SECRETARY ROBERT GATES: Good afternoon. This past February, I established a high-level working group to review the issues associated with implementing a repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” law regarding homosexual men and women serving in the military, and based on those findings to develop recommendations for implementation should the law change. The working group has completed their work, and today the department is releasing their report to the Congress and to the American public.
Admiral Mullen and I will briefly comment on the review’s findings and our recommendations for the way ahead. We will take some questions. And then the working group’s co-chairs, General Counsel Jeh Johnson and Army General Carter Ham, will provide more detail on the report, and answer any questions you might have on methodology, data and recommendations.
When I first appointed Mr. Johnson and General Ham to assume this duty, I did so with the confidence that they would undertake this task with the thoroughness, the seriousness, professionalism and objectivity befitting a task of this magnitude and consequence. I believe that a close and serious reading of this report will demonstrate they’ve done just that. We are grateful for the service they have rendered in taking on such a complex and controversial subject.
The findings of their report reflect nearly 10 months of research and analysis along several lines of study, and represent the most thorough and objective review ever of this difficult policy issue and its impact on the American military.
First, the group reached out to the force to better understand their views and attitudes about a potential repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” law. As was made clear at the time and is worth repeating today, this outreach was not a matter of taking a poll of the military to determine whether the law should be changed. The very idea of asking the force to in effect vote on such a matter is antithetical to our system of government, and would have been without precedent in the long history of our civilian-led military.
The president of the United States, the commander in chief of the armed forces, made his position on this matter clear, a position I support. Our job as the civilian and military leadership of the Department of Defense was to determine how best to prepare for such a change should the Congress change the law.
Nonetheless, I thought it critically important to engage our troops and their families on this issue, as ultimately it will be they who will determine whether or not such a transition is successful. I believe that we had to learn the attitudes, obstacles and concerns that would need to be addressed should the law be changed. We could do this only by reaching out and listening to our men and women in uniform and their families.
The working group undertook this through a variety of means, from a mass survey answered by tens of thousands of troops and their spouses to meetings with small groups and individuals, including hearing from those discharged under the current law. Mr. Johnson and General Ham will provide more detail on the results of the survey of troops and their families.
But in summary, a strong majority of those who answered the survey – more than two-thirds – do not object to gays and lesbians serving openly in uniform. The findings suggest that for large segments of the military, repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” though potentially disruptive in the short term, would not be the wrenching, traumatic change that many have feared and predicted.
The data also shows that within the combat arms specialties and units, there is a higher level of discontent, of discomfort and resistance to changing the current policy. Those findings and the potential implications for America’s fighting forces remain a source of concern to the service chiefs and to me. I’ll discuss this later.
Second, the working group also examined thoroughly all the potential changes to the department’s regulations and policies dealing with matters such as benefits, housing, relationships within the ranks, separations and discharges. As the co-chairs will explain in a few minutes, the majority of concerns often raised in association with the repeal – dealing with sexual conduct, fraternization, billeting arrangements, marital or survivor benefits – could be governed by existing laws and regulations.
Existing policies can and should be applied equally to homosexuals as well as heterosexuals. While a repeal would require some changes to regulations, the key to success, as with most things military, is training, education, and, above all, strong and principled leadership up and down the chain of command.
Third, the working group examined the potential impact of a change in the law on military readiness, including the impact on unit cohesion, recruiting and retention, and other issues critical to the performance of the force. In my view, getting this category right is the most important thing we must do.
The U.S. armed forces are in the middle of two major military overseas campaigns – a complex and difficult drawdown in Iraq, a war in Afghanistan – both of which are putting extraordinary stress on those serving on the ground and their families. It is the well-being of these brave young Americans, those doing the fighting and the dying since 9/11, that has guided every decision I have made in the Pentagon since taking this post nearly four years ago.
It will be no different on this issue. I am determined to see that if the law is repealed, the changes are implemented in such a way as to minimize any negative impact on the morale, cohesion and effectiveness of combat units that are deployed, about to deploy to the front lines.
With regards to readiness, the working group report concluded that overall and with thorough preparation – and I emphasize thorough preparation – there is a low risk from repealing “don’t ask, don’t tell.”
However, as I mentioned earlier, the survey data showed that a higher proportion – between 40 (percent) and 60 percent – of those troops serving in predominately all-male combat specialties – mostly Army and Marines, but including the Special Operations formations of the Navy and the Air Force – predicted a negative effective on unit cohesion from repealing the current law.
For this reason, the uniform service chiefs are less sanguine about the working – than the working group about the level of risk of repeal with regard to combat readiness. The views of the chiefs were sought out and taken seriously by me and by the authors of this report.
The chiefs will also have the opportunity to explain their – to provide their expert military advice to the Congress, as they have to me and to the president. Their perspective deserves serious attention and consideration, as it reflects the judgment of decades of experience and the sentiment of many senior officers.
In my view, the concerns of combat troops as expressed in the survey do not present an insurmountable barrier to successful repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell.” This can be done and should be done without posing a serious risk to military readiness. However, these findings do lead me to conclude that an abundance of care and preparation is required if we are to avoid a disruptive and potentially dangerous impact on the performance of those serving at the tip of the spear in America’s wars.
This brings me to my recommendations on the way ahead. Earlier this year, the House of Representatives passed legislation that would repeal “don’t ask, don’t tell” after a number of steps take place, the last being certification by the president, the secretary of Defense and the chairman that the new policies and regulations were consistent with the U.S. military’s standards of readiness, effectiveness, unit cohesion, and recruiting and retention.
Now that we have completed this review, I strongly urge the Senate to pass this legislation and send it to the president for signature before the end of this year. I believe this is a matter of some urgency because, as we have seen in the past year, the federal courts are increasingly becoming involved in this issue.
Just a few weeks ago, one lower court ruling forced the department into an abrupt series of changes that were no doubt confusing and distracting to men and women in the ranks. It is only a matter of time before the federal courts are drawn once more into the fray, with the very real possibility that this change would be imposed immediately by judicial fiat – by far the most disruptive and damaging scenario I can imagine, and one of the most hazardous to military morale, readiness and battlefield performance.
Therefore, it is important that this change come via legislative means; that is, legislation informed by the review just completed. What is needed is a process that allows for a well-prepared and well-considered implementation – above all, a process that carries the imprimatur of the elected representatives of the people of the United States.
Given the present circumstances, those that choose not to act legislatively are rolling the dice that this policy will not be abruptly overturned by the courts. The legislation presently before the Congress would authorize a repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” pending a certification by the president, secretary of Defense and the chairman. It would not harm military readiness.
Nonetheless, I believe that it would be unwise to push ahead with full implementation of repeal before more can be done to prepare the force – in particular, those ground combat specialties and units – for what could be a disruptive and disorienting change.
