News / USA

Pentagon Begins Process to Allow Homosexuals into US Military

Multimedia

The top U.S. military officer has endorsed President Barack Obama's desire to integrate open homosexuals into the U.S. military.  The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, told Congress Tuesday he believes it is "the right thing to do," after Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced the creation of a commission to study the issue and make a formal plan.

Admiral Mullen had not previously expressed his personal views on open homosexuals serving in the U.S. military, so his statement was striking.  "It is my personal belief that allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly would be the right thing to do.  No matter how I look at this issue, I can not escape being troubled by the fact that we have in place a policy that forces young men and women to lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens.  For me, personally, it comes down to integrity - theirs as individuals and ours as an institution."

Admiral Mullen has enormous influence among members of the military, and is the senior military adviser to the president.  One senator accused him of exerting an undue influence on this process by expressing his opinion so strongly.  The admiral took a different view.  "For me, this is not about command influence, this is about leadership.  And I take that very seriously," he said.

Admiral Mullen said he believes the troops would accept the integration of openly homosexual colleagues, but the admiral also endorsed the plan for a high level commission to study how to do that, and what the impact on military preparedness would be.  Secretary Gates said that will be a key focus of the commission, which will be led by the defense department's top civilian lawyer and a four-star Army general.

"The working group will examine the potential impacts of a change in the law on military effectiveness, including how a change might affect unit cohesion, recruiting and retention, and other issues crucial to the performance of the force.  The working group will develop ways to mitigate and manage any negative impacts," he said.

Gates said a key goal "will be to minimize disruption and polarization in the ranks," particularly on the front lines. 

The secretary acknowledged the Congress will have the final word on the issue, but he said for the administration, the question is not whether to change the policy, but how to make the change.  He said the defense department has received its orders from President Obama and is "moving out accordingly."  But he said the study will take 11 months and implementation at least a year, and that will only happen if the Congress changes the law.

Current law enables homosexual men and women to serve in the military if they keep their sexual preference a secret.  Under the law, known as Don't Ask Don't Tell, service members can be discharged if commanders find out they are homosexuals, but commanders and recruiters do not ask about sexual preference as a matter of routine. 

About 800 people are discharged from the U.S. military for homosexuality every year.  As part of Tuesday's announcement, Secretary Gates said the Defense Department has determined it can be more lenient in enforcing the law, and he has asked for a detailed proposal from his staff within 45 days.

At the hearing, some members of the Senate Armed Services Committee endorsed the plan to integrate open homosexuals into the military, including the chairman, Senator Carl Levin. "Ending the policy would improve our military's capability and reflect our commitment to equal opportunity.  I agree with what President Obama said in his State of the Union Address, that we should repeal this discriminatory policy," he said.

But other members strongly opposed the plan, including Republican Senator John McCain, a Navy veteran, who lost the 2008 presidential election to President Obama.  He said this is the wrong time to put additional stress on the force and to, in his view, put the effectiveness of the U.S. military at risk. "Has this policy been ideal?  No.  But it has been effective.  It has helped to balance a potentially disruptive tension between the desires of a minority and the broader interests of our all-volunteer force," he said.

Senator McCain acknowledged homosexuals serve "admirably" in the U.S. military, but he said the current law enables them to do so without disrupting the force. 

Admiral Mullen picked up on that point. "I have served with homosexuals since 1968.  Senator McCain spoke to that in his statement, everybody in the military has.  But I also want to reemphasize what I said - I am not all-knowing in terms of the impact, and any impact, and understanding readiness and effectiveness [aspect], is absolutely critical," he said.
 
The admiral also chided some advocates on both sides of the issue, saying they speak as if there is no debate and nothing to be learned or considered regarding this issue.  He said the Defense Department's review will be more thoughtful than that.

You May Like

Kurdish President: More Needed to Defeat Islamic State

In interview with VOA's Persian Service, Massoud Barzani says peshmerga forces have not received weapons, logistical support needed to successfully fight IS in northern Iraq More

Sierra Leone's Stray Dog Population Doubles During Ebola Crisis

Many dog owners fear their pets could infect them with the virus and have abandoned them, leading to the increase and sparking fears of rabies More

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

New methods for mapping pain in the brain not only validate sufferers of chronic pain but might someday also lead to better treatment More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Paini
X
Shelley Schlender
April 20, 2015 7:03 PM
Pain has a purpose - it can stop you from touching a flame or from walking on a broken leg. As an injury heals, the pain goes away. Usually. But worldwide, one out of every five people suffers from pain that lasts for months and years, leading to lost jobs, depression, and rising despair when medical interventions fail or health experts hint that a pain sufferer is making it up. From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.
Video

