|10:42: Sen. Ben Nelson notes how important it is for service members to be able to tell the truth, both those serving openly and their heterosexual peers who didn't turn them in. Mullen: I can't square that circle. Nelson: Doesn't the current system undermine values of integrity? Mullen: Yes, it does.
10:39: Sen. Scott Brown again reiterates attack on basis of 28% response rate. General Ham: 28% is well within normal response rate for DOD surveys... I'm comfortable the response rate overall was within norms. More importantly, each category that we analyzed had a statistically significant number of responses. Brown: Do you envision starting with certain units over others? Gates: I think the key, as report makes clear, is training both leadership and the entire force. That's more than 2 million people. Whether we'd begin with one segment or not, we haven't addressed that yet. My personal approach to this would be that until all the training has been completed, until the service chiefs are comfortable that risks to cohesion/effectiveness have been addressed to their satisfaction and to mine, I would not sign the certification. Brown: You will not certify until you feel the process can move forward w/o damage to safety, security of men and women serving, and that effectiveness to fight will not be jeopardized? Gates: Yes.
Editor's note: Brown certainly sounds like a potential vote for cloture with his line of questioning, something a number of sources close to the vote count have told me is possible, but less likely than others like Collins, Voinovich.
10:29: Sen. Reed noted extended debate on the topic already. Not too much else to note.
10:26: Inhofe asks if certification process matters at all anymore given this report and testimony. Gates responds that it still matters to him and he will take service chiefs' advice into account.
10:22: Oh happy day, Sen. Sessions is now present. Sen. Inhofe begins with comments to Mullen on statistics of opposition. Mullen notes that overwhelming majorities would support repeal. Inhofe notes that he believes 28% isn't very much. Mullen: Actually, when you talk about 28%, of the 400K sent out to those in uniform and more to family members, that's a remarkable result with statistical significance.
10:20: Lieberman emphasizes how standards of conduct (refers to "gayness") won't change in question to Mullen. Mullen affirms.
10:13: While Lieberman is on an extended soliloquy about values and comity, I'll take a second to note that I think repeal advocates' strategy here is very smart. Levin's questions about service chiefs, given that it's noted opposition among them. Gates, Mullen's strategy of putting McCain in the position of acting too slowly and putting the military at risk should judicial rulings force their hand.
10:11: McCain to Gates: Very deeply concerned about Wikileaks. Have you held any individual responsible for Wikileaks? Disciplinary action? Gates: Our ability to go down that path are limited b/c we have criminal proceedings going down. Ultimately, not yet.
10:04: McCain to Ham: Is it your personal opinion that this law should be repealed? Ham: Yes. McCain to Gates: How are concerns about repeal exaggerated? Gates: I don't recall using that term. I believe with proper time for prep, training, before deployments or after, if we are allowed to do this on our terms, I believe those concerns can be mitigated. Reiterates Mullen's comments on the experiences of those who have served with openly gay and lesbian service members. McCain: I couldn't disagree more. 12.6% of the overall military force said they'll leave earlier than planned [if DADT is repealed]. Overall numbers- he estimates 265K troops to leave. You think that's a good idea when we're fighting two wars? Gates: Yes, and our military allies had large numbers who said they would leave, and in the end, those numbers were far smaller than what surveys indicated. While there are concerns you'll probably hear tomorrow about special ops forces where there are limited numbers of people, I don't think any of us think the numbers would be anything like what the survey suggests, based on experience. Also, they can't just up and leave. They have enlistment contracts. It isn't like they can just say, well, I'm outta here. And I believe their concerns can be mitigated.
10:01: Levin Q to Gates- you've urged us to be deliberate, but also to ask this month. How can you reconcile? Gates: I think the report needed to inform the legislative process, it's now done so. It's clear and straightforward. The recommendations are doable within the timeframe before the Congress adjourns. I believe, based on the report, that Congress is in a position to act b/c it now has this info in hand and frankly I don't think it's all that complicated to absorb.
9:59: Levin Q to Gates: "Would you consider our acting this month to be hasty?" Gates: "It certainly would be expeditious. As Sen. McCain said, this is a very important matter. My sense of urgency would not be as great were it not for what we went thru in Oct, Nov (editor's note: referring to judicial rulings) which frankly were a difficult period when we were told the law was changed and couldn't enforce it with no training whatsoever."
9:55: Questions begin with Chairman Levin. Sens. Chambliss and Hagan have also now arrived. Levin asks Gates whether Mullen, Gates, Ham, Johnson have considered views of service chiefs before reaching their conclusion. He is smartly trying to reassure everyone that their views, while some may be hostile, have been accounted for. All affirm that they indeed have.
9:51: Sen. Levin mentions Gates must leave at 11:30, tells Senators they will have 5 minutes for questions. McCain complains. Levin assures him there will be several rounds of questions, and we need to accomodate everyone's schedule. McCain complains, asks for more hearings. Gates agrees to stay until 12. Inhofe asks for 6 minutes instead of 5. Laughter. Levin smiles, agrees.
