Sunday, April 04, 2010

Don't Ask, Don't Tell: Army Admits it's up to Congress

The Army secretary, John M. McHugh, said Thursday that he had incorrectly stated that there was a moratorium on the discharge of gay members of the military.

-- From "Discharges From Service Still Possible, Official Says" by The New York Times 4/1/10

At a meeting with Pentagon reporters on Wednesday, Mr. McHugh said that it made no sense to pursue discharges of service members with whom he had initiated conversations about how best to carry out a repeal of the policy known as “don’t ask, don’t tell.” Mr. McHugh said it would be “counterproductive” to “take disciplinary action against someone who spoke with me openly and honestly.”

President Obama, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, have all called on Congress to repeal the 17-year-old law. The Pentagon has begun an extensive review of how to change the policy without undermining the effectiveness of the military.

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From "Army: Gays still can be dismissed if they speak up" by Anne Flaherty, The Associated Press 4/1/10

Reversing course, Army Secretary John McHugh warned soldiers Thursday that they still can be discharged for acknowledging they are gay, saying he misspoke earlier this week when he suggested the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy had been temporarily suspended.

The public stumble by a senior service official is an indication of the issue's legal complexity. The Pentagon has said it wants to hear from gay troops as it conducts a broad study on how it could lift the ban, as President Barack Obama wants.

But to do that, gay service members would have to break the law, which prohibits them from discussing their sexual orientation.

Defense Department officials say they plan to hire an outside contractor to survey the troops, and that gay troops won't be punished for sharing their views with that third party.

"Until Congress repeals 'don't ask, don't tell,' it remains the law of the land and the Department of the Army and I will fulfill our obligation to uphold it," McHugh said in a statement Thursday.

While the ban remains intact, the Pentagon has made it tougher to get discharged under the law. Earlier this month, Gates announced new guidelines that tighten the rules for evidence when someone reports that a soldier is gay and puts higher-ranking officers in charge of dismissal proceedings.

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