The working group’s plan, with a strong emphasis on education, training and leader development, provides a solid road map for a successful full implementation of repeal, assuming that the military is given sufficient time and preparation to get the job done right.
The department has already made a number of changes to regulations that within existing law applied more exacting standards to procedures, investigating or separating troops for suspected homosexual conduct – changes that have added a measure of common sense and decency to a legally and morally fraught process.
I would close on a personal note and a personal appeal. This is the second time that I have dealt with this issue as a leader in public life, the prior case being in CIA in 1992 when I directed that openly gay applicants be treated like all other applicants; that is, whether as individuals they met our competitive standards. That was and is a situation significantly different in circumstance and consequence than confronting – than that confronting the United States armed forces today.
Views toward gay and lesbian Americans have changed considerably during this period, and have grown more accepting since “don’t ask, don’t tell” was first enacted. But feelings on this matter can still run deep and divide often starkly along demographic, cultural and generational lines, not only in society as a whole but in the uniformed ranks as well.
For this reason, I would ask, as Congress takes on this debate, for all involved to resist the urge to lure our troops and their families into the politics of this issue. What is called for is a careful and considered approach, an approach that to the extent possible welcomes all who are qualified and capable of serving their country in uniform, but one that does not undermine out of haste or dogmatism those attributes that make the U.S. military the finest fighting force in the world. The stakes are too high for a nation under threat, for a military at war, to do any less.
ADMIRAL MICHAEL MULLEN: Thank you, Mr. Secretary. I, too, wish to thank Jeh Johnson and Carter Ham, as well as everyone involved in the working group, for their extraordinary efforts over much of the past year. I fully endorse their report, its findings and the implementation plan recommended by the working group.
The working group was given a tall order – indeed, nothing less than producing the first truly comprehensive assessment of not only the impact of repeal of the law governing “don’t ask, don’t tell,” but also about how best to implement a new policy across the joint force. As the secretary indicated, the working group surveyed our troops and their spouses, consulted proponents and opponents of repeal and examined military experience around the world.
They also spoke with serving gays and lesbians, as well as former members of the military who are gay and lesbian. The result is one of the most expansive studies ever done on military personnel issues, and I applaud the time that was taken to arrive at solid, defensible conclusions.
More critically, I was gratified to see that the working group focused their findings and recommendations, rightly, on those who would be most affected by a change in the law: our people, all of our people. And so for the first time, the chiefs and I have more than just anecdotal evidence and hearsay to inform the advice we give our civilian leaders. We’ve discussed this issue extensively amongst ourselves and with the secretary, and the chiefs and I met with the president as recently as yesterday.
I only want to add three points to what the secretary’s already laid out. First, I think it’s noteworthy that the working group found strong leadership to be the single most important factor in implementing any repeal. That may sound fairly obvious, but it is a key, critical point.
We all have our opinions, and those opinions matter. This is without question a complex social and cultural issue. But at the end of the day, whatever the decision of our elected leaders may be, we in uniform have an obligation to follow orders. When those orders involve significant change such as this would, we need to find ways to lead the way forward. Our troops and their families expect that from us, and I think the American people do as well.
Second, we’ve heard loud and clear that our troops also expect us to maintain high standards of conduct and professionalism, both as we move forward in this debate and should repeal occur. We treat people with dignity and respect in the armed forces, or we don’t last long. No special cases, no special treatment, if we’re going to continue to comport ourselves with honor and hold ourselves accountable across the board to impeccably high standards, repeal or no repeal.
Finally, the report shows that however low the overall risk of repeal may be with respect to readiness, cohesion and retention, it is not without its challenges. We can best address those challenges by having it within our power and our prerogative to manage the implementation process ourselves.
Should repeal occur, I share the secretary’s desire that it come about through legislation – through the same process with which the law was enacted, rather than precipitously through the courts. I further hope that such debate in the Congress will be as fully informed by the good work done in this report as my advice to the secretary and to the president is. Thank you.
Q: Secretary Gates, you said it would be unwise to proceed with repeal until there is more groundwork. How long do you envision that process lasting? And is this a concern and a recommendation that is shared by the White House in – as far as once Congress acts there still being a period in which the policy is in place? Admiral Mullen, do you also share that recommendation?
SEC. GATES: Well, first of all, just to be clear, what we’re talking about is that, should the Congress vote to repeal the law, what we are asking for is the time subsequent to that to prepare adequately before the change is implemented in the force. How long that would take, frankly, I don’t know. There is the – the report, as you will see in the implementation plan, lays out an ambitious agenda of things that need to be done, including not only leadership training but training of a military force of over 2 million people.
I would say this. I think we all would expect that if this law is implemented, the president would be – is – if repeal is passed, the president would be watching very closely to ensure that we don’t dawdle or try to slow-roll this. So I think his expectation would be that we would prepare as quickly as we properly and comprehensively could, and then we would be in a position to move toward the certification. But how long that would take I think – I don’t know.
ADM. MULLEN: There will – there will be level – there is a level of risk here, as is laid out in the report. And I would hope you spend as much time on the implementation plan as the report, because the implementation plan certainly from all the military leadership is strongly endorsed should this law change.
And it is in that implementation plan that the risk levels are mitigated, and principally mitigated through leadership – certainly the training, the guidance, but the engagement of the leadership. And having enough time to do that is critically important as we would look at implementation. That’s what really mitigates any risk that’s out there.
Q: Mr. Secretary, you said the chiefs are less sanguine than the working group. What specifically have they told you about their concerns? And why in a time of war accept any increase in the level of risk?
SEC. GATES: Well, the chiefs will speak for themselves on Friday. And the chairman has spent much more time with them than I have on this. I think – I think it’s fair to say that their concerns revolve around stress on a force after nearly 10 years of war. And I think they are concerned about the higher levels of negative response from the ground combat units and the Special Operations units that I have talked about in my – in my remarks.
I think that – I would just like to go back and underscore the chairman’s point, and that is the level of risk is tied intimately to the quality of preparation. And to do this – so I guess I would put it this way: If a court ordered us to do this tomorrow, I believe the force – the risk to the force would be high, if we had no time to prepare. If we have plenty of time to prepare the force, to prepare the leadership, I think the more effectively we do that preparation the lower the risk. Chairman?
ADM. MULLEN: I’ve engaged, actually, many, many times with the chiefs over the last – over the last many months, and so we’ve had very, very extensive discussions about this. And from the standpoint of a change in the law – I mean, my perspective is, as what I would call my – certainly was my personal opinion, is now my professional view, that this is a policy change that we can make. And we can do it in a relatively low-risk fashion, given the time and given the ability to mitigate whatever risk is out there through strong leadership.
