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

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

China to Open Stock Markets to Pension Funds

In unprecedented move, government to soon allow local pension funds to invest up to $94 billion in domestic shares More

1 Billion People Used Facebook on Single Day

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg praised the accomplishment in a posting on the social media site 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.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs