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Mr. CHAMBLISS. Mr. President, I believe under the previous order I have 5 minutes of Senator McCain's time. I would like to take a minute to speak on this issue of repeal of don't ask, don't tell. I wish to start by talking about the process.
Here we are, once again, at the end of the year, 1 week before Christmas, dealing with a very sensitive, a very emotional issue that is of critical importance to our men and women in the military, as well as every other American, but most significantly those men and women who are willing to put their lives in harm's way to protect America and protect Americans--and they do such a good job of that. What we have seen is the House took up a bill, passed a bill, it comes to the Senate, direct to the floor, no opportunity for amendments, limited opportunity for debate--which we will have today--and then we are going to vote.
I see the assistant majority leader is here. I wish to say that as we move into next year, get ready--get ready--because this game can be played by both sides. There will be a number of bills that are passed in the House next year that the majority is not going to want to vote on. But they better believe those bills are going to be coming to the floor of the Senate in the same way this bill is coming, and we are going to insist on that.
Second, let me just say we are in the middle of two military conflicts, where men and women are getting shot at, injured, killed, doing heroic acts, and providing for freedom in a part of the world that is of critical importance to all Americans and, at the same time, making sure, as they fight that battle in Iraq and Afghanistan, those individuals who would seek to do harm to America and Americans are not allowed to do so.
We have a policy in place called don't ask, don't tell that has been in place for 18 years now and it has worked. Admiral Mullen, in his testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, said that as a commander he had to terminate individuals who decided to let it be known they were a member of the gay or lesbian community, and he did.
I said in an additional question to him when he responded to that: Did you have a morale issue when you had to terminate those people? He said: No; morale remained high.
Morale today, in every branch of our service, is probably as high as it has ever been in the last several decades. Recruiting and retention are at all-time highs. But what does this survey that was sent out on this issue to military personnel and military families show? First of all, it does not address the issue of: Do you support repeal of don't ask, don't tell? They did not ask the question. The survey assumes the repeal and talks about implementation. What is interesting about the survey is that the individuals who conducted it, in addition to sending out pieces of paper, also had personal interviews, they had online, back-and-forth chats with individual members of the military, and a majority of the individuals who wear the uniform of the United States who had personal interaction with the individuals who did the survey were opposed to the repeal of don't ask, don't tell.
The survey does show that nearly 60 percent of the respondents from the Marine Corps and the Army combat arms said they believe repeal would cause a negative impact on their unit's effectiveness. Among marine combat arms, the percentage was 67 percent. And we think this is a good idea? We think it is a good idea when 67 percent of those marines who are in foxholes and are dodging bullets around corners in Afghanistan as we speak today, who say that this is going to have an impact on them, we think it is a good idea to repeal this policy?
And, by the way, this has nothing to do with the valiant service that gays and lesbians have provided to the United States of America. That is a given. We all agree with that. But what the Marine Corps and what the Army, as well as what the Air Force Chief said is this is not the time to repeal this. In the middle of a military conflict is not the time to repeal a policy that is working, that has the potential for affecting morale, it has the potential for affecting unit cohesiveness, and it also, most significantly in my mind, according to both General Casey and General Amos, does have the potential for increasing the risk of harm and death to our men and women who are serving in combat today.
If for no other reason, we ought not to repeal this today. Should it be done at some point in time? Maybe so. But in the middle of a military conflict is not the time to do it. So as we think about this, and we think about the men and women who are serving, and the fact that, as Senator Inhofe alluded to earlier--I will not repeat all of those numbers--but the fact is that if the percentages in response to the survey turn out to be true, then we are going to have about 30 percent of marine combat forces who are going to get out early and not reenlist, and we are going to have to replace them. We have got about 25 percent of those combat troops in the Army who are not going to reenlist and who would like to get out early.
If that happens, we are going to have 250,000 soldiers and marines that need to be replaced in short order. When I asked Secretary Gates about it, he said: Well, that is not going to happen. Well, if it does happen, we are going to have serious consequences.
I do hope common sense will prevail here and that we will not get cloture, and we can move on to something that is extremely important to the men and women of America at this time in our calendar year.
I yield the floor.
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