In fact, part of this is the fact that we have been at war for so long. We have – one of the discussions about this is affecting combat effectiveness or combat readiness. I’ve never been associated with a better military than we are right now and better military leaders. And I have tremendous confidence that should this change, that they’ll be able to implement it, very specifically.
Q: That’s true, but what about the other chiefs?
ADM. MULLEN: Well, again, the chiefs will speak for themselves on Friday.
Q: Mr. Secretary, you raised the issue of combat arms, and the report shows that of those polled, 50 percent in Army combat arms are opposed, 60 percent in Marine combat arms. And there’s also the issue of chaplains. The report says that there’s very strong opposition among the chaplains there as well. What would you say to both groups? How would you deal with this with both groups?
SEC. GATES: Well, the interesting – one of the other considerations in this that the – that the report revealed is even in combat arms units, those who – among those who believed they had served with a gay person before, the level of comfort with going forward was something like 90 percent.
So part of this is a question of unfamiliarity. Part of it is stereotypes. And part of it is just sort of inherent resistance to change when you don’t know what’s on the other side. And so I think – I think that the contrast between the significant levels of concern for those who had – who said they had never served with someone who is gay as opposed to those who had is an important consideration.
But what I would say to them is, you know, frankly, if the Congress of the United States repeals this law, this is the will of the American people, and you are the American military, and we will do this, and we will do it right, and we will do everything in our power to mitigate the concerns that you have.
Q: And on the chaplains?
SEC. GATES: Saying –
Q: The report – (inaudible) – a very large number view homosexuality as a sin or an abomination.
SEC. GATES: And the report – the report identifies that the chaplains already serve in a force many of whose members do not share their values, who do not share their beliefs. And there is an obligation to care for all. But it also is clear that the chaplains are not going to be asked to teach something they don’t believe in. And so I think that the – I think the report is pretty clear on that.
Q: Thank you. Non-”don’t ask, don’t tell” question quick?
SEC. GATES: Sure.
Q: WikiLeaks. Post-WikiLeaks reaction. What’s your sense on whether the information-sharing climate and environment created after 9/11 to encourage greater cooperation and transparency among the intelligence communities and the military led to these three massive data dumps? And how concerned are you now there may be an overreaction to clamp down on information dispersal because of the disclosures?
SEC. GATES: One of the common themes that I heard from the time I was a senior agency official in the early 1980s in every military engagement we were in was the complaint of the lack of adequate intelligence support. That began to change with the Gulf War in 1991, but it really has changed dramatically after 9/11.
And clearly the finding that the lack of sharing of information had prevented people from, quote, unquote, “connecting the dots” led to much wider sharing of information, and I would say especially wider sharing of information at the front, so that no one at the front was denied – in one of the theaters, Afghanistan or Iraq – was denied any information that might possibly be helpful to them.
Now, obviously, that aperture went too wide. There’s no reason for a young officer at a forward operating post in Afghanistan to get cables having to do with the START negotiations. And so we’ve taken a number of mitigating steps in the department. I directed a number of these things to be undertaken in August.
First, the – an automated capability to monitor workstations for security purposes. We’ve got about 60 percent of this done, mostly in – mostly stateside. And I’ve directed that we accelerate the completion of it.
Second, as I think you know, we’ve taken steps in CENTCOM in September and now everywhere to direct that all CD and DVD write capability off the network be disabled. We have – we have done some other things in terms of two-man policies – wherever you can move information from a classified system to an unclassified system, to have a two-person policy there.
And then we have some longer-term efforts under way in which we can – and, first of all, in which we can identify anomalies, sort of like credit card companies do in the use of computer; and then finally, efforts to actually tailor access depending on roles. But let me say – let me address the latter part of your question. This is obviously a massive dump of information.
First of all, I would say unlike the Pentagon Papers, one of the things that is important, I think, in all of these releases, whether it’s Afghanistan, Iraq or the releases this week, is the lack of any significant difference between what the U.S. government says publicly and what these things show privately, whereas the Pentagon Papers showed that many in the government were not only lying to the American people, they were lying to themselves.
But let me – let me just offer some perspective as somebody who’s been at this a long time. Every other government in the world knows the United States government leaks like a sieve, and it has for a long time. And I dragged this up the other day when I was looking at some of these prospective releases. And this is a quote from John Adams: “How can a government go on, publishing all of their negotiations with foreign nations, I know not. To me, it appears as dangerous and pernicious as it is novel.”
When we went to real congressional oversight of intelligence in the mid-’70s, there was a broad view that no other foreign intelligence service would ever share information with us again if we were going to share it all with the Congress. Those fears all proved unfounded.
Now, I’ve heard the impact of these releases on our foreign policy described as a meltdown, as a game-changer, and so on. I think – I think those descriptions are fairly significantly overwrought. The fact is, governments deal with the United States because it’s in their interest, not because they like us, not because they trust us, and not because they believe we can keep secrets.
Many governments – some governments deal with us because they fear us, some because they respect us, most because they need us. We are still essentially, as has been said before, the indispensable nation. So other nations will continue to deal with us. They will continue to work with us. We will continue to share sensitive information with one another. Is this embarrassing? Yes. Is it awkward? Yes. Consequences for U.S. foreign policy? I think fairly modest.
Q: And on that same subject. Did either of you reach out to any of your counterparts in advance of this leak and warn them, or even apologize in advance for what might come out?
SEC. GATES: I didn’t.
ADM. MULLEN: I did.
Q: Who was it?
ADM. MULLEN: To General Kayani in Pakistan.
SEC. GATES: Yeah?
Q: Sir, you’ve said that – you know, on “don’t ask, don’t tell” – you’ve said that now is the time to do this, largely because of the threat of legal action. I’m just wondering, if that legal action wasn’t looming, how much do you think that this would – this is the right thing to do now? And I’m wondering just how hard you intend to lobby those on the Hill to get them to sway to the other side.
SEC. GATES: Well, you know, I don’t spend much time thinking about the world as I wish it were. The reality is the court issue is out there, and, in my view, does lend urgency to this. You know, the question was – has been raised, well, maybe the courts would give us time, to which my answer is, maybe, maybe not. We just don’t know.
But the one path we know gives us the time and the flexibility to do this is the legislative path. And I don’t know how fast the courts are going to move on this, but what we’ve seen seems to be more and more action in the courts in the last year or two. And that’s what gives me a sense of urgency about. My greatest fear is what almost happened to us in October, and that is being told to implement a change of policy overnight.
Q: Yeah. Mr. Secretary, Senator McCain is now arguing that this report is the wrong report, and that it won’t get to the bottom of how this could – the repeal could affect unit cohesion or morale. I’m wondering if you or Admiral Mullen have any reaction to that response to the report.
SEC. GATES: Well, I think – I think that, in this respect – and I obviously have a lot of admiration and respect for Senator McCain – but in this respect, I think that he’s mistaken. I think this report does provide a sound basis for making decisions on this law.
Now, people can draw different conclusions out of this report; the comments, for example, in the – in the evaluation in the report of the higher levels of concern for – among the combat arms units and in the Marine Corps and so on.
So people can read this and potentially come to different conclusions, but in terms of the data and in terms of the views of the force, it’s hard for me to imagine that you could come up with a more comprehensive approach.
We had – we had something on the order of 145,000 people in uniform answer the questionnaire, the survey. We had something on the order of 40(,000) to 45,000 spouses respond to the – to that survey. Tens of thousands of people reached in other ways. So I think there is no comparable source of information or data on attitudes in the force than this report, and it’s hard for me to imagine another effort taking a much different approach than this report did.
ADM. MULLEN: And its main thrust was on combat effectiveness, mission effectiveness, readiness, unit cohesion, et cetera. And that data – again, I agree with the Secretary, you can certainly pick parts of it that read – you might want to read differently. But the data’s very compelling, in particular with respect to those issues. I mean, that was the main reason for the report.
SEC. GATES: Julian (ph).
Q: I wonder if you could talk a little bit more about how you would see this implemented and what you mean by giving time. For example, would you, say, not have openly gay – if the law is changed, would you not put openly gay service members into units that units that are about to deploy to Afghanistan in 2011 or so? Would you – would you take – would you integrate the noncombat arms units first? I mean, what – could you describe a little bit more of what your implementation plan would be?
SEC. GATES: Well, first of all, the repeal of the law would not, as I understand it – now I’m not a lawyer – but as I understand it – and maybe Jeh Johnson can address this question for you more authoritatively when he comes up here.
But as I understand it, until we certify, until the president, the secretary of Defense and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs certify that we – that the U.S. military is ready to implement the law, the repeal, the existing – the currently existing rules would continue to apply. And so you would have a period of preparation, if you will, that, as I indicated earlier, I don’t know necessarily how long that would take.
ADM. MULLEN: And Julian – and from my perspective, we are one military. We are one military.
SEC. GATES: Two more questions. Yeah.
Q: Mr. Secretary, you have spoken quite clearly about how you support the president’s position on this, and how you’re urging the Senate to act, and how this needs to be done in an orderly and measured way.
But you haven’t said so much over time about your personal beliefs on “don’t ask, don’t tell.” Do you feel personally that it’s been unjust or wrong for gays and lesbians not to be able to serve their country openly? Or are you comfortable with the idea of openly integrating the military?
SEC. GATES: I think that – in my view – one of the things that is most important to me is personal integrity. And a policy or a law that in effect requires people to lie gives me – gives me a problem. And so I think it’s – I mean, we spend a lot of time in the military talking about integrity and honor and values.
Telling the truth is a pretty important value in that scale. It’s a very important value. And so for me, and I thought the admiral was – that Admiral Mullen was eloquent on this last February – a policy that requires people to lie about themselves somehow seems to me fundamentally flawed. Last question.
Q: Earlier in the process, General Conway, when raising concerns about this, floated the idea of separate barracks and said that, you know, Marines might not be comfortable sharing barracks with openly gay troops. Is that even on the table, or is that – would the idea of separate barracks, separate housing, separate showers just be off the table?
SEC. GATES: We can get into the details of that – or you can with Jeh and General Ham. But the bottom line of the report is no separate facilities. Thank you.
JEH JOHNSON: Good afternoon. I believe General Ham is going to begin with his remarks, and then I’ll follow up.
GENERAL CARTER HAM: Hi, good afternoon. It’s been a long time since I’ve been on this podium, and I don’t miss it at all. As Secretary Gates indicated, on March 2nd of this year he gave Mr. Johnson and I a task to review the issues related to repeal of Section 654 of Title X of the U.S. Code, the law commonly referred to as “don’t ask, don’t tell.”
It’s an important historical note, I think, that today being the 30th of November is in fact 17 years to the day when President Clinton signed into law the fiscal year 1994 National Defense Authorization Act, which included “don’t ask, don’t tell,” the matter we’re talking about today.
Secretary Gates gave us two tasks, two primary tasks; first, to assess the impact of repeal on military effectiveness, military readiness, unit cohesion, recruiting and retention, and importantly on family readiness. Secondly, he told us to recommend appropriate changes to regulations, policies and guidance in the event of repeal.
Additionally, we were to develop a plan of action to support implementation of repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” should such repeal occur. As we begin our work, Secretary Gates directed that we thoroughly, objectively and methodically examine all aspects of this question. And he told us in written guidance and told us verbally to systematically engage the force.
With that guidance over the last nine months, we solicited the views of 400,000 service members, active, National Guard and reserve, which elicited over 115,000 responses. We solicited the views of 150,000 spouses of active and reserve component service members, receiving over 44,000 replies.
We received over 72,000 comments from service members and their families on a specifically designed online inbox. We conducted 95 face-to-face meetings at 51 different bases around the world, interacting in that – in that effort with over 24,000 service members, Mr. Johnson and I participating personally in many of those.
We held 140 demographically selected focus groups. An example, nine to 12 junior enlisted, male, combat arms; nine to 12 mid-grade non-commissioned officer, females. We engaged the service academies, their staffs, faculties, cadets and midshipmen. We, as directed, included RAND’s 2010 update to their 1993 study.
We met with a number of veterans groups, service organizations, and groups both for and against the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell.” And one of the more difficult tasks, through a non-DOD-managed confidential communication mechanism, and through RAND’s work, reached out to currently serving gay and lesbian service members.
In all, we believe this to have been the largest, most comprehensive review of a personnel policy matter which the Department of Defense has ever undertaken. Based on all that we saw and heard, our assessment is that, when coupled with the prompt implementation of the recommendations we offer, the risk of repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” to overall military effectiveness is low. And as the secretary mentioned, it is important to note that that assessment is based upon the prompt implementation of the recommendations.
We do conclude that while a repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” will likely in the short term bring about some limited and isolated disruption to unit cohesion and retention, we do not believe this disruption will be widespread nor long-lasting, and we believe it can be adequately addressed by the recommendations we offer.
In the longer term, with a continued and sustained commitment to core values of leadership, professionalism and respect, we are convinced that the U.S. military can adjust and accommodate this change, just as it has others in history.
As the secretary and the chairman mentioned, to be sure, the survey results reveal a significant minority, around 30 percent overall, and 40 (percent) to 60 percent in the Marine Corps and in various combat arms specialties, who predict in some form and to some degree negative views or concerns about the impact of a repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell.”
And clearly any personnel policy change for which a group that size predicts negative consequences must be approached with caution. However, there are a number of other factors that still lead us to conclude that the risk of repeal to overall military effectiveness is low.
As one example, when those in the overall military were asked about the experience of working with someone they believed to be gay or lesbian, 92 percent say that their units’ ability to work together was very good, good, or neither good nor poor. In response to the same question, in the Army combat arms units, the percentage was 89 percent, or 3 percent lower; and 84 percent for Marine Corps combat arms units, or 8 percent lower – but still all very high percentages. And we heard much the same as we talked to the force.
Thus our survey results reflecting actual experience, actual experience or other engagements, and the lessons of history lead us to conclude that while the risks of repeal within warfighting units, while certainly higher than the force generally, remain within acceptable levels, again, importantly, when coupled with our recommendations for implementation. Mr. Johnson.
MR. JOHNSON: Thank you. General Ham has explained the comprehensive process we undertook to get where we are to today in our basic assessment. In support of our basic assessment were a number of things that are explained in detail in our 150-page report. Here are a few.
To begin with, there are the results of the service members surveyed. It was one of the largest non-Census surveys every conducted of the U.S. military. We believe the results of the survey are best represented by the answers to three questions.
First, when asked about how having a service member in their immediate unit who said he or she is gay would affect the unit’s ability to, quote, “work together to get the job done,” end quote, 70 percent of service members predicted it would have a positive, mixed or no effect. Second, when asked, quote, “In your career, have you ever worked in a unit with a co-worker that you believed to be homosexual,” end quote, 69 percent of service members reported that they already had.
Third, as General Ham mentioned, when asked about the actual experience of serving in a unit with a co-worker who they believed was gay or lesbian, 92 percent stated that the unit’s ability to work together was, quote, “very good, good, or neither good nor poor.” The results of the spouse survey are consistent.
When asked whether repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” would affect their preference for their husband or wife’s future plans to stay in the military, 74 percent said repeal would have no effect. The reality is that there are gay men and lesbians already serving in today’s U.S. military, and most service members recognize this.
Further, in the course of our assessment, it became apparent to us that aside from the moral and religious objections to homosexuality, much of the concern about, quote, “openly,” end quote, gay service members is driven by misperceptions and stereotypes about what that would mean.
In today’s civilian society, where there is no law that requires gay men and lesbians to conceal their sexual orientation in order to keep their job, most gay men and lesbians still tend to be discreet about their personal lives and guarded about the people with whom they share information about their sexual orientation.
We believe that, in the military environment, this would be true even more so. This discretion would occur for reasons having nothing to do with the state of the law, but everything to do with a desire to fit in, coexist and succeed in the military environment.
In communications with gay and lesbian current and former service members, we heard repeatedly a patriotic desire to serve and defend the nation, subject to the same rules as everyone else. Most said they did not desire special treatment to use the military for social experimentation or to advance a social agenda.
Some of those separated under “don’t ask, don’t tell” would welcome the opportunity to rejoin the military if permitted to do so. From them, we heard expressed many of the same values that we heard over and over again from service members at large: love of country, honor, respect, integrity, and service over self. We simply cannot square the reality of these people with the perceptions about, quote, “open,” end quote, service.
Based on our work, we are convinced that the U.S. military can make this change, even during this time of war. However, our assessment depends upon the prompt implementation of the recommendations we offer in the report. Here are several of them.
First, successful implementation of repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” as the secretary stated, will depend upon strong leadership, a clear message, and proactive education. We must equip commanders in the field with the education and training tools to educate the force on what is expected of them in a post-repeal environment.
An underlying theme should be fair and equal treatment of all service members, regardless of sexual orientation. They key message is this. If repeal comes, gay and lesbian service members must be treated the same as everyone else.
Second, in the course of our review, we heard a large number of service members raise religious and moral objections to homosexuality, or to serving alongside someone who was gay. In the event of repeal, we should make clear that service members are not expected to change their personal religious views or moral beliefs about homosexuality.
Service members are expected to treat all others with dignity and respect consistent with the core values that already exist within each service. These concepts are not new for the military community, as people of sharply different moral views and religious convictions already coexist, work, live and fight together on a daily basis.
Third, throughout our engagement with the force, we heard many concerns expressed by service members about possible inappropriate conduct that might take place in the event of repeal. Many of these concerns were about conduct that is already regulated in the military regardless of the sexual orientation of the persons involved.
We believe that it is not necessary to establish an extensive set of new or revised standards of conduct in the event of repeal. In the event of repeal, we do recommend, however, that the Department of Defense issue guidance that all standards of conduct apply uniformly without regard to sexual orientation.
Fourth, we address the subject of benefits for those in same-sex relationships. We recommend that, for the time being, all service members not in a federally recognized marriage should be treated as single for purposes of benefits eligibility. We also recommend that the Department of Defense study ways to reshape additional benefits into the member-designated category, provided it makes sense from a – from a policy, fiscal and feasibility standpoint.
Fifth, in the event of repeal, any berthing or billeting assignments, or the designation of separate bathroom facilities based on sexual orientation, should be prohibited. However, commanders should retain the authority to alter berthing or billeting assignments, or accommodate privacy concerns, on an individualized, case-by-case basis.
Sixth, in the event of repeal, we recommend that service members who have previously separated under “don’t ask, don’t tell” be permitted to apply for reentry into the military pursuant to the same criteria as others who seek reentry.
General Ham and I are both convinced that our military can do this, even during this time of war. We do not underestimate the challenges in implementing a change in this law, but neither should we underestimate the ability of our dedicated servicemen and -women to adapt to such change and unite to defend the nation when called upon to do so. Questions?
MODERATOR: Okay. I’ll moderate questions, but go ahead and direct your questions to either Mr. Johnson or General Ham, either/or or both. Anne.
Q: Having gone through this process, do you have an opinion or recommendation about how long this sort of interim period should last? If Congress were to act fairly quickly to lift the ban, how long is it reasonable to expect that the military would need before it’s ready to go the whole distance?
MR. JOHNSON: The support plan for implementation envisions a three-phased approach: a pre-repeal phase, which would begin at the direction of the secretary of Defense, to start doing the assessment of regulations, policies, other guidance that exists at the service level and department level; an implementation phase that would begin, at least under the current legislative construct, with passage of legislation that would lead to repeal, would continue on through, then, the effective date of repeal sometime into the future; and then a sustainment phase.
We did not pin a specific time frame to those phases because the – because the future is somewhat uncertain. We don’t know, you know, will the legislation that is pending, will that be the legislation that is passed or will there be some other – some other means that repeal comes about, or perhaps repeal does not come about. So an uncertain timeframe. But the phases, I think, are important for us.
GEN. HAM: And I think the answer to your question is more for the personnel and readiness community. If we were talking about the current form of legislation that’s pending in Congress right now, which has contemplated this process before certification is delivered, I think the answer would be not fast, but not drawn out or protracted either.
I think that it could become counterproductive for unit cohesion, good order and discipline if this process were drawn out over an extended period of time. But the current legislation contemplates that before the president, the chairman and the secretary deliver that certification to the Congress, the Department of Defense will have written new policies and regulations to put in place in a post-repeal environment.
The secretary has made very clear that before he and the chairman and the president sign the certification, he’d want to know that we have that post-repeal architecture in place and that we have at least begun and accomplished as much as possible some of that education and training that we are recommending.
MODERATOR: (David ?)
Q: Two questions. You must have an idea whether it’s months or years that we’re talking about here. So if you could just tell us whether it’s months or years. And, General Ham, one of the congressmen who heard your briefing on the Hill said that you had told them that you were personally opposed to homosexuality. Is that true? And, if so, why?
GEN. HAM: Well, one of the principles – one of our guiding principles for our group was that you check your personal views at the door. It’s not helpful for members of the working group to have personal views intrude into the – into the conversation. So we didn’t discuss personal views within our group. I am, as all senior military officials are, obliged if asked by a member of Congress before a duly-constituted committee to offer my personal opinion. And in that setting, I would do that.
Q: And would you?
GEN. HAM: And – I will comply with the requirements of my appointment.
MR. JOHNSON: I got to know General Ham in February when we got this assignment. And what General Ham said was our directive about checking your personal views at the door is absolutely true, such that today was the first time I heard him give any type of personal view on this issue, when asked by a member of Congress.
Q: And could you narrow it down to months or years?
GEN. HAM: Like I said, not fast, but not drawn out, either. And it’s a question more for the personnel and readiness community.
MODERATOR: Dan, a quick follow-up on that.
Q: You didn’t come up with a plan of how long it would take to do the education that you – you didn’t come up with a – you didn’t come up with any kind of estimate of how long it would take to train the people according to what you think they need to be trained for?
GEN. HAM: We’ve laid out what we think would be necessary in terms of education and training, talking points, where the emphasis should be. How long that would take, it depends a lot on emphasis, the level of resources that’s devoted to the task.
There are many tasks within the Department of Defense that, depending upon the number of people and the level of resources you devote to it, can happen in one time period or with a different level of resources can happen in a different time period. So much of that will depend on how we staff this and the level of resources we devote to it.
And until such time as the regulations, policies and guidance are developed, you can’t then determine how long it will take to train and educate the force on policies that we don’t – we don’t know what they are just yet. So those decisions must precede any determination of length of training and education.
MR. : David?
Q: Yeah, two questions. One, would the current policy of separating service members who are found to be homosexual continue to apply even if Congress passed a law repealing – repealing law and the implementation of the plan was put into effect? And second, for General Ham, you’re obviously a (sic) experienced combat leader. How deep-seated do you think the resistance would be among combat units to integration here?
MR. JOHNSON: Let me take the first question. Under the current version of the legislation that is pending, 10 USC 654 remains in effect unless and until the certification is delivered to the Congress. And then 60 days after that, repeal would become effective. So 654 would remain in effect until that happens.
Q: Does that make any sense? I mean, if we’re talking a year for this implementation plan to be put into place, you’d be separating people who could then turn around and reapply to get back into the military, you know, within a year.
It makes – doesn’t seem to make sense. Plus, I would add that there have been no separations since the change in the policy a few months ago that brought it up to a higher level. So there does seem to be a sort of recognition that this is not exactly working the way it used to work.
MR. JOHNSON: The form of the legislation pending is what it is, and it’s not part of our mandate to assess that or offer a view on it.
Q: General Ham?
GEN. HAM: There are uncertainties in my life. Of one thing I am absolutely certain, and that is that the armed forces of the United States follow the law, and the law today is what it is. And if the law is going to change, when that law changes, the armed forces of the United States, with full energy and commitment, will follow that law.
MODERATOR: Right here.
Q: Yes. As David mentioned, there hasn’t been a discharge under “don’t ask, don’t tell” for at least 40 days. Can you tell us why there has been no discharge, and under what circumstances discharges might resume in the Department of Defense if nothing happens in the legislature?
MR. JOHNSON: I can’t tell you why. I know that, in October, we elevated the separation authority to the service secretaries in consultation with Dr. Stanley and myself. And I have not had the opportunity at this point to coordinate on a separation. That, for all I know, could change in a couple of days, depending on what’s in the pipeline.
Q: If I could ask both of you, what was the most surprising thing that you came across during the conduct of nine months?
MR. JOHNSON: I would say two things. One, I actually – and this is not true of General Ham – I actually was a little nervous about presiding at these large group sessions of 100 to 300 service members on this very emotional topic about which virtually everyone has an opinion. And I was – I won’t say surprised, but extremely gratified and pleased that the discussions we had with service members were remarkably frank and – but civil and professional at all times.
And we would have 90-minute sessions or hour-long sessions. People were not shy about raising their hands. And if 10 people got to ask questions, 30 people had their hands up. And the discussion was very frank across the spectrum, but it was at all times very, very civil and very professional.
And I guess the other thing I was somewhat surprised about is that although the survey results reveal somewhat of a distinction in age groups and age brackets, that the younger officers were more – less negative about the effects, we didn’t see the huge generational gap that I think both of us going into this thought we would see.
The – in a large group session, when a young service member stood up, I would not predict – I could not predict what that service member’s view of this issue was going to be. The – I think the exception to that was at the academies. The cadets and midshipmen there were all pretty much of the view – we’re talking about 19, 20, 21 years old that – I don’t want to generalize too much, but they were by and large of the view that, what’s the big deal?
GEN. HAM: Mr. Johnson understates his nervousness about these large group sessions – (laughter) – that – but we did. And we heard very impassioned, very well –
MR. JOHNSON: I had an officer in uniform next to me at all times.
GEN. HAM: I was trying to – very well-informed, very impassioned discussion points by – across the spectrum on this particular issue. But I, too, even having been a soldier for a long time, I was – I was struck by the civility that service members, even with widely differing opinions, the way that they treated one another. And that was – that was – that was very reassuring to see that.
MODERATOR: Right over here.
Q: To both of you. You say that there was a lot of objections on religious grounds among the 30 percent or the 40 (percent) to 50 percent among some units. Would you say that was the – that was the basis of the majority of the objections, of that 30 percent? Was it religious grounds, or could you quantify that?
GEN. HAM: Well, the only way to address the reasons for someone’s views would be anecdotally through what we heard in the large group sessions, not through this survey. I would say, based on what I saw and heard – and between the two of us I think we came in contact, face to face, with over 10,000 service members.
I would say that, as people put it to us, most of the concern was about open service, open – gays and lesbians serving openly in the U.S. military. There were definitely concerns expressed on moral and religious grounds, but most of the concerns expressed were concerns about serving alongside someone who was – was an open gay or lesbian.
Q: That seems – based on the religious beliefs of the service member.
GEN. HAM: No, it was just based on, what will my life be like serving in a unit with someone who was openly gay? That was most often what we heard from those who had concerns about repealing the policy.
MR. JOHNSON: But the religious, moral aspect of this is very, very important. It became clear – very clear early on as we met with the force that this was a significant issue. To that end, we assured we had chaplains on our – on our working group to help advise us. We spent a lot of time reaching out to chaplains to better understand this religious issue.
We met with the Armed Forces Chaplains Board, which I think, as many of you know, is comprised of the service chiefs of chaplains who advise the secretary of Defense on religious matters. We reached out to the endorsing agents, those organizations who sponsor and endorse men and women to come serve in the military as chaplains.
There are 202 of them, I believe, at least when we were – when we’re doing this. We reached out to them and asked, you know, what would be the impact? If this law changes, for example, would you withdraw your endorsement?
And of those that responded, none indicated that they would. But there was very clearly a concern out there by chaplains, by endorsing agents and by service members that they would somehow be treated adversely if they held or espoused religious views that were contrary to the – to the – to the government’s view if the – if the law is repealed.
And so a very important part of our recommendation is that we have to make sure that people understand that, first of all, chaplains’ First Amendment rights, I would say, their requirement to minister according to their denominational practice must be protected, even in an post-repeal era where their personal – their denominational views might differ with the government.
We’ve been doing that for 235 years. We know how to do this. And our chaplains are well-practiced at that. And the same for service members. Our recommendation focuses on changing behaviors, of respect for one another, respect for other service members, even those whose beliefs are different than your own, rather than changing attitudes.
Q: Follow on that?
Q: Based on what you heard, do you predict that there will be people who feel so strongly on moral or religious grounds that this ban should not be lifted that they would either feel that they must resign or make some sort of large point of principle of it? And would you actually advise someone in that position to resign?
GEN. HAM: I think if the law is repealed that it is certainly likely that some service members will come to the position that says, I just – I cannot abide by this. There are likely to be some chaplains who say, I just cannot reconcile my denominational religious beliefs with this position, and their endorsing agent may withdraw their endorsement. That chaplain may leave the force.
We do not believe and we do not recommend that a service member simply by stating, you know, I – homosexuality is contrary to my beliefs or my religious views or what have you, should – that person should then be eligible for separation.
But, having said that, there – if the service member is unable to reconcile his or herself and their conduct and they become disruptive in the force, leaders, commanders have a full range of authority that could ultimately lead to that service member being separated. We don’t believe that should be the first course of action, but that remedy is available today under current authorities.
MR. JOHNSON: I’d like to add to that that one of the points we make in the report is that surveys that ask for predictions of future behavior most often are based on attitudes. And predictions and attitudes are – there’s data out there that tells us that they are poor predictors of actual behavior once the person has to make a choice.
That is corroborated by the experience, as reflected in the report, of our foreign allies, when they dealt with this issue, changes in policies. There were surveys done of foreign militaries where the predictions were dire, that the opposition was as high as 70, 80 percent.
There are limited surveys that were conducted in the ’40s of the force on the issue of racial integration, which showed very high levels of opposition. And so the point is that predictions of what you will do if something happens are very often poor indicators of what the actual behavior will be.
Which is why, by the way, the survey spends a fair amount of time asking service members about their actual past experiences in units with people they believed to be gay or lesbian.
Q: Two questions on some of the recommendations you made. Assuming that the repeal goes through and that your plan is put in place as you’ve drafted it, would a gay couple, if one – if the gay service member was hurt or killed, would they have the same visitation rights, death benefits as a – as a heterosexual married couple?
Also, you said that there would be no separate bathrooms or facilities, but that individual commanders would have some discretion, and I don’t understand quite what that would mean. And what would be the circumstances under which a commander could mandate or put in place separate bathrooms, separate barracks if the law itself says that shouldn’t happen?
MR. JOHNSON: Well, the – as the report makes clear, we are recommending that at a unit level or a base level or what have you, that a policy setting up separate bathroom or building or barracks arrangements for gays and lesbians should be prohibited. It’s also impossible to administer because people are not going to self-identify for these purposes.
However, we’re noting that commanders should retain the discretion on an individualized case-by-case basis to address concerns, particular concerns about privacy. And this is discretion they have right now. If a service member has a particular concern about an issue with privacy or can’t get along with someone with whom he’s been assigned a room, a commander has discretion to deal with that.
He doesn’t have to force two people to live together if they just simply can’t live together. So it should be, as it is now, dealt with on a case-by-case basis. But we’re strongly recommending against a policy of separate facilities.
Q: And on the benefits issue.
GEN. HAM: Yeah, with regard to the hospital visits and death gratuities and the like, if the law is repealed, then we believe that are a number of benefits to which service members are entitled that are service member-designated. And we believe that the examples that you offer would likely fall into that category.
So someone – next of kin notification, the person that – to whom you identify as a beneficiary for your service member’s group life insurance, those kinds of categories, we think, would be the types of benefits that could move into this service member-designated category.
Q: Just one very quick follow-up. You mentioned the discretion would be for the commander. Let’s assume from the other point of view, if you have an openly gay service member who feels like their safety is at risk, is there any mechanism as you foresee it where that service member could say, for my own protection, my own safety, I need to live by myself or I want to live by myself?
GEN. HAM: Well, I hesitate to answer hypotheticals. It depends very much on the circumstance, but I would not prohibit a commander from addressing a situation like that if any service member had a well-founded fear for his own physical safety for some reason. But, you know, it depends, obviously, on the circumstances.
MR. : Kevin.
Q: This kind of goes to my question of going back to predictions versus realities. You know, you have said that if – said there would be a low risk of disruption in the force if there was prompt implementation of the plan, and the secretary said that the risk would be higher if it came, you know, immediately from the courts.
What I haven’t heard yet is – what exactly are the fears that would happen? The risks of what happening? Are we talking about the missions not being accomplished, the benefits not being paid, or are we really talking about violence towards troops by other troops? Is that really the concern at issue? And if that is the issue, whether even the low end of risk, how does that gel with what you just said, that all these predictors usually, historically, turn out not to be true?
GEN. HAM: Let me take on the violence issue, because this would – this would appear, but infrequently, in our conversations with the force. The United States armed forces are a disciplined force. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t some bad actors occasionally who engage in misconduct, and we do have assaults and what have you. But we know how to deal with that.
And so the focus is on respect for a fellow service member, just as it is today, if that service member’s beliefs are different than your own. So we have mechanisms in place to deter and certainly to respond to any violence that might occur. But clearly the message from leadership will be this is unacceptable, it is criminal behavior, and we have the means of dealing with that.
Q: So could I just follow up? Is that what you’re concerned about when you talk about disruption? Just to follow on Kevin’s question, specifically, when you talk about disruptions, is that what you mean? Violence, hate crimes, that kind of thing, is that the main concern here? Or people refusing to cooperate?
MR. JOHNSON: I mean, an example of disruption – Elizabeth, the answer is no, we’re not – we’re not concerned about, you know, rampant violence. And that’s not what we mean by disruption. What we mean by disruption is a little bit of what you saw in October over that eight-day period where on Monday there was a law, “don’t ask, don’t tell.”
On Tuesday, we were enjoined from enforcing it. Eight days later, an administrative stay was put in place where the law was – where the law was back in place. Then we faced another possibility that the 9th Circuit could take the stay off.
So the light switch was going on and off multiple times over the matter of days, and we had to keep sending communications out to the entire United States military about whether or not this policy can and should be enforced at recruitment center and elsewhere.
And it’s distracting, it’s confusing. And so if repeal is to occur – and this was the secretary’s point – it should occur in an orderly way with the forces educated such that we can create an environment in which gays and lesbians post-repeal can be most readily accepted.
Q: I’m sorry to be a pain here, but in the report you say the disruption that would occur after – that might occur after repeal. You weren’t talking about disruption back and forth in the courts. You say specifically in the executive summary that there might be some short-term disruption, but in the long term it’s going to be mitigated by effective leadership. So I’m just asking one last time, what do you mean by disruption?
GEN. HAM: I think – again, whenever – if we’re going to change a policy that has the far-reaching impact that this one would, the type of – the type of disruption that in my mind that would – that would follow a repeal – which I believe can be mitigated through good leadership and through education and training, but it’s still going to occur – when a service member in a unit who chooses to disclose his or her sexual orientation, some members are – some of their fellow service members in that unit are going to react differently to that – to that disclosure of sexual orientation.
There’s going to be, you know, the disruption that occurs as we just talked about. I don’t want to share a berthing accommodation. I don’t want to share a barracks room with a – with a gay or lesbian service member. It’s those kinds of disruption that I – that I think are likely to occur in the immediate aftermath of repeal, should it occur.
But I believe – and again, it’s important to acknowledge that I’m not just a co-chair, I’m a commander. And so I – so if this law is repealed, I have to do what’s in that report. So that was on my mind all the time as we – as we went through this.
Q: Any sense of why the Marine Corps seems to be so resistant to repeal? Is it – they were the largest percentage, it looked like, in terms of expressing a negative view. Any conclusions jump out of you – jump out at you?
GEN. HAM: Yes. I think generally – and it’s not true for all specialties, but generally the Marine Corps respondents indicated a lower percentage who had actual experience of serving in a unit alongside someone who was gay or lesbian. And so the point that Mr. Johnson made about the perceived effect of “open service,” for a lack of a better term, was somewhat problematic.
We did find, for example, in Marine Corps and Army combat arms units who had – in combat environments when those were – when they were asked about their experience with gay service members in their unit reported actually quite favorably on the unit’s performance. So I think – again, I think it’s a largely – there is a differential in actual experience.
Q: We had Admiral – General Conway was up here a few months ago. And he was asked a question. And his response was something along the lines of well we recruit a real macho guy or woman. Did you come across that in terms of the Marines – there’s a machismo there with Marines who viscerally and instinctively don’t like the idea of serving near a gay person?
GEN. HAM: No. I mean, I – I mean, as many of you know, you know, I love General Conway and worked with him and for him. And clearly he’s got a tremendous amount of experience. But in our survey results, that wasn’t – it wasn’t a question that we asked, because that did not necessarily reveal itself.
Q: (Off mic) – following up on that, given the fact the survey seems to show different levels of support in different services, do you all envision any place for the DOD to leave some flexibility for the services to develop certain policies and guidances on their own, and to ultimately have some variance in the way individual services handle some of these policy matters? Or would you – do you see things being very consistent across the board?
MR. JOHNSON: Well, there’s a fair amount of – there are a number of recommendations where we leave it to the services to devise their own policies, with some overarching themes and suggestions about how to bring that about. We’re not recommending here that there be any sort of phased-in approach where a certain service does it at a certain pace and a certain service does it at another pace. And so we’re not making a recommendation one way or another on that.
Q: Can you point to anything that you would ultimately see as being a place where Air Force might do it this way and Army might do it this way?
MR. JOHNSON: On the issue of member-designated benefits, for example, we say that the services should look at whether certain types of benefits that could be extended to same-sex partners can be redesignated as member-designated benefits.
In other words, a service member can designate whoever he wants, whether it’s a same-sex partner or – you know, Aunt Jenny or my long-lost brother or my first-grade teacher. If it makes sense from a fiscal policy and feasibility point of view to redesignate it that way, with this issue in mind, then we would encourage the services to do that. So it’s quite possible to me that Army could do it one way, Air Force could do it another.
GEN. HAM: We tried to craft the support plan for implementation in a manner that was respective – respectful of service cultures, recognizing that each service trains and educates a little bit differently. So we tried to provide an architecture for that training and education to occur, but allow the services then to flesh out the details of exactly how they would to that consistent with their own methodology and their own service cultures.
MODERATOR: (Off mic.)
Q: I’m sorry. General Ham and Mr. Johnson, in terms of a follow-up on the Marine Corps issue, one of the comments by Admiral Mullen today was that the working group’s finding was that one of the most – that the most important part of implementation of repeal would be leadership.
Is there any message that the working group found, or that either of you individually take from the fact that some of the strongest comments against repeal have come from the leaders of the Marine Corps, and the Marine Corps is the area where the survey has found the least receptive response to open military service?
GEN. HAM: I drew a lot of significance from the new commandant’s statement that if repeal occurs, we will step up and do it smartly. And I believe that.
MODERATOR: Okay. The last question. (Chuck ?)?
Q: Do you recommend any changes to the UCMJ as a result of – (inaudible)?
MR. JOHNSON: Yes, there are – there are several recommendations in the report for changes to the UCMJ. One is to remove from the UCMJ the prosecutions for consensual sodomy. That is something that we should look at irrespective of what the Congress does with “don’t ask, don’t tell” in light of the Supreme Court’s decision in Lawrence vs Texas. And there’s also a recommendation for changing the definition of adultery in the manual for courts martial. It’s in the report.
MODERATOR: All right. Thank you all for your time.
MR. JOHNSON: Thank you.