Army holding up end of ban
This week, we crossed the 90-day mark since President Barack Obama signed legislation to begin the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” which has discriminated against otherwise honorable and qualified servicemembers since it was put in place nearly two decades ago. As we pass this milestone in the repeal process, I am baffled by the length of time that the Army says it is going to take for our soldiers and other personnel to be trained in order for certification to take place and repeal to be enacted.
I am embarrassed, because this reflects badly on the senior leadership of the Army. What has taken other countries days and weeks to accomplish — and is taking other branches of the armed services months less to implement — is taking the Army the better part of a year.
I have reviewed the training materials being used and, as a retired senior leader, I can say with certainty that there is no legitimate reason it should take until August for training to be completed and certification to take place. Such a schedule would mean that full repeal would not be effective until October — 10 months after the president signed the repeal legislation. That it would take a military that can go halfway around the world to unseat a dictator in 30 days more than six months to communicate such a simple set of fundamental moral principles to its force is unacceptable and unnecessary.
Our armed services are more than capable of wrapping up this training in the second quarter of 2011 and allowing us to move toward full repeal before summer’s end. This is in keeping with the spirit of the president’s remarks on the day he signed the legislation when he said that the service chiefs were committed to “implementing this change swiftly and efficiently.” And it’s in keeping with the spirit of honor, freedom and equality that our forces — and our country — represent.
This timeline matters because, while we await full repeal, investigations under “don’t ask, don’t tell” continue and servicemembers remain in danger of being discharged. Meanwhile, senior leaders who indicated that repeal might be disruptive to fighting two wars are now engaged in an additional hot spot — Libya — and the fact that this training has not been completed is creating uncertainty in the ranks as some soldiers have been trained and some have not — leaving them to serve under a cloud of mixed messages.
So today, on behalf of the men and women serving in our military — and the countless others who are looking forward to joining a force that allows and encourages them to live openly and with integrity — I am urging the Army to accelerate its timeline for completing this training. It’s the right thing to do — and it’s doable.
Maj. Gen. Dennis Laich (retired)
Co-chairman, Servicemembers Legal Defense Network
Military Advisory Council