Gates to Congress: time to repeal DADT

GATES TO CONGRESS: TIME TO REPEAL DADT…. Thanks to a series of strategic leaks, we already had a very good sense that the Pentagon’s troop survey on repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” contained good news. But there were some lingering questions about exactly how encouraging the results would be, and how strong the repeal endorsement would be from military leaders.

By most standards, the news this afternoon is even better than expected.

The Pentagon’s long-awaited report on gays in the military concludes that repealing the 17-year-old “don’t ask, don’t tell” law would present only a low risk to the armed forces’ ability to carry out their missions and that 70 percent of service members believe it would have little or no effect on their units.

The conclusions published in Tuesday’s report give a boost to President Obama and Congressional Democrats seeking to eliminate the ban before the end of the year and undercut the arguments of social conservatives and lawmakers, including Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who believe ending the law would harm the military as it conducts two wars.

“The risk of repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell to overall military effectiveness is low,” said the report’s co-authors, Defense Department General Counsel Jeh C. Johnson and Army Gen. Carter F. Ham. While ending the ban would likely bring about “limited and isolated disruption” to unit cohesion and retention, “we do not believe this disruption will be widespread or long-lasting,” they said.

Nearly seven in ten U.S. troops said they served alongside someone in their unit who they believed to be gay or lesbian, and 92% of these servicemen and women said their unit’s ability to work together was fine. What’s more, 89% of Army combat units and 84% of Marine combat units saying they had good or neutral experiences working with gays and lesbians.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates, after noting the non-existent risk to military readiness, “strongly” urged the Senate to pass the pending legislation “before the end of this year.” He added that repeal “would not be the wrenching, traumatic change that many have feared and predicted.”

Commenting on the Pentagon report, Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, added, “We treat people with dignity and respect in the armed forces, or we don’t last long in the armed forces: No special cases, no special treatment.”

Igor Volsky has more, including a variety of related highlights from the survey findings. The entire report has been published online here.

As for the larger legislative context, remember, Senate Republicans recently refused to even allow a debate on funding U.S. troops because they wanted to wait for this report. They took a gamble, of sorts — maybe the survey results would show servicemen and women agreeing with the GOP’s anti-gay animus, thus giving the party a boost fighting pro-repeal Democrats.

The gamble failed. We now know a majority of U.S. troops, a majority of U.S. civilians, a majority of the House, a majority of the Senate, the Commander in Chief, the Secretary of Defense, and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs are all ready to see DADT repeal move forward.

If John McCain and other anti-gay senators hoped to gain some leverage, those hopes were in vain. They’ve run out of excuses. It’s time for the Senate to do the right and decent thing.

Remember, Democrats only need two Republicans — literally, just two — to break ranks. These GOP senators, if they exist, don’t even have to vote for the spending bill that includes the DADT provision; they just need to let the Senate vote up or own. If this report doesn’t lead two Republicans to drop the nonsense, nothing will.