Arizona Sen. John McCain led the GOP filibuster Tuesday that successfully scotched debate on the defense authorization bill that included a repeal of the nation’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy on gays in the military. At a press conference after the voting, McCain defended his actions, saying that the policy specifically precludes officials from seeking to out gay soldiers in order to discharge them. On that score he is right. The original Clinton-era Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy was amended specifically to include guards against harassment and unjustified “pursuit” of suspected gay soldiers.
Yet harassment and pursuit continue. A study conducted by the Pentagon in 2000 found that roughly 5 percent of service members had witnessed anti-gay violence in the previous year. Fact is, under the present policy soldiers are outed and as a result the nation spends a fortune training people and then investigating them and then discharging them. McCain didn’t want to hear about that Tuesday. His protest was captured on camera and it makes for good viewing.
Gay soldiers serve openly in countries all around the world. Twenty-two of the 26 countries that contribute troops to the NATO alliance permit gay soldiers to serve openly. Of the permanent member countries of the United Nations Security Council, only the United States and China ban openly gay people from serving in the military. Britain and France and Russia permit gay people to serve without hiding their sexual identity. Top U.S. brass, including Admiral Michael Mullen, have backed a repeal of DADT and government accountants have estimated that DADT has cost the country more than $200 million since its implementation. More than 14,000 gay U.S. soldiers have been discharged in the last decade.
In addition to the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, the defense authorization bill includes roughly 3,500 provisions. The bill provides for military pay and benefits and funds operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. Mother Jones today listed some of the other programs included in the bill.
* Standards and certification for private security contractors.
* Inclusion of bribery in disclosure requirements of the Federal awardee performance and integrity information system.
* Report identifying hybrid or electric propulsion systems and other fuel-saving technologies for incorporation into tactical motor vehicles.
Service Member Welfare
* Information sharing relating to investigation of exposure to drinking water contamination at Camp Lejeune, N.C.
* Adoption of military working dogs by family members of deceased or seriously wounded members of the Armed Forces who were handlers of the dogs.
* Recognition of the role of female members of the Armed Forces and Department of Defense review of military occupational specialties available to female members.
* Protection of child custody arrangements for parents who are members of the Armed Forces deployed in support of a contingency operation.
* Improvements to Department of Defense domestic violence programs.
* Department of Defense recognition of spouses of members of the Armed Forces.
* Department of Defense recognition of children of members of the Armed Forces.
* Enhancements to the Troops-to-Teachers Program.
* Fiscal year 2011 increase in military basic pay.
* Improving aural protection for members of the Armed Forces.
* Comprehensive policy on neurocognitive assessment by the military health care system.
* Report on feasibility of study on breast cancer among female members of the Armed Forces.
* Pilot program on payment for treatment of members of the Armed Forces and veterans for traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder.
* Assessment of post-traumatic stress disorder by military occupation.
* Post-traumatic stress disorder counseling for civilian victims of the Fort Hood shooting and other similar incidents.
* Authority to make excess nonlethal supplies available for domestic emergency assistance.
The Senate will almost definitely revisit the bill after November in a lame duck session. At that time, Republicans will likely be allowed by Majority Leader Harry Reid to attach amendments and one of those amendments is sure to be to a request to strike the repeal of DADT from the larger bill.