What do you think affects troop morale more -- serving in a military that is in a constant state of war and endless deployments, or allowing open service for gay and lesbian troops?
Few Americans seem to be paying attention but Don't Ask, Don't Tell (DADT) is still on the books. Most people were led to believe DADT was repealed last December. The reality is that the discriminatory policy is still in effect because the law signed by President Obama in December merely set in motion a process by which repeal will be executed.
Long story short on the next steps for repeal -- the President, Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff all have to certify that a plan repealing the policy won't negatively affect unit cohesion. Upon certification, the new policy will undergo a 60-day implementation period before DADT is officially repealed.
So far, the repeal process is going "extremely well so far," according to Clifford Stanley, who serves as the U.S. undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness. Yet it appears that certification is not planned to occur until mid-Summer. With the sixty day implementation period, it will be Fall before gay and lesbian troops can serve openly. If the implementation is going "extremely well so far," then why not capture the momentum and accelerate the process by certifying the plan to repeal?
The fact that we are now involved in a war in Libya, without Congressional approval, has me wondering -- if we got involved in a war with such little planning, then what is taking so long with DADT repeal? We're talking about allowing open service for gays and lesbians who already serve our country in uniform, not regime change. Not to mention the fact that there are men and women who were kicked out under DADT who are hoping to rejoin the military. With involvement in so many conflicts, it seems that we ought to get everyone into the fight.
But let's step back a minute. The President formally called for repeal of DADT last year during the State of the Union address -- January 27, 2010. That's well over a year ago. Prior to that, President Obama clearly articulated his desire to repeal the policy.
Military planners have had plenty of time to prepare a plan for DADT repeal. And the troops have had time to "socialize" this inevitable change during the past year.
How long does it take to certify a plan to allow gays to serve openly in the military? Things are supposedly going "extremely well so far." And again, bombs are dropping in Libya, a war which had no planning.
Sixty days is plenty of time to complete training on the new policy. Training materials have been published and there is really no reason that training couldn't be done more quickly. I understand the caution, but it seems unnecessary and likely to impede progress towards full repeal of DADT.
Back to Libya for a moment -- we would be better off if we applied as much scrutiny to our war planning as we have with DADT repeal. We must know our endgame before we start dropping bombs and promoting regime change. And as for DADT repeal, I'd argue we should capitalize on the positive momentum with implementation that has been in planning well over a year. The Pentagon should accelerate action and certify repeal as soon as possible. There are at least a few service members who'd like to rejoin the fight.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Ryan McDermott.