News / USA

Pentagon Begins Process to Allow Homosexuals into US Military

Multimedia

TEXT SIZE - +

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

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 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.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid