With open and objective statements, Robert M. Gates, Secretary of Defense and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Navy Admiral Mike Mullen testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee early this afternoon on the controversial issue of Don't Ask Don't Tell (DADT).
Gates and Mullen took a posture of when the policy will be done away with, not if. "We have received our orders from the Commander in Chief and we are moving out accordingly." Gates said. "However, we can also only take this so far as the ultimate decision rests with you, the Congress."
"I am mindful that attitudes toward homosexuality may have changed considerably both in society and in the military since the law was implemented" Gates concluded in his opening statement.
Gates outlined formation of a committee to evaluate all aspects of the change so as to insure a smooth transition when it takes place. This study is to be completed by the end of this year. Gates will have a review board in place within 45 days.
Mullen opened by saying: "We understand perfectly the President's desire to repeal this law."
Repeal of DADT is "the right thing to do," said Mullen and then continued with a strong supporting statement: "It is my personal belief that allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly would be the right thing to do. No matter how I look at this issue, I cannot escape being troubled by the fact that we have in place a policy which forces young men and women to lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens. For me, personally, it comes down to integrity, theirs as individuals and ours as an institution. I also believe that the great young men and women of our military can and would accommodate such a change. I never underestimate their ability to adapt."
Mullen cautioned that with all of the current obligations of the military worldwide, this issue, while important will not be the primary focus of the military at this point in time.
When asked by Committee Chair Carl Levin (D-MI) if there could be a suspension of enforcement of DADT while the review is taking place, Gates responded that the law would not allow for a set aside. He did suggest that there would be opportunities to "raise the bar" of standards currently in place and "enforce this policy in a more humane and fair manner."
Ranking Committee member Senator John McCain (R-AZ) expressed opinion showing his ardent opposition to any change in the current law or its implementation. McCain told Gates he was disappointed in his position.