The Department of Defense released its report on the impact of repeal of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law today.
The President has asked Congress to repeal the law, which bans openly gay men and women from serving in the U.S. military, and directed the Department of Defense to consider how to best implement such a change. The Department convened a working group, led by U.S. General Carter F. Ham and Department of Defense General Counsel Jeh C. Johnson, to address the issue.
U.S. Army Gen. Carter Ham, commander of U.S. Army Europe, said the study found that 50 to 55 percent of people surveyed said there would be no major effect if the repeal passed, while 15 to 20 percent said they’d expect a positive change. Only 30 percent said repeal would have a negative impact.
Ham indicated that he doesn’t think repeal would be harmful, if handled properly and performed deliberately. He said the leadership today has the ability to implement a new policy and maintain unit cohesion.
There is still a lot of discussion required, Ham said, but the military should begin planning now. “The best way for us to think about this is as a contingency plan,” Ham said. “Our report lays out the groundwork for actions that we recommend, if repeal does come.”
Ham said the working group strongly recommends against establishing separate housing. He acknowledged that there will be increased costs associated with training and education, but said that the working group believes those costs will be offset by savings in training from not separating homosexuals from the services.
The biggest costs will come from benefits, he said. The report recommends that each service conduct a thorough analysis to determine the cost impact of extending the various benefits.
Ham pointed out that the Defense of Marriage Act would prevent some benefits from being extended to same-sex partners of servicemembers. Others, such as life insurance benefits, can be extended to anyone the servicemember designates, and would simply require that servicemembers be informed of these options. A third category of benefits are those that currently are extended by the services only to spouses, but which could potentially be extended to beneficiaries designated by servicemembers.
The report also recommends that servicemembers who were discharged under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” be given the same opportunity as anybody else to re-enlist if the law is repealed.
“If they meet the criteria for reenlistment in all other respects, they should be considered for reenlistment. The fact that they were separated pursuant to this law should be set aside basically as irrelevant,” Ham said. “So, if you meet the criteria in terms of age, weight, et cetera, then you should be allowed to reenlist like every other servicemember.”
For more information visit the Defense.gov special “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”