Senator McCain is insistent on leading a filibuster of the NDAA because it includes a provision that could lead to the eventual end of the military's long-standing gay ban. He's asserted that all of the service chiefs in the military are strongly opposed to any type of repeal. Well, today, the Navy's top leader has praised the Working Group Study that will be released on November 30th:
"I think the survey, without question, was the most expansive survey of the American military that’s ever been undertaken," Roughead said during an interview Saturday aboard his plane. "I think the work that has been done is extraordinary."
Roughead didn't state outright that he supports repeal now, but it certainly appears so. He'll be writing his recommendations of policy changes including an update of the UCMJ - and those recommendations will go up the chain of command.
The four-star admiral joined the chiefs of the other military services in May in sending individual letters to Senate Armed Services ranking member John McCain, R-Ariz., imploring lawmakers to delay acting on the issue until the Pentagon completed its review. This would enable the services to plan on an orderly implementation of a change in the law, they said.
McCain has wielded these letters as a weapon against the repeal effort, mentioning them at every possible opportunity. He's gone so far as to tell Adm. Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Defense Secretary Gates that he's "disappointed" in them.
His objection is kind of strange. He says:
"All four service chiefs are saying we need a thorough and complete study of the effects, not how to implement the repeal, but the effects on morale and battle effectiveness. That's what I want, and once we get this study, we need to have hearings and we need to examine it and look at whether it's the kind of study that we wanted. It isn't in my view."
There are two problems with this statement. Number one is the fact that John McCain has no authority to dictate what type of survey he'd like to see. Number two is that the president has the authority, and he asked for exactly this type of study. It was the type of study that they intended.
The President has requested that the Congress repeal 10 U.S.c. § 654, "Policy Concerning Homosexuality in the Armed Forces," and directed the Department to consider how best to implement a repeal of this law.
And here are the objectives that the President, not Mr. McCain, asked for:
- Determine any impacts to military readiness, military effectiveness and unit cohesion, recruiting/retention, and family readiness that may result from repeal of the law and recommend any actions that should be taken in light of such impacts.
- Determine leadership, guidance, and training on standards of conduct and new policies.
- Determine appropriate changes to existing policies and regulations, including but not limited to issues regarding personnel management, leadership and training, facilities, investigations, and benefits.
- Recommend appropriate changes (if any) to the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
- Monitor and evaluate existing legislative proposals to repeal 10 U.S.C § 654 and proposals that may be introduced in the Congress during the period of the review.
- Assure appropriate ways to monitor the workforce climate and military effectiveness that support successful follow-through on implementation.
- Evaluate the issues raised in ongoing litigation involving 10 U.S.C § 654
Roughead is making clear that any change in the law is up to Congress and not himself or any other person in the military:
But he added that the decision on whether to change the law is ultimately rests with Congress. "I’m eager to see where it goes on the Hill," said Roughead, who previously served as head of the Navy’s legislative liaison operation.
And there's pretty clear momentum at this point. Senator Levin wants to hold the hearings on the study as soon as possible, and he says they will boost support for repeal:
"I believe our hearings on the report will be a boost to the goal of passing a National Defense Authorization Act, including provisions related to repeal of 'don’t ask, don’t tell,' " Levin said in a statement on Monday. "Passage of the Defense Authorization Act is essential to our troops and their families and to our national defense."
Things are picking up speed, but it's not over yet. We need to remain active and vigilant, both before bill is passed and after. This won't be over even when the final conference report is passed (hopefully in December.) Immediately upon its passage, we'll have to monitor the new regulations and policy very closely to make sure it's fair and not discriminatory. Then, we have to make sure it's fully implemented. We've got a long way to go.