Hunter tries to slow ‘don’t ask’ repeal

A Republican congressman is working on a bill that would slow, or perhaps stop altogether, the Pentagon’s ability to implement the repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy banning gays serving openly in the military.

The repeal, approved by Congress last month, requires the president, the defense secretary and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to certify that implementation won’t affect military readiness before moving ahead.

But Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) plans to introduce a bill next week that would add the military service chiefs to the list — a move that could introduce some opposition.

“The idea behind the bill is to take the service chiefs and put them at the forefront of the conversation,” said a congressional aide.

So while Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Defense Secretary Robert Gates may be vulnerable to the influence of the White House, “the service chiefs do not fall under that umbrella,” the aide said.

During hearings on repealing the policy last year, some of the service chiefs expressed concerns with implementing repeal, particularly during a time of war.

Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Amos went the farthest, directly opposing repeal.

“Based on what I know about the very tough fight in Afghanistan, the almost singular focus of our combat forces as they train up and deploy into theater, the necessary tightly woven culture of those combat forces that we are asking so much of at this time, and, finally, the direct feedback from the survey, my recommendation is that we should not implement repeal at this time,” he told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

But after the law was passed, he publicly pledged his support.

“The Marine Corps will step out smartly to faithfully implement this new policy,” Amos said. “I and the sergeant major of the Marine Corps will personally lead this effort, thus ensuring the respect and dignity due all Marines.”

Gay rights groups have been concerned that the service chiefs would seek to slow implementation of the repeal.

However, Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, said Friday he does not see Hunter’s bill as a formidable challenge.

“I don’t doubt that Mr. Hunter is serious in his intent,” Sarvis said, adding that he didn’t think a majority of the House shares that view. “I would be very surprised if House leadership wanted to make this one of its priorities for this Congress,” he said.

Noting recent comments by former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty that he favors reinstatement of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, Sarvis said, “that certainly gives me a tip-off as to which wing of the Republican Party he will be courting as he explores the presidential nomination for his party.”

 

 

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