Video Hope, Prayer Enter Fight Against S. Africa Xenophobia

South Africa has been swept by disturbing attacks on foreign nationals. Some blame the attacks on a legacy of colonialism, while others say the economy is to blame. Whatever the cause, ordinary South Africans - and South African residents from around the world - say they're praying for the siege of violence to end. Anita Powell reports from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Italy Rescues Migrants After Separate Deadly Capsize Incident

Italy continued its massive search and rescue operation in the Mediterranean Monday for the capsized boat off the coast of Libya that was carrying hundreds of migrants, while at the same time rescuing Syrian migrants from another vessel off the coast of Sicily. Thirteen children were among the 98 Syrian migrants whose boat originated from Turkey on the perilous journey to Europe.
Video

Video New Test Set to Be Game Changer in Eradicating Malaria

The World Health Organization estimates 3.4 billion people are at risk of malaria, with children under the age of five and pregnant women being the most vulnerable. As World Malaria Day approaches (April 25), mortality rates are falling, and a new test -- well into the last stage of trials -- is having positive results in Kenya. Lenny Ruvaga reports for VOA from Nairobi.
Video

Video Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?

Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Overwhelmed by Migrants, Italy Mulls Military Action to Stabilize Libya

Thousands more migrants have arrived on the southern shores of Italy from North Africa in the past two days. Authorities say they expect the total number of arrivals this year to far exceed previous levels, and the government has said military action in Libya might be necessary to stem the flow. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Putin Accuses Kyiv of ‘Cutting Off’ Eastern Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in his annual televised call-in program, again denied there were any Russian troops fighting in Ukraine. He also said the West was trying to ‘contain’ Russia with sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports on reactions to the president’s four-hour TV appearance.
Video

Video Eye Contact Secures Dog's Place in Human Heart

Dogs serve in the military, work with police and assist the disabled, and have been by our side for thousands of years serving as companions and loyal friends. We love them. They love us in return. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports on a new study that looks at the bio-chemical bond that cements that human-canine connection.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Search for Bodies of Missing Soldiers

As the cease-fire becomes more fragile in eastern Ukraine, a team of volunteer body collectors travels to the small village of Savur Mohyla in the what pro-Russian separatists call the Donetsk Peoples Republic - to retrieve bodies of fallen Ukrainian servicemen from rebel-held territories. Adam Bailes traveled with the team and has this report.
Video

Video Xenophobic Violence Sweeps South Africa

South Africa, long a haven for African immigrants, has been experiencing the worst xenophobic violence in years, with at least five people killed and hundreds displaced in recent weeks. From Johannesburg, VOA’s Anita Powell brings us this report.
Video

Video Apollo 13, NASA's 'Successful Failure,' Remembered

The Apollo 13 mission in 1970 was supposed to be NASA's third manned trip to the moon, but it became much more. On the flight's 45th anniversary, astronauts and flight directors gathered at Chicago's Adler Planetarium to talk about how the aborted mission changed manned spaceflight and continues to influence space exploration today. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Badly Burned Ukrainian Boy Bravely Fights Back

A 9-year-old Ukrainian boy has returned to his native country after intensive treatment in the United States for life-threatening burns. Volodia Bubela, burned in a house fire almost a year ago, battled back at a Boston hospital, impressing doctors with his bravery. Faith Lapidus narrates this report from VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko.
Video

Video US Maternity Leave Benefits Much Less Than Many Countries

It was almost 20 years ago that representatives of 189 countries met at a UN conference in Beijing and adopted a plan of action to achieve gender equality around the world. Now, two decades later, the University of California Los Angeles World Policy Analysis Center has issued a report examining what the Beijing Platform for Action has achieved. From Los Angeles, Elizabeth Lee has more.
Video

Video Endangered Hawaiian Birds Get Second Chance

Of the world's nearly 9,900 bird species, 13 percent are threatened with extinction, according to BirdLife International. Among them are two Hawaiian honeycreepers - tiny birds that live in the forest canopy, and, as the name implies, survive on nectar from tropical flowers. Scientists at the San Diego Zoo report they have managed to hatch half a dozen of their chicks in captivity, raising hopes that the birds will flutter back from the brink of extinction. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Exhibit Brings Renaissance Master Out of the Shadows

The National Gallery of Art in Washington has raised the curtain on one of the most intriguing painters of the High Renaissance. Mostly ignored after his death in the early 1500s, Italian master Piero di Cosimo is now claiming his place alongside the best-known artists of the period. VOA’s Ardita Dunellari reports.

VOA Blogs