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Public Statements

Don't Ask, Don't Tell

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. INHOFE. Mr. President, it is my understanding that I have 10 minutes, and I would like to ask the Chair to let me know when I have 1 minute remaining.

The ACTING PRESIDENT pro tempore. The Chair will so notify.

Mr. INHOFE. First of all, Mr. President, we have a couple of votes today on things we should have been addressing for a long period of time in order to get to the bottom of them, and one is the DREAM Act.

I think the Senator from Alabama did a thorough job of talking about the problems. I would only say this about the DREAM Act. I have been privileged over the past 20 years to probably give more speeches at naturalization ceremonies than anybody else I know. You look at these people who did it the legal way--they came in and learned the language, and I have to say, Mr. President, they probably know more about the history of this country than many of us in this Chamber. They do it the right way. They study, and they are proud. When I see something like this, which I believe is done purely for political reasons, I just can't imagine slapping these people in the face--the people who did it in the legal way--and saying it is all right to open the door.

So enough on that. I think that was covered by the Senator from Alabama.

I do wish to speak about don't ask, don't tell. I thought back in 1993, during the Clinton administration, that this probably wouldn't work. I was shocked when I found out how well it has worked for this long period of time; that is, the don't ask, don't tell policy. We have a saying in Oklahoma: If it ain't broke, don't fix it. This isn't broke. It is working very well.

This is something else I never believed would work, but I was a product of the draft--I was drafted into the U.S. Army. Yet today we have an all-volunteer force. Our recruitment and retention today in all services is over 100 percent. I look at this, and I wonder what effect this is going to have on that. I think we have some pretty good indications on what that effect would be.

First of all, the study that was supposed to take place was supposed to have the input of the members of the services. The ones I have talked to felt that it was already over. In fact, it was. We go out and ask them for their input as to the repeal of don't ask, don't tell, how it would affect our military and their operations, and then we turn around and go ahead and pass it. We did that on May 27. So I think they didn't respond, as they normally would to a survey, because the decision was already made.

When I look at this and I see things written into this--well, first of all, like 23 percent, even on this survey, said they would leave or think about leaving sooner than they had planned. That is 23 percent. Twenty-seven percent of the military members surveyed said they would not be willing to recommend military service to a family member or close friend. Our studies have shown us that 50 percent of those who join the service do so at the recommendation of someone who is already in the service.

So when you look at this report, everyone in the working group--and the working group is made up of a large number of people--says they didn't tabulate the results, but when pressed, they said their sense on the don't ask, don't tell policy is that the majority of views expressed were against repeal of the current policy.

I think, if you really want to know, there are four very courageous chiefs of the services who have been willing to stand up and be counted.

General Casey is the Chief of Staff of the Army. After a long statement at a hearing we had on the 3rd of this month, he said:

As such, I believe that implementation of the repeal of don't ask, don't tell in the near term will, one, add another level of stress to an already stretched force; two, be more difficult in combat arms units; and, three, be more difficult for the Army than the report suggests.

At the same December 3 hearing--so this is current stuff--General Schwartz of the Air Force said:

Nonetheless, my best military judgment does not agree with the study assessment that the short-term risk to the military effectiveness is low. ..... I remain concerned with the outlook for low short-term risk of repeal to military effectiveness in Afghanistan.

He goes on to talk about the implementation.

I therefore recommend deferring certification and full implementation until 2012, while initiating training and education efforts soon after you take any decision to repeal.

So there is General Schwartz of the U.S. Air Force agreeing with General Casey that this should not be implemented.

Then in that same hearing, General Amos said:

While the study concludes that ..... repeal can be implemented now, provided it is done in [a] manner that minimizes the burden on leaders in deployed areas, the survey data as it relates to the Marine Corps' combat arms forces does not support that assertion.

He goes on to talk about the element of risk, which is a term we use in the military when you change something, and whether that risk will be low, medium, or high. The risk in this case ranges from medium to high in the estimates of these individuals who really know what they are talking about.

I also have a quote from General Amos of just 2 days ago. This was actually on December 14, as opposed to the 3rd. He said:

When your life hangs on the line, you don't want anything distracting ..... Mistakes and inattention or distractions cost Marines' lives. So the Marines came back and said, ``Look, anything that's going to break or potentially break that focus and cause any kind of distraction may have an effect on cohesion.'' I don't want to permit that opportunity to happen. ..... If you go up to Bethesda Hospital ..... Marines are up there with no legs, none. We've got Marines at Walter Reed with no limbs.

This is the statement of General Amos. Let me repeat. He said:

When your life hangs on the line, you don't want anything distracting ..... Mistakes and inattention or distractions cost Marines' lives.

So we are talking about marines' lives in this case, and that is the significance.

I could go on. We have been talking about this now for a long period of time as to some of the very serious problems.

I have a letter I read some time ago from 41 retired chaplains who sent a letter to President Obama and Secretary Gates stating that normalizing homosexual behavior in the Armed Forces will pose a significant threat to chaplains' and servicemembers' religious liberty. The letter warned that reversing the policy will negatively impact religious freedom and could even affect military readiness and troop levels because the military would be marginalizing deeply held religious beliefs.

I know we are very short on time--votes are going to be coming up--but I have to respond to something the distinguished chairman of the Armed Services Committee said. He was saying we will not implement this until we find out and make a determination, and he was speaking of himself, Admiral Mullen, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Secretary of Defense, and the President; that they are not going to implement this until they have studied this and determined it is not going to have the risks and all that.

But wait a minute, let's look at what they have already said. They have already made up their minds. President Obama said this year: I will work with Congress and our military to finally repeal the law that denies gay Americans the right to serve the country they love because of who they are. Secretary Gates said: I fully support the President's decision. The question before us is not whether the military prepares to make this change but how we best prepare for it. And Secretary Gates also said he strongly preferred congressional action as opposed to court action. Admiral Mullen had already made up his mind. These are his words: Mr. Chairman, speaking for myself, it is the right thing to do. That is why, when people stand up and say they are not going to do this until such time as these three people certify that it is the right thing to do, they have already done it. That is what is behind this. I don't want anyone out there to think this is an open process.

The last thing I would say is that I will be spending New Year's Eve in Afghanistan with the troops, and I know what they are going to say. They are going to say the same thing they said before: We were under the impression last January that we were going to have input in this. We haven't had input.

So I think if you want to pursue this, we should have the time to go ahead and do it the right way, not try to do it at the last minute, before--well, one day before my 51st wedding anniversary.

With that, I yield the floor.

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