The service chiefs of the Army and
Marines have given Arizona Senator John McCain fresh political
ammunition in his fight to keep “Don't Ask, Don't Tell.”
McCain and other senators who oppose
repeal of the law that bans gay and bisexual troops from serving
openly will undoubtedly use Friday's testimony before the Senate
Armed Services Committee to push back against Democratic leaders who
have promised a vote this month on repeal of the 17-year-old law.
“If the law is changed, successfully
implementing repeal and assimilating openly homosexual Marines into
the tightly woven fabric of our combat units has strong potential for
disruption at the small unit level, as it will no doubt divert
leadership attention away from an almost singular focus of preparing
units for combat,” James Amos, commandant of the Marine Corps,
Army Chief of Staff General George
Casey rated the risk of repeal to his force as moderate, arguing that
lifting the policy at a time of war would “add another level of
stress to an already stretched force.”
Both men pointed to a Pentagon report
on repeal released Tuesday that found a high number of Marine and
Army combat troops opposed to repeal.
Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, who
has previously urged Congress to end the ban, dismissed the report's
findings during Thursday's hearing, saying that combat soldiers have
limited experience in the military.
“With time and adequate preparation,
we can mitigate their concerns,” Gates said.
Overall, the report's survey of the
troops found that 70 percent are okay with serving alongside openly
gay service members. McCain has called the report flawed because it
had not asked troops if the law should be repealed, a
question Gates has previously rejected as inappropriate.
The chief of naval operations, Admiral
Gary Roughead, and Air Force Chief of Staff General Norton Schwartz
also noted the concerns of combat troops. Schwartz suggested
deferring repeal until 2012. Roughead recommended repeal.
In his testimony, General James
Cartwright, the vice-chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, agreed
with the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen,
testified in favor of repeal on Thursday.
“The character and appeal of the U.S.
armed forces lies in the inclusivity, equality and opportunity in our
organizational ethos,” he said. “Being more inclusive, in my
view, will improve the institution as a whole.”