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

Scotland Vote Raises Questions of International Law

Experts say self-determination, as defined and protected by international law, confined narrowly to independence movements in process of de-colonization More

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

Conservationists hail ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015 More

Annual Military Exercise Takes on New Meaning for Ukraine Troops

Troops from 15 nations participating in annual event, 'Rapid Trident' in western Ukraine 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.
Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctionsi
X
September 18, 2014 2:28 AM
A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctions

A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Belgian Researchers Discover Way to Block Cancer Metastasis

Cancer remains one of the deadliest diseases, despite many new methods to combat it. Modern medicine has treatments to prevent the growth of primary tumor cells. But most cancer deaths are caused by metastasis, the stage when primary tumor cells change and move to other parts of the body. A team of Belgian scientists says it has found a way to prevent that process. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Mogadishu's Flood of Foreign Workers Leaves Somalis Out of Work

Unemployment and conflict has forced many young Somalians out of the country in search of a better life. But a newfound stability in the once-lawless nation has created hope — and jobs — which, some say, are too often being filled by foreigners. Abdulaziz Billow reports from Mogadishu.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.
Video

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

China says its has sentenced three men to death and one woman to life in prison for a deadly knife attack in March that left more than 30 dead and 140 injured. Beijing says Muslim militants from China's restive western region of Xinjiang carried out the attacks. Now, more than six months after the incident, residents in the city are still coping with the aftermath. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Kunming.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid