ARLINGTON, Va. – Defense Secretary Robert Gates sharply reprimanded the three-star general who commands the U.S. Army in the Pacific on Thursday for publicly advocating against the repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” law restricting gays in the military.
Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, went further, suggesting that Lt. Gen. Benjamin Mixon should consider resigning over comments he made in a letter to the editor of Stars and Stripes earlier this month.
In that March 8 letter calling on troops and their families to fight a repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” law, Mixon wrote: “I suspect many service members, their families, veterans and citizens are wondering what to do to stop this ill-advised repeal of a policy that has achieved a balance between a citizen's desire to serve and acceptable conduct.
“Now is the time,” Mixon added, “to write your elected officials and chain of command and express your views. If those of us who are in favor of retaining the current policy do not speak up, there is no chance to retain the current policy.”
Gates and Mullen denounced Mixon’s letter during a Pentagon press conference.
“I think that for an active duty officer to comment on an issue like this is inappropriate,” said Gates.
"I feel the same way and actually it is being addressed inside the chain of command in the Army,” Mullen added. “I’ve spoken specifically to [U.S. Army chief of staff] Gen. George W. Casey, Jr., about this. And Gen. Mixon specifically is – the issue is being addressed with him."
Mixon, reached via email Thursday, would not comment on the matter. "You will have to address all your questions to Army (public affairs)," he said.
In recent testimony before Congress, other senior military officials have publicly opposed repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” law, which Congress and the Pentagon are now reviewing following President Barack Obama’s expressed desire to see it eliminated. Under the law, gays are forbidden from openly serving in the armed forces.
"I think the current policy works," Gen. James T. Conway, the commandant of the Marine Corps, told Congress in February. "My best military advice to this committee, to the secretary, to the president would be to keep the law such as it is."
"I do have serious concerns about the impact of repeal of the law on a force that is fully engaged in two wars and has been at war for 8 1/2 years," Casey said in testimony to Congress. "We just don't know the impacts on readiness and military effectiveness."
But Gates and Mullen suggested Thursday that Mixon’s offense had been speaking out about the policy after commanders were specifically ordered not to do so.
Mullen said the Army had given officers “very specific direction” in written form following Gates’ announcement of his intent to seek the repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” law.
"I think as a three-star leader in command, by virtue of just that position alone he has great influence,” Mullen said. “And all of us in uniform are obliged to certainly follow the direction of leadership, right up to the president.”
Mullen added: “There’s an expectation that you would comply with that. And in the end, if there is either policy direction that someone in uniform disagrees with…and you feel so strongly about it, the answer is not advocacy; it is in fact to vote with your feet. And that’s what all of us in a position of leadership, I think, have to conform to.”
Asked by reporters if Mixon should leave the military, Mullen said: “That’s a decision that would certainly be up to him.”
Lt. Gen. Mixon's letter ...
Stars and Stripes
Letters to the Editor, Monday, March 8, 2010
Let your views be known
The recent commentaries on the adverse effects of repeal of the "don’t ask, don’t tell" policy were insightful.
It is often stated that most servicemembers are in favor of repealing the policy. I do not believe that is accurate. I suspect many servicemembers, their families, veterans and citizens are wondering what to do to stop this ill-advised repeal of a policy that has achieved a balance between a citizen’s desire to serve and acceptable conduct.
Now is the time to write your elected officials and chain of command and express your views. If those of us who are in favor of retaining the current policy do not speak up, there is no chance to retain the current policy.
Lt. Gen. Benjamin R. Mixon
Fort Shafter, Hawaii