Colorado US Senator Mark Udall on Thursday denounced a move by Republican members of the House seeking to postpone repeal of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” military policy that bars gay soldiers from serving openly. The policy was lifted by lawmakers last December, a move spearheaded by Udall, and is set to end officially this Tuesday according to a plan drawn up and followed over roughly the last year by military leaders. Yet, in a letter today, House Armed Services Committee Chair Buck McKeon and Military Personnel Subcommittee Chairman Joe Wilson asked Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to, essentially, turn in paperwork to them before allowing the repeal to take effect.
“Barry Goldwater once said, ‘You don’t have to be straight to shoot straight.’ I say it’s time for some straight talk on this issue. The Pentagon says it’s ready. Our troops say they’re ready. The American people say they’re ready. It’s time for us to get it done,” Udall, a member of the Senate Armed Services and Intelligence committees, said of the repeal.
“I opposed ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ when it began, and 18 years later, there’s ample evidence that the policy is harming our national security by hindering our ability to recruit and retain troops while we’re fighting two wars.
“Ending ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ has been supported by military leaders from former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who said repeal is about ‘common sense and common decency,’ to Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Michael Mullen, who said it was ‘the right thing to do.’”
When he introduced legislation in 2010 to repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, Udall explained that the policy had wasted hundreds of millions of dollars and negatively effected the lives of thousands Americans dedicated to their country.
“I feel very strongly about this,” he said. “More than 14,000 service members have been discharged in the last decade. These are jet pilots, translators of Arabic, Farsi, Pashtun– languages so important in the War on Terror. All the skill sets needed in the military are met by gay Americans.”
Udall said the process of identifying gay members and discharging them was costly and counterproductive. Government accountants estimated that the policy cost the country more than $200 million since its implementation.
“We train these men and women and prepare them for duty. It’s a major investment in time and energy and money.Then we spend all this time and energy and money discharging them.”
Udall said he talked to gay and straight service members and veterans who agreed the policy was outdated and detrimental.
“Repeal has been studied extensively by groups inside and out of the military,” he said in today’s release. “We’ve had numerous congressional hearings. We know that more than 20 countries successfully allow open military service.
“The Pentagon has been given the time and flexibility our leaders said they needed to implement repeal. It’s been studied, and the conclusion is clear: It’s past time for repeal.”
Capitol Hill Republicans fought the repeal even after military leaders testified that they supported it and that repeal would not compromise readiness or security.
In their letter to Panetta, McKeon and Wilson argued that the Pentagon was somehow unprepared for official repeal because their committee had yet to receive copies of the various armed services regulation and policy changes that would occur as a result of the repeal.
“The Department of Defense is not ready to implement the repeal because all the policies and regulations necessary for the transition are not yet final,” the congressmen wrote.
Coming less than a week before repeal, the letter has been widely viewed as a political stunt or last-ditch salvo to hold back change.