Just before Memorial Day, the Senate Armed Services Committee took unprecedented steps to push a liberal, misguided agenda onto our military service members. During the Committee’s consideration of the defense authorization bill, two provisions were added to the bill that a majority of Mississippians and many in our armed forces oppose. The Committee adopted amendments to repeal the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” guidelines and to allow abortions to be conducted at military health care facilities. These attempts at social engineering are a serious departure from long-standing Department of Defense policy.
Congress Should Not Ignore the Views of Our Troops
The current Department of Defense (DOD) guidelines concerning homosexuality in the armed forces, known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT), have been in place since 1993. According to this policy, gays are permitted to serve in our military so long as it they do not openly reveal their sexual orientation, and military commanders are not allowed to ask service members about it.
During the 2008 campaign, President Obama promised to repeal DADT. In February, Defense Secretary Robert Gates proposed a comprehensive review of the policy, including an assessment from military service members and their families, to determine how to implement a repeal. In March, with the President’s blessing, DOD began its review, which will be completed in December.
Secretary Gates recommended against any legislative action until the review was complete, but after being called to a closed-door meeting days ago at the White House, the Secretary reversed his position stating he would accept a legislative repeal as long as it does not take effect before the Department’s review is finished. This is not a true compromise and means that the DADT policy will be repealed, regardless of review findings or the wishes of our troops.
The senior officers of each military service have stated emphatically that this review should go forward before any repeal is enacted and wrote letters to Congress to that effect. The Chiefs of Staff described completion of the review as “a matter of keeping faith with those currently serving” and pointed out that the “organized and systematic approach” reflected in the assessment was “precisely the way to handle such military advice.”
There is no compelling national security reason for this change during this time of war. In fact, I think a lot of Americans would conclude that the only thing that has changed is the politics. The President made a campaign promise and faces a November election that threatens to erode his power-base in Congress. If Democratic majorities in either House are lost or reduced, it will be much harder to repeal DADT. The President’s chances of enacting a full repeal would also decrease if the results of the assessment in December show us that significant numbers of our soldiers and marines are not willing to continue in a voluntary service under these conditions.
Forcing Their Views on Us
In another radical step, the Armed Services Committee adopted a sweeping new policy that will allow abortions-on-demand to be conducted at military health care facilities. Since the mid-1990s, attempts to change this law have been rejected repeatedly. Regardless of their views on whether abortion is ever justified, the vast majority of Americans agree that taxpayer dollars should not subsidize such controversial procedures. Unfortunately, if the provisions of the defense authorization bill are allowed to stand, military treatment facilities will become abortion clinics built and operated at taxpayer expense. This means facilities such as Columbus or Keesler Air Force Base, Camp Shelby, or Naval Air Station Meridian could be used for abortions performed for any reason. For all pro-life Americans, the administration’s victory in getting this language in the defense bill is troubling. It has grave consequences for thousands of innocent lives, and it is a moral failure of this Congress if allowed to remain in the bill.
DoD Not the Appropriate Place to Enact Social Change
Both new provisions are disturbing, and neither of them provide any additional support to our troops. If anything, they undermine the stability of our forces during a time of war. The defense authorization bill will be considered by the full Senate in the coming months. There remains some hope that these provisions can be revisited then. However, as the election nears, pressure will mount on the left to keep these radical, politically-motivated provisions intact.