This past week, former Republican Congressman John McHugh, the new secretary of the Army, said that the Army is ready to deal with repealing Don't Ask, Don't Tell without a problem.
So why hasn't a repeal been enacted?
To that, I say, we're getting there. In the House, Representative Patrick Murphy, an Iraq veteran, has taken the lead on the bill to repeal the policy, and has the support of other Iraq and Afghanistan era war veterans, like Tim Walz and Joe Sestak. At VoteVets.org, we're now better than 10,000 signatures (over 5,000 veterans) in favor of a repeal on our online petition.
In the Senate, we're very close to seeing companion legislation introduced. A number of Senators, from Kirsten Gillibrand, to Mark Udall, to John Kerry, to Barbara Boxer have been working on the issue, with many more ready to jump on a bill.
Meanwhile, those opposed to a repeal hang on to this notion that a repeal would affect unit cohesion.
Hurt unit cohesion? For years, the military accepted those with "serious criminal misconduct" issues--aggravated assault, robbery, vehicular manslaughter, receiving stolen property and making terrorist threats--because recruiting under normal standards was falling fast. According to USA Today, one-in-eight Army recruits required a waiver by 2008.
One such recruit was Steven Green, guilty of the brutal murder of a family, and the rape of their young daughter, in Mahmudiya, Iraq. After Green killed the family and raped the young girl, he covered her head with a pillow and shot her. Her body was then burned. The murders set off a wave of anti-American sentiment in Iraq, pushing our battle to win hearts and minds even further back. Green was allowed in on a waiver, despite his three alcohol and drug related arrests.
Meanwhile, a highly decorated Airman is fighting a discharge under Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Lt. Col. Victor Fehrenbach served in the Air Force, defending America for 18 years. Fehrenbach is now being represented by the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, and has nine Air Medals - including one for valor for assaulting an Iraqi ambush position while under heavy anti-aircraft fire. He and his wingman spotted armored personnel carriers laying in wait for U.S. troops on their way to Baghdad. Fehrenbach's wingman's plane malfunctioned, so he couldn't accurately fire his weapons. Fehrenbach not only fired his own weapons but he guided the wingman so that he could fire on target. All this while they were under fire.
Tell me now about which person affects cohesion and readiness?
Here's an idea: Let's just keep our best troops, no matter what their background or orientation. Those with a criminal history who have proven to be good troops can stay. Those who are openly gay will abide by the same strict rules that govern heterosexual relationships in the military. If they break the rules, they're out. But if they also prove to be valuable soldiers, we keep them, too. When our top concern is a military made up of the very best society has to offer, America wins.
Momentum is picking up in Congress behind that notion, and that's a good thing. But we still need the President to make his move.
Like most issues, it will take the President to put this issue over the top. During the campaign, he vowed to repeal the policy. Once in office, he deferred to the military, first ordering a study to examine how a repeal might affect things. Now, his own hand-picked Secretary of the Army has given him an answer: It won't affect much.
The fact of the matter is that implementing a repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell is not a problem for the military. They can do it quickly and easily. The delay in a repeal has been and continues to be a political problem for politicians.
Crossposted at VetVoice.com