By C. Todd Lopez
WASHINGTON (Dec. 04, 2010) -- During testimony on Capitol Hill today, the Army's senior officer told lawmakers repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" now would be a distraction during wartime.
Senators on the Armed Services Committee took testimony Dec. 3 from service chiefs and the vice chairman of the joint chiefs of staff about their take on the report produced by a Department of Defense working group that details how repeal of the policy known commonly as "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," would affect the armed forces.
The DADT policy prohibits gay and lesbian servicemembers from serving openly in the armed forces.
Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. George W. Casey Jr. told lawmakers that during wartime, it would be an extra burden on leadership to implement a new policy.
"Implementation of the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell would be a major cultural and policy change in the middle of a war," he said. "It would be implemented by a force and leaders that are already stretched by the cumulative effects of almost a decade of war."
The general said that implementation of a repeal of the DADT policy at this time would add another level of stress to an already stretched force, would be more difficult to implement in combat-arms units than in other units, and would "be more difficult for the Army than the report suggests."
However, the general also said that if the law is overturned, and the armed forces must comply, the Army could do so with only "moderate risk" to service effectiveness.
"We have a disciplined force and seasoned leaders, who, with appropriate guidance and direction, can oversee the implementation of repeal with moderate risk to our military effectiveness in the short term, and moderate risk to our ability to recruit and retain this all-volunteer force over the long haul," he said.
The general also said that after reading the report produced by a Department of Defense working group, he no longer believes in the concepts that supported the ban on gay and lesbian servicemembers from serving in the first place.
"As I read through the report, it seemed to me that the report called into question the basic presumption that underpins the law," Casey said. "That is that the presence of a gay or lesbian servicemember creates an unacceptable risk to good order and discipline. I don't believe that's true. And from the surveys it appears that a large number of our servicemembers don't believe that is true either. So eventually I believe it should be repealed."