December 3, 2010
By Adam Bink
This morning, we’ll commence the 2nd day of hearings on the Pentagon Comprehensive Working Group Report and Senate consideration of legislation to repeal the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell statute. Joint Chiefs of Staff Vice Chairman Cartwright will testify, along with the Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines, and Coast Guard chiefs. Updates will scroll from the top. If you missed yesterday’s coverage, you can find it here. I am also tweeting highlights occasionally via @adamjbink.
11:58: Unfortunately, that’s it for me today- I need to jump on an urgent noon EST conference call, but it appears to be good timing. Sen. Lieberman and Levin are the only two Senators left, all others having departed. Sen. Levin is asking a few more questions. Sen. Collins was present, but no longer is- she may or may not come back. All the key players aside from Collins have been heard from.
If you’re looking for more coverage, my colleagues Chris Geidner and Waymon Hudson are doing the best tweeting, and AMERICABlog Gay is also doing a pretty good live blog and chat, so I’d encourage you to head over there. I’ll be writing up some thoughts and commentary later today.
11:55: Reply to Brown’s question: We’re all ready and we’re not shrinking violets. Amos: We have great confidence in DOD leadership to do this the right way. Brown: Casey, I gotta hear from you before our time is expired. Casey: I’m very comfortable that we have had and will have access to [The Three Certifiers]. Brown concludes by thanking everyone. Today’s comments were not as positive, but still leaves room for hope that he’ll be with us.
11:50: Brown continues, it seems to me no one is opposed to repeal. I do have very serious concerns about battle readiness/effectiveness. Cartwright: Each of us have represented the areas that the mitigation has to handle. This issue of, can we put one more stone in the rucksack, leaves some questions. Brown: Only issue that matters to me is safety/security. I’m hopeful that if in fact we do move forward with this at some point- [Jeh Johnson] told me march would be when next court battle takes place- I hope that when/if DADT gets repealed that you will be given the proper respect/input with Prez, Mullen, Gates who will sign the certification do. So let’s say it’s time and it’s repealed… I need to be made aware of/comfortable with is that you will due your utmost to convey to The Three Certifiers that yes, we have a plan for education/implementation/strategy. But with the battle units, they’ll be left as is, but when they come home, we’ll implement that training/education. I think it would be detrimental to go overnight, too disruptive. I’m basing that on everything I’ve learned. Is anything I’ve said there, sirs, that you feel needs to be corrected?
11:47: Brown starts off by bleating about the need to focus on jobs, as Wicker did. Pledged to have an open mind, learn, try to understand the intricacies of this very important decision. Honored to meet/speak with you, Petraeus, McChrystal, et al. I’ve been in the military 31 years, so I get this issue more than others. As a JAG, I read rules/regs. Never seen a voluntary survey. I’m confused still why it wasn’t a mandatory survey, given how critical this survey was. Any thoughts on why the survey wasn’t mandatory? Casey: Don’t know. Cartwright: We use surveys for various purposes. We thought this was a good way to sample the force.
11:45: If my counting is correct, Sen. Scott Brown will be up next. Given his comments yesterday, (I discussed here ICYMI), it will be interesting.
11:40: Sen. Hagan asks about certification, eliciting the usual responses, and about ambiguity resulting from current court cases in an effort to point out that Congressional repeal is preferable. Service chiefs concur.
11:34: I got back just in time to hear Sessions say “we live in a great country with lots of different views and lifestyles.” Curses.
11:28: Sen. Sessions begins, which means it’s time for
my blood pressure medication a bathroom break. Deride amongst yourselves.
11:26: Sen. Manchin, a critical swing vote on cloture, is up. He asks if this will be a cost-effective measure. Casey replies that we have to understand benefits and how those will work- he’s no doubt referring in part to the recommendation of the report to provide benefits to same-sex partners of openly gay/lesbian service members. Manchin asks if it’s fair to say there will be an additional cost. Gen. Schwartz replies that the report estimates around $50 million for the entire armed forces. Manchin asks again about chaplains (this was his focus yesterday). Casey estimates 2,800 Army chaplains and that the attrition rate will be small. Gen. Schwartz agrees for USAF chaplains. The rest of the service chiefs agree. Manchin muses that sooner or later, repeal will take effect. “With that being said, if we took no action whatsoever… and the President as I understand it has the authority relating to promotion, retirement or separation of armed forces… if we don’t repeal this, would it still be in the purview of the President to act on this if he thought it was in the best interests of national security?” Amos says he doesn’t know. Another service chief says, “you may have come up with a question, Senator, that is above our pay grade.” It is very unclear where Manchin will fall on this as he concludes.
11:17: Via Twitter, the NYTimes’ Jeff Zeleny reports that President Obama just arrived in Afghanistan on a secret trip. Let’s hoping he remains involved in lobbying efforts.
11:15: Amos reiterates, in response to comments from Wicker, all that’s going on in his branch on his and his Marines’ plate, and how that makes right now a bad time to do this.
11:13: Just in over the wire, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America have endorsed repeal this morning. Extremely good news. Their statement here.
11:10: Sen. Wicker muses about why we are here when our best military minds should be focused on two wars. Half the eyes in the gallery roll upward. Believes this was a political decision made in the White House. Says it reminds him of the time spent on health care debate with everything else going on.
11:03: Sen. Mark Udall, a strong, loud-and-proud repeal advocate, begins by pointing out additional surveys of service academies that had similar results to the CWGR, and how as long as the sample size is large enough, that in tandem with margin of error ensures a survey’s validity. In fact, he notes, the Marist poll staff wondered why the sample size was as large as it was.
10:57: Sen. Thune asks about certification, and service chiefs assure him certification is valued. He makes similar attempts as Inhofe did to get people to agree with fundamentally incorrect statements about repeal and the survey. By and large, the service chiefs tell him, uh, no, that’s not quite right, Senator.
10:55: Sen. Lieberman walks over to glad-hand and whisper with Brown, Collins. Work it, Holy Joe.
10:49: Sen. Webb asks, if we keep the present law, how will we overcome the dilemma of closeted service members serving in silence? No one seems to be able to respond directly or understand his question. Still, it’s promising to hear him say that, perhaps a sign of his evolution on this.
10:43: Over Twitter, several people noting that lack of pay raises and extended tours of duty are more likely to have an impact on retention than DADT. Point.
10:41: Sen. Chambliss asks about impact on readiness. Amos replies that it would impact combat forces, but not as much on remainder of armed forces.
10:36: Sen. Reed asks a long-winded question about the standards of open service. Casey makes weird comment about how knowing someone is gay is weirder than thinking someone is. Hm. Reed gets into reply starting by talking about mannerism and such. Weird exchange.
10:25: Inhofe asks Casey whether the referendum question re repeal should have been asked. Casey replies no. “This isn’t a democracy in the military.” Inhofe continues hunting for a supporter, asks Amos. Amos replies no as well; “I got the information I needed.” Inhofe keeps making statements and hunting for a service chief to agree with them. They all keep contradicting him. Thanks for the assist, Inhofe!
10:22: Inhofe asks about statistics re retention. Casey notes such statistics are overstated, and how it would be an acceptable risk. Amos agrees it’s overstated, “knowing Marines for 40 years”, and doesn’t sense such a mass walking-out-the-door. The tenor of Inhofe’s comments is that he’s searching for someone to agree with his argument. So far, no one is.
10:18: Sens. Collins and Hagan are now here. Lieberman goes onto affirm each of the service chiefs appreciates and understands the certification process. They all affirm they do. Inhofe up next.
10:17: Lieberman concludes that ultimately, “all 6 of you” favor repealing DADT; question is timing. Then goes on to point out the certification process. Lieberman is making a very smart, lawyerly argument in pointing out overall support; pointing out timing concerns; going on to explain that he understands those concerns, which is why he was part of the team writing legislation to make sure the certification process happens. Essentially, he is attempting to defuse their opposition.
10:15: Lieberman is pointing out how despite service chiefs’ opposition to repeal, they all said yes, they could implement repeal. Very smart. Goes on to point out the silver linings in Casey’s, Schwartz’s, Amos’ comments regarding how they ultimately believe the law should be repealed. Asks Amos his overall feelings on repeal and when it should happen. Amos replies that the law should be and will be repealed, just not when “my Marines are not singularly tightly focused on what they are doing in a deadly environment.”
10:06: McCain: “When you look at the report, it’s a lot like studying the Bible; you can draw most any conclusion.” He’s in fine form today. Asks Casey his “personal opinion about repeal at this time.” Casey: “Senator, I believe that the law should be repealed eventually.” Says he doesn’t agree that gay and lesbian service members don’t post an unacceptable risk. Casey: “I would not recommend going forward at this time given all that the Army has on its plate.” That is a lot more blunt than his earlier comments; it appears he is now the 3rd service chief to not support moving forward and bluntly says so. Asks Schwartz the same question, who repeats his earlier comments.
10:06: Sen. McCain is up. He wants to hear from the senior enlisted personnel responsible for training and implementation, theater commanders, which is just another way to get more hearings and more delay.
10:02: Levin Q re whether certification being a barrier is important. Cartwright: Prefers as much prep time for repeal, so supports certification. Levin appears to be simply emphasizing for those listening that the JCS Chairman and SecDef should give “reassurance”. Amos: “I think it goes a long way towards easing some of the pressure.”
9:58: Question from Levin to Casey on whether repeal depends on “leadership.” Casey replies that a leader won’t be able to devote full attention to all tasks if focusing on repeal, which appears to be a backhanded way of saying “there are more important damned things I should be worried about than this.”
9:52: Chairman Levin to Gen. Casey, asking if he’s discussed repeal with his counterparts abroad. Casey: In October, sat down with counterparts in about half a dozen other countries. They all said there was minimal disruption. They did, however, point out two differences (a) in almost every case, there was broad national consensus (b) in some cases, the countries actually had laws supporting civil unions. Levin asks Cartwright the same question, who replies that his counterparts told him repeal was a “non-event”. Notes that changes abroad occurred, in most cases, over ten years ago. Asks Roughead, who affirms the same. Asks Amos, who replies that he did not talk to such counterparts abroad. Emphasizes that US is involved heavily in combat when other countries may not have been. Asks Schwartz, who replies that while he spoke with counterparts, but does not believe that evidence is “necessarily compelling.” Asks Papp, who replies that the Coast Guard places service members on foreign ships who have integrated services, and there’s no effect.
9:50: Chairman Levin to Gen. Cartwright: Can you comment on Gen. Amos’ testimony and contrasting views, given your similar backgrounds as Marines? Cartwright: Repeats story yesterday from Sen. Collins of the Navy SEAL regarding the “guy who was the biggest and meanest and killed the most bad guys… but gay”. Discussing his focus on the over-90% statistic positive/mixed/no effect contrasting with the focus by other service chiefs on other statistics.
9:46: Overall, according to testimony, it appears four of the six individuals testifying today support moving forward with repeal at this time. Gen. Amos and Gen. Schwartz with the Marine Corps and USAF, respectively, do not.
9:44: Admiral Papp with the Coast Guard is discussing (a) the attention of the Coast Guard to this issue (b) concurs with recommendations in the report (c) how repealing “DADT” will improve, ultimately, his service… “continuing to serve [while closeted] is a choice they should not have to make” (d) how gay and lesbian service members serve with distinction in his serve (e) Coast Guard service members on the whole, he believes, find gay and lesbian service members acceptable
9:41: Gen. Schwartz (a) does NOT agree that the risk, as described in the report, to the force is low (b) Remain concerned with the study ass. with the risk of repeal… is low. That assessment is too optimistic (c) The problem of placing additional demands (d) I therefore recommend delaying full implementation and certification until 2012…”
9:39: General Amos is emphasizing (a) the value of the report (b) The infamous 45% statistic with regard to Marine opinion of repeal (c) The survey’s lack of reporting on risk to the force while combat operations are ongoing (d) How open service has “strong potential” for disruption and distract from an almost “singular focus” from preparing units for combat (e) “I cannot reconcile nor turn my back on the Marines… we asked their opinion and they gave them to us.” (f) How the Marine Corps will fall in line if the law is ultimately repealed (g) “My recommendation is that we should not implement repeal at this time.” That’s the blunt statement we’ve been expecting.
9:33: So far, those known to have concerns about repeal are discussing them openly, but ultimately emphasizing how their respective service branches can deal with repeal and do it effectively. General Amos is next, the most vocal opponent to date. Sens. Manchin and Burr have also now arrived.
9:32: Admiral Roughead is emphasizing “increased stress on the force” and concerns over showers and bunks and the importance of focusing on the minority who have concerns over this. However, he is also emphasizing report recommendations to address this. “Repeal of the law will not fundamentally change who we are, and what we do.”
9:28: General Casey, who in the past has been known as a repeal opponent, is discussing (a) how the force is already stretched (b) that repeal would have a negative effect on cohesion and morale (c) statistics regarding unit effectiveness and morale from the report (d) “As such, I believe that the implementation of repeal of DADT will add another level of stress to an already stretched force; two, be more difficult in our combat units; and three, be more difficult than the report suggests.
That said… the principles in the report constitute a solid basis that will mitigate the risks I just described. I do not believe the repeal of DADT will keep us from accomplishing our worldwide missions… we can… oversee the implementation of repeal with moderate risks to our force. So it’s my judgment that we could implement repeal with moderate risk to military effectiveness… the Army will work to finalize implementation plans and with the same level of service that we’ve [provided] to this country for over 200 years.”
9:24: General Cartwright begins his testimony. He is emphasizing how service members are fully capable of adjusting to open service by gays and lesbians. He is also reiterating Mullen’s and Gates’ argument regarding how important it is for Congress to repeal the law, rather than a judicial ruling striking it down. He is also emphasizing very clearly his support, in no uncertain terms, for repealing the law in his final words.
9:16: While McCain is pontificating in the same general manner as yesterday, here’s the bios of the service chiefs testifying today.
Vice Chairman Cartwright
General Schwartz- Air Force
General Casey– Army
Admiral Roughead- Navy
General Amos- Marine Corps
Admiral Papp- Coast Guard
9:12 AM: Chairman Levin has gaveled the hearing to order, introduced those testifying today, and reiterating the value of the service chiefs’ advice both from his own views and quoting comments to the same effect from yesterday’s witnesses. About the same number of Senators are present as were at this time yesterday. Sens. Brown, Wicker, Thune, Chambliss, Sessions, McCain, Levin, Lieberman, Reed, Webb, and Udall are here.
9:04 AM: The chiefs are here and Senators are still filing in. Another packed day today in the audience. As I wrote this morning over Twitter, I’m genuinely interested to see how much the JCS undermine the Commander in Chief in today’s hearings. They’ve spent the last year or so making public comments to that effect.