Service chiefs weigh in on DADT repeal

SERVICE CHIEFS WEIGH IN ON DADT REPEAL…. The first day of hearings for the Senate Armed Services Committee on repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” went pretty well for repeal proponents. Senators heard from Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mike Mullen, and the co-chairmen of the Pentagon’s Working Group who prepared the study on DADT, all four of whom knocked down every Republican argument they heard.

Today, however, committee members heard from the service chiefs, some of whom have been less supportive of the proposed change in policy. Igor Volsky noted that, in response to questions from Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.), “Every Service Chief agreed that they were comfortable that Secretary of Defense Robert Gates would take their concerns into consideration before certifying repeal and admitted that they could effectively implement the policy change.”

This should only further bolster the case for repeal. The service chiefs said they would want time to prepare a transition between the old policy and the new, and legislative action that empowers the Pentagon to make the change at its pace does just that.

It’s also worth emphasizing that, while some of the coverage has noted that Army Chief of Staff George Casey and U.S. Marine Corps Commandant James Amos were critical of repeal, Greg Sargent explained that the nuances matter: “What’s missing from the discussion is that these same men also said that in an overall sense they do in fact favor repealing DADT. And more crucially, under subsequent questioning, they said they found it reassuring that the current repeal proposal gives Defense Secretary Robert Gates the leeway to implement repeal on a flexible timeline that would work for them.”

As for whether this week is having the intended effect, the Senate head-count is still hard to nail down, but Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.), who in September joined the filibuster of the spending bill that includes the DADT provision, announced today that he now supports repeal.

GOP moderates were waiting for cover. This week, they got some.