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National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2011

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Ms. PELOSI. I thank the gentleman for yielding and his leadership on this important bill before us.

I commend Congresswoman Eshoo for her attention to this important matter, her leadership in bringing this amendment to the floor.

Mr. Chairman, as you all know, protecting American people is our first responsibility. Their security is what we take an oath to uphold, protect, and defend. In order to do that, we recognize the importance of intelligence gathering to preventing violence and to protecting the American people, especially in this age when we're fighting terrorism at home and abroad.

The issue before us is if the responsibilities of Congress can be honored without the knowledge that we are entitled to. This is a very important issue. We all recognize, as the gentleman said, the importance of having information be kept secret when it's in our national security interest to do so. Not to overdo that to the extent of having Congress not have the information it needs to do its job of proper oversight to protect the American people.

We are preventing harm. And if we're going to prevent harm, we have to have information to do so. And the members of the Intelligence Committee have a responsibility to hold that information close. This doesn't apply to every piece of information of intelligence that comes to the committee, but it does say that the GAO has a proven track record of conducting thorough and professional investigations. Their work has informed the Congress and led to significant changes that have enhanced our government's effectiveness. GAO staff are professionals who protect information held by the intelligence community. A vote for this amendment is a vote for enhancing intelligence oversight. It is a vote for Congress.

I urge our colleagues to support the Eshoo amendment.


Ms. PELOSI. I thank the gentleman for yielding and for his leadership and service to our country.

Madam Chair, this weekend, on Memorial Day, America will come together to honor all those who have served our Nation in uniform, and those brave Americans have no better friend than the chairman of our Armed Services Committee, Mr. Skelton.

Today, by repealing the discriminatory Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy, we also honor the service and sacrifice of all who dedicated their lives to protecting the American people. We honor the values of our Nation, and we close the door on fundamental unfairness.

In 1993, I spoke on this same House floor, calling on the President "to act definitively to lift the ban that keeps patriotic Americans from serving in the U.S. Armed Forces because of their sexual orientation.'' Instead, despite everyone's good intentions, Don't Ask, Don't Tell was enacted--a policy which has been discriminatory to our brave men and women in uniform.

Under Don't Ask, Don't Tell, more than 13,000 men and women in uniform have been discharged from the military. Thousands more have decided not to reenlist. Fighter pilots, infantry officers, Arabic translators, and other specialists have been discharged at a time when our Nation is engaged in two wars.

That is why I support repealing Don't Ask, Don't Tell, and that support has come from all over the country. Nearly 8 out of 10 Americans want to end this era of discrimination.

Admiral Mullen, the current Chairman of the Joint Chiefs said, "It is my personal belief that allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly would be the right thing to do. We have in place a policy which forces young men and women to lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens.'' He went on to say, "For me, personally, it comes down to integrity--theirs as individuals and ours as institutions.''

General Colin Powell, who was Chairman of the Joint Chiefs when this policy was implemented, has said that he now thinks this restrictive policy should be repealed.

Then, in a letter to Congress, 51 retired generals, admirals, and a former Army Secretary called for the repeal of this policy, saying that they ``have dedicated our lives to defending the rights of our citizens to believe whatever they wish.''

Passing this amendment today respects the timeline of the Pentagon's Implementation Study Group. Repeal would take place only after the study group completes its work in December 2010 and after the President, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Secretary of Defense all certify that repeal will not hurt military readiness or unit cohesion. No one in this body would jeopardize our national security.

America has always been the land of the free and the home of the brave. We are so because of our brave men and women in uniform who have been willing to fight for our country. Let us honor their service by recommitting to the values they fight for on the battlefield.

I urge my colleagues to vote for the repeal of this discriminatory policy of Don't Ask, Don't Tell and to make America more American.


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