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Conway: ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’ repeal can’t sacrifice readiness

WASHINGTON — Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James T. Conway withheld his opinion on gays serving openly in the military but told Congress on Wednesday he feels the current “don’t ask don’t tell” policy seems to have worked well enough toward his primary concern: military readiness.

“I would argue that we’ve done a pretty good job,” he told the House Armed Services Committee on Wednesday.

Among the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Conway is believed to be the most solid opponent to gays and lesbians serving openly. Neither Conway nor Adm. Gary Roughead, the chief naval officer sitting at his side, offered outright support or opposition to open service for gays and lesbians in the first public comments from either man since the White House indicated it would seek to repeal the policy this year,. 

Both joined other two services chiefs and Iraq war commander Gen. Ray Odierno who said this week they support Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ plan to conduct a force-wide study of how to repeal the law without adversely affecting readiness. 

Readiness is a concern to opponents of gays serving in the military, who argue a repeal would be too disruptive to a military deployed in two wars. 

Additionally, Conway and Roughead opposed the idea of halting prosecutions of gay service members outed while the study proceeds. 

“Keep it simple,” Conway said.  “I would encourage you to either change the law or not, but in the process half measures would only be confusing in the end.”

Conway’s comments came during a week in which Congress held annual hearings with each of the service chiefs and secretaries on their budget proposals. On Tuesday, the chief of the staff for the Army, Gen. George Casey, and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz voiced strong concerns about the repeal’s affect on readiness.


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