered.” Mr. Buyer accused Democrats of “shameless pandering” on the issue.
Mr. Buyer, and other leading military authorities, yesterday warned Mr. Clinton against weakening the ban, saying the rule is essential to ensuring discipline and a solid crop of recruits each year.
Homosexuality “erodes small unit cohesion and we will not be effective in battle,” Mr. Buyer said. “Bill Clinton, take away the welcome sign.”
Mr. Buyer said it is unlikely Congress will change the law.
“I don’t see us changing that at all,” the congressman said. “I don’t have any sense at all that commanders in the military or the Joint Chiefs are interested in saying we’re going to let gays serve in the military.”
Charles Moskos, a leading military sociologist who is considered the “father” of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” said he agrees with previous Pentagon reviews that concluded the program is fair.
“Are Democrats going to march back into that briar patch?” Mr. Moskos said.
The ban is needed, he said, because of “the modesty issue. For the same reason we don’t have men and women living in the same room. It’s peculiar to the military environment. What little privacy can be maintained should be maintained.”
If open homosexuality becomes part of military life, Mr. Moskos said, commanders will then be forced to deal with issues such as homosexual domestic partners living in base housing.
“Recruiting would go into the tank because the majority of kids being recruited today are blue-collar kids that don’t embrace the gay agenda,” said Robert Maginnis, a military analyst at the Family Research Council.
Military experts said Mr. Gore, if elected president, could not lift the ban without congressional approval.
“It’s up to Congress to change the law, and I don’t think Congress is ready or willing to address this issue,” said C. Dixon Osburn, co-director of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, which aids personnel targeted under “don’t ask, don’t tell.” “I think the vice president understands it’s up to Congress to act.”
Mr. Osburn’s group has spurred the current debate by reporting that the military discharged more than 1,100 people for being homosexual in 1998, compared with 597 in the policy’s first year.
Ban proponents, however, gave other reasons for why the number of separations have increased.
The “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy ended the practice of asking inductees if they are homosexual. Mr. Moskos said this has led to more homosexuals joining, then deciding to announce their sexuality. He said more than 80 percent of discharges are for a statement.
“I think this is simply a fact. Some people do become aware of their sexuality, and it’s a basic way to get out with an honorable discharge. If you say you are gay, you’re out with an honorable discharge in a matter of days.”
Five federal appeals courts have upheld the constitutionality of “don’t ask, don’t tell.” The Supreme Court has declined to intervene.

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