On January 12, RADM Alan Steinman, USPHS/USCG (Ret); RADM Jamie Barnett, USN (Ret); CAPT Joan Darrah, USN (Ret); MCPOCG Vince Patton, USCG (Ret); and former USAF SSgt David Hall had the privilege of briefing President-elect Obama's Transition Team on the issue of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (DADT).
The meeting came about as a result of an invitation, following the election, from President-elect Obama's staff to the members of his Veterans Advisory group to submit Position Papers on items of special interest to veterans. Keith Kerr suggested we do so on the issue of DADT. The subsequent Position Paper advocating repeal of DADT and signed by LTGen Claudia Kennedy, RADM Joe Sestak, BG Pat Foote, BG Virgil Richards, BG Keith Kerr and RADM Steinman, was accepted, and we were offered the opportunity to personally present the paper to the Transition Team.
Five members of the Transition Team, all part of the staff managing Department of Defense and national security issues, met with us in a conference room in President-elect Obama's offices. RADM Steinman had previously prepared a PowerPoint presentation on the issue (as we normally do for military briefings, and which is available for anyone interested), but we decided that the meeting was not conducive to such a formal presentation. Joan Darrah suggested we open our briefing by citing President-elect Obama's public stance on DADT, which reads as follows:
"Repeal Don't Ask-Don't Tell: Barack Obama agrees with former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff John Shalikashvili and other military experts that we need to repeal the "don't ask, don't tell" policy. The key test for military service should be patriotism, a sense of duty, and a willingness to serve. Discrimination should be prohibited. The U.S. government has spent millions of dollars replacing troops kicked out of the military because of their sexual orientation. Additionally, more than 300 language exp erts have been fired under this policy, including more than 50 who are fluent in Arabic. Obama will work with military leaders to repeal the current policy and ensure it helps accomplish our national defense goals."
Following our opening statement of the above policy position and a presentation of the history of DADT and current realities of military life under DADT, we engaged in a spirited discussion of the issue. The Transition Team made it clear that President-elect Obama is clearly committed to repeal of current law. Our discussions noted the successful implementation of integration of African-Americans into the military, and the expansion of the role of female service members throughout the military. It was generally agreed that the Defense Department already has in place rules and regulations that govern conduct and interpersonal relations, and that the current anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policies currently in existence for race, gender, religion and ethnicity could be easily modified to include sexual orientation.
We all agreed that the opinions and recommendations of the Joint Chiefs of Staff are critical to the successful repeal of DADT. The Transition Team assured us that the current Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, ADM Mullen, is clearly aware of the new Commander-in-Chief's views on the issue and is currently working on it. At the end of the meeting, the Transition Team members thanked us for our time and effort, and, in accordance with President-elect Obama's policy, the proceedings of our meeting would be publicly available on their website.
Bottom line from the meeting: We are all highly encouraged by everything we heard. There is clearly light at the end of the very long and dark tunnel of DADT, but there is still work to be done. Each person reading this blog can help by taking a few minutes to reach out to their Senators and Representatives and ask them to support repeal of DADT. SLDN has made it easy. Simply open the following link to write your legislators: http://www.sldn.org/page/speakout/.
01-13-09 By RADM Al Steinman (Ret), RADM Jamie Barnett (Ret), CAPT Joan Darrah (Ret), MCPOCG Vince Patton (Ret), David Hall (former SSgt) |