Perhaps the following signals an enormous change in US military structure and command: following orders is only optional, and individual troop concerns should be addressed before attacking the enemy.
President Obama’s Defense Secretary, a holdover from the George W. Bush Administration, is more than just asking or telling Congress to stay out of the ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’ controversy, he’s warning them in “the strongest possible terms” that such an action would undermine morale.
Congressional Democrats have been eyeing the upcoming Defense authorization measure as a vehicle to scrap the ban on gays serving openly in the military.
But in a Friday letter to House Armed Services Chairman Ike Skelton (D-Mo.), Gates recommended Ã¢â‚¬Å“in the strongest possible termsÃ¢â‚¬Â that Congress allow the Pentagon Ã¢â‚¬Å“to conduct a thorough, objective, and systematic assessment of such a policy change; develop an attentive comprehensive implementation plan, and provide the President and the Congress with the results of this effort in order to ensure that this step is taken in the most informed and effective manner.Ã¢â‚¬Â
The letter, co-signed by Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, came in response to a Wednesday missive from Skelton asking for guidance on the matter. Gates said he would Ã¢â‚¬Å“strongly oppose any legislation that seeks to change this policy prior to the completion of this vital assessment process. Further, I hope Congress will not do so, as it would send a very damaging message to our men and women in uniform that in essence their views, concerns, and perspectives do not matter on an issue with such a direct impact and consequence for them and their families.Ã¢â‚¬Â
In a strongly worded letter, obtained by The Associated Press, Gates told a House committee on Friday that forcing policy changes on the military before it’s ready “would send a very damaging message to our men and women in uniform that in essence their views, concerns and perspectives do not matter.”
Gay rights advocates want legislation this year that would freeze military firings of openly gay service members, and some lawmakers are planning to offer such a bill.
Gates says he supports lifting the ban but first wants to survey the troops on how it should be done.
If surveying the troops lead to no more future illegal invasions, then perhaps some angry activists might embrace Gates’ letter, and not mind waiting a little bit longer. But it’s certainly odd for a Defense Secretary to wait to consult with the troops before announcing a new policy.
Cigarette smokers facing tobacco-less futures on Navy submarines might want to get the same deal.