So we got the good news that legislative repeal of the "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" (DADT) policy that kept LBGT folks from openly serving in the military has occurred, as the Senate voted Saturday to first cut off debate on the question (that’s the vote that required 60 Senators to pass) and then to pass the actual repeal legislation (which also garnered more than 60 Senate votes, even though it only needed 51).
Most people would assume that once Bill (remember Bill, from "Schoolhouse Rock"?) made it out of Congress and over to the President to for a signature that the process of repeal will be ended—but in fact, there’s quite a bit more yet to do, and it’s entirely possible that a year or more could go by before the entire process is complete.
Today we’ll discuss our way through why it’s going to take so long; to illustrate the point we’ll consider an actual military order that is quite similar to the sort of work that will be required from the Department of Defense (DOD) before the entire "DADT to open service" transition is complete.
"You cannot eliminate even one basic assumption, one substantial part of this philosophy—it is as if it were a solid block of steel—without abandoning objective truth, without falling into the arms of bourgeois-reactionary falsehood."
--Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov (Lenin)
To set things up, let’s define, exactly, what "transition" is: the Secretary of Defense, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the President all have to certify that the military is ready for the change; 60 days after that certification is made, full repeal occurs.
Soooo...now that Congress has cracked the block of steel, why is it going to take so long for full repeal to take place?
The answer, I’m afraid, is all about being way too organized.
In order to make the move to open service, there will have to be a series of official actions taken that will include developing an entire infrastructure around identifying new standards of conduct, deciding who exactly will be the "evangelizers" that go out and talk to commanders and troops, and who will be involved in supporting enforcement of the new policies.
You may recall that the 2003 invasion of Iraq was associated with a sudden spike in sexual assaults among servicemembers; this required the military to develop solutions (and yes, the controversy around how effective those solutions have been could easily be their own story, but not today).
The reason sexual assault interests us today is because the kinds of orders that were created for commanders then are quite similar to what will be needed now, and we have one of those orders readily available so that we can really visualize what kind of thing we’re talking about.
It’s too long to include in its entirety, but here’s a selected sample:
- THIS PARAGRAPH PROVIDES DETAILS FOR APPOINTING AND TRAINING DEPLOYABLE SARCS.
A. COMMANDERS AT BRIGADE LEVEL AND HIGHER ECHELONS (DIVISION, CORPS, AND ARMY COMPONENT COMMAND) WILL IMMEDIATELY APPOINT, ON COLLATERAL DUTY, A MINIMUM OF ONE SOLDIER/CIVILAIN TO SERVE AS THE COMMAND S DEPLOYABLE SEXUAL ASSAULT RESPONSE COORDINATOR (SARC). COMMANDERS WILL SELECT QUALIFIED PERSONNEL FOR DUTY AS DEPLOYABLE SARC IN ACCORDANCE WITH PARAGRAPH 7 OF THIS MESSAGE.
B. DEPLOYABLE SARCS SHOULD NOT BEGIN RESPONDING TO SEXUAL ASSAULTS UNTIL THEY RECEIVE TRAINING. INITIAL TRAINING FOR DEPLOYABLE SARCS WILL OCCUR THROUGH ONE OF THE FOLLOWING METHODS.
1. FROM THE INSTALLATION SARC. THIS IS THE PRIMARY METHOD FOR TRAINING DEPLOYABLE SARCS. THIS TRAINING SHOULD OCCUR AS SOON AS INSTALLATION SARCS ARE IN PLACE AND OPERATIONAL, BUT NOT LATER THAN 30 JUNE 2005 FOR ALL ACTIVE COMPONENT UNITS.
2. BY A MOBILE TRAINING TEAM (MTT) IN THE CENTCOM AOR. DEPLOYABLE SARCS ASSIGNED TO UNITS ALREADY IN THE CENTCOM AOR WILL RECEIVE TRAINING BY A MOBILE TRAINING TEAM AT VARIOUS LOCATIONS DURING MAY AND JUNE. SPECIFIC DATES AND LOCATIONS HAVE BEEN COORDINATED BETWEEN CFSC AND ARCENT.
3. BY SPECIAL REQUEST OF UNITS SCHEDULED TO DEPLOY THAT WILL NOT BE IN THE CENTCOM AOR PRIOR TO THE MTT TRAINING CITED ABOVE. UNITS THAT ARE IN THIS CATEGORY AND ARE UNABLE TO HAVE THEIR DEPLOYABLE SARCS TRAINED USING ANY OF THE METHODS LISTED ABOVE SHOULD CONTACT THE CFSC POC AT THE END OF THIS MESSAGE TO COORDINATE A SPECIAL MTT.
4. DURING DOD SPONSORED SARC TRAINING CONFERENCES SCHEDULED FOR THE FOLLOWING DATES AND LOCATIONS: 28 JUN 1 JUL (CHARLOTTE, NC); 12-15 JUL (SAN DIEGO, CA); 19-22 JUL (HAWAII); 27-30 SEP (ATLANTA, GA). PRIORITY FOR ATTENDANCE AT THESE SESSIONS WILL BE GIVEN TO RESERVE COMPONENT UNITS. ALL INSTALLATION SARCS, AND AS MANY ACTIVE COMPONENT DEPLOYABLE SARCS AS CAN BE ACCOMMODATED, MAY ALSO ATTEND THESE JOINT SERVICE EVENTS AS ADDITIONAL TRAINING. SPECIFIC COORDINATING INSTRUCTIONS ARE BEING WORKED WITH DOD BY THE ARMY COMMUNITY AND FAMILY SUPPORT CENTER (CFSC). UNITS SHOULD CONTACT THE CFSC POC AT THE END OF THIS MESSAGE TO SCHEDULE DEPLOYABLE SARC ATTENDANCE AT ANY OF THESE SESSIONS.
As you can imagine, the way that you end up with this sort of work product is for the Secretary of Defense to begin talking to his most senior Generals and Admirals, who will then will gather their paperwork forces and convene working groups, they’ll start passing drafts around and getting approvals; and the output from that process will be delivered to unit commanders all the way down the chain.
If these regulations are a model, conference centers will have to be made available, advocates and trainers will have to be appointed, and then unit commanders will have to train their troops to the new standards.
It is likely that there are regulations to be written that will impact the civilian world; if that’s the case, those regulations generally require, after they’re written, a 90 day public comment period, and that will also add to the total time that will be needed. If the regulations need to be rewritten after the comment period, there will be a bit more delay.
To add to the issues to be addressed, some of the forces are today "combat deployed", and for the most part I wouldn’t expect a lot of effort to train any of them to new standards until they’re rotated out of combat.
It is possible that certification could occur even if those forces are not yet trained, but the training infrastructure is in place for them when they return; if that’s the case things would obviously move faster.
In addition to managing the conduct of servicemembers, the military issues standards of conduct that affect "dependants". Some of those dependants live in base housing, and their kids often attend base schools; all of this will likely create the need for more rules and training, especially since there will be people in the military community who will be intolerant of the new regime.
Now this story actually grew out of a comment that I made at The Bilerico Project after the DADT cloture vote. The response to that comment, if I might paraphrase, was that it’s amazing that we can move tens of thousands of troops all the way to the Middle East and commence to killing everyone in sight faster than we can teach our own troops to accept each other equally.
That’s a well-focused observation, I think (and it wouldn’t surprise me if there are those in the service making the same comment), and in the end, the way the services deal with the issues behind that complaint (and the host of other issues that surround this transition) is going to be the marker by which we determine if the military will remain an institution that commands as much respect among Americans as it does today.
Will they succeed?
Starting next week, it looks like we’ll be finding out.