Air Force, Army leaders seek more data on 'don't ask, don't tell'

By Ed O'Keefe
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Top leaders of the Air Force and Army weighed in Tuesday about the possible repeal of the armed forces' ban on gays in the military, saying they have concerns about the change and want to hear more from the Pentagon on the matter.

"We just don't know the impacts on readiness and military effectiveness," Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Casey said he worried about "the impact of a repeal of the law on a force that is fully engaged in two wars and has been at war for 8 1/2 years."

He also said he opposes a moratorium on dismissing service members who violate the "don't ask, don't tell" policy, and Army Secretary John McHugh suggested that a moratorium might complicate cases currently under review.

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton A. Schwartz told the House Armed Services Committee, meanwhile, that he is concerned with the lack of solid survey data on a potential repeal. "This is not the time to perturb the force . . . without careful deliberation," he said in response to a question on the matter.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen expressed their personal support for a repeal of "don't ask, don't tell" at a Senate hearing last month. Gates also appointed an Army general and the Pentagon's top lawyer to lead a review team to survey the force on the matter.

Sen. Carl M. Levin (D-Mich.) has considered introducing legislation that would stop military discharges for those who violate the policy.

The Pentagon is conducting a study of impacts the military might expect from a repeal. Casey told senators that he would prefer that the study be completed before lawmakers take any action.

An academic study released Tuesday reports that 25 countries, including Australia, Canada, Britain and Israel, have quickly ended similar bans on gay and lesbian service members with general success.

"No consulted expert anywhere in the world concluded that lifting the ban on openly gay service caused an overall decline in the military," concluded the study by the Palm Center at the University of California at Santa Barbara.

Gates has said he would prefer up to a year to implement a repeal of "don't ask, don't tell," but Palm Center researchers suggest that a quicker approach would benefit U.S. forces.

"Swift, decisive implementation signals the support of top leadership and confidence that the process will go smoothly, while a 'phased-in' implementation can create anxiety, confusion and obstructionism," the study said.

Other conclusions from the report:

-- None of the 25 countries established separate living facilities for gay or lesbian troops or established rules that treat them differently than heterosexuals.

-- Lifting bans did not result in a mass "coming out" by servicemembers.

-- Gay and lesbian troops serve at all levels of the armed forces of Britain, Canada, Australia, South Africa and Israel in combat and noncombat roles, as enlisted members and commanders.

-- There were no instances of increased harassment of or by gay people as a result of lifting bans in any of the countries studied.

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