9:49: Johnson continues to strike fear of the courts into the hearts and minds of those listening. "From where I sit as the lawyer for DOD, the virtue of this legislation is that if passed, repeal of DADT will be done on our terms and our timetable on the advice of military leadership." Also uses "judicial fiat" term that Gates uses.
9:47: Jeh Johnson is now speaking: "I want... to ask that the Congress not leave this in the hands of the courts. I have no doubts on the constitutionality or the outcome of the litigation but regardless of how you feel about DADT, or gays serving openly in the military, the fact that there is increased litigation in the courts on matters of gay rights is undeniable. Since 2003 (Lawrence v. Texas) the courts have become increasingly receptive to gay lights claims."
He goes onto to discuss DOMA and DADT litigation and how he is concerned that we'll have to repeal DADT not on the terms and timetable of the President, Congress and courts, but on the judicial branch.
9:45: General Ham (very short statement): "I was cognizant every day of this review that I would actually have to lead the changes presented in this report. If this law changes I and the leaders can do just that."
9:43: Mulllen continues- "For more than 40 years I've made decisions that affected and even risked the lives of young men and women... don't think for a moment that I haven't considered the impact of the advice I give [on those lives]." General Ham is up next.
9:41: Brilliant Mullen quote regarding a Marine, often considered to be the most hostile to repeal: "As one Marine put it, if that's what the President ordered, by God, we're going to excel above and beyond the other armed services to make it happen."
9:39: Mullen continues- "Let me be clear... nothing will change about our standards of conduct, nor the dignity, fairness and equality with which we treat our people... the military is a meritocracy with treatment based on what you do, not who you are... we may wear a different uniform but we are one... there is no gray area here. We treat each other with respect or we find another place to work."
9:37: Mullen continues- "Some may want separate shower facilities... some may even quit the service. We'll deal with that. But history tells us most will put aside personal proclivities for themselves and for each other... there's a common bond against threat of the enemy... I believe the repeal of DADT will pass with less turbulence than some predict, not only because our young ones are more tolerant, but because they've got more important things to worry about."
9:35: Admiral Mullen is speaking and is very short, blunt, and to the point. "What was my personal opinion is now my professional opinion. Unit cohesion will not suffer, families will not encourage their loved ones to leave the service. I don't discount for a moment the results of the survey... whatever risk there is, it is thoroughly mitigated by the [recommendations] in this study. These are the things I know for a fact, these are the things the study tells us. Now let me tel you what I believe. Our troops are ready for this. Most are serving or have served alongside gays and lesbians."
9:28: Gates continues- (c) this change imposed by judicial fiat would be the most dangerous possibility; therefore, I agree with Sen. McCain that change is for the Congress to decide; we need a process the carries the "imprimateur" of the Congress elected by the people; we cannot "roll the dice" that judicial change would go well (d) this is the second time that I have dealt with this issue, the 2nd being the CIA in 1992, and as director I ordered that openly gay applicants be treated like all over applicants. That was significantly different in circumstance and consequence than what we're facing today. Views towards gays and lesbians are different today, and there is growing acceptance in society as a whole, and in uniformed ranks as a whole. I ask that all involved resist the lure of bringing our troops and families into the politics of this issue.
9:26: Sens. Wicker and Thune are now here.
9:24: Sec. Gates is now speaking. He is emphasizing (a) his job was only to discover how best to prepare the military for such a change, but nevertheless he thought it important to survey the military (b) A strong majority (more than 2/3) do not object to gays and lesbians serving openly in uniform; repeal of DADT, while potentially disruptive in the short term, would not be the wrenching change others had predicted.
9:22: McCain discusses how he's concerned about the "rush to repeal" despite significant numbers of service members viewing it negatively. He continues, "As this debate continues, I hope people would put aside their political agendas." Hah. "I'm not saying this law should never change, I am simply saying that it may be premature... without further consideration of this report and further study by Congress." No word on which goalposts he will newly set up.
9:16: Sen. McCain: "This capable force of ours could repeal DADT if asked to... what I want to know is not can our Armed Forces repeal this law but whether they should. Unfortunately, that's not the focus of this study... this is a question that must be answered by Congress with proper consideration of the issue... the DOD has had 10 months to complete this report. Together they contain over 1,000 pages of data and analysis. We received it 36 hours ago and are still carefully analyzing it. What I can saw now is that in addition to my concerns over what questions were not asked, I'm troubled by the fact that this report represents only 28% of the military force. I find that hard to view that as a fully representative sample set... what appears clear is that the survey and anecdotal data... do not lead to a firm conclusion."
McCain continues to highlight the statistics he views as arguments against repeal, such as Marine surveys.
9:14: Sens. Brown, Burr, and LeMieux are now here.
9:07: Sen. Levin gaveled in the hearing to announce the topic and testimony and detailing how comprehensive the overview of the policy has been. So far, present are Sens. Levin, Manchin, Collins, McCaskill, Webb, Udall, Inhofe, Lieberman, Bill Nelson, Ben Nelson, and Reed.
9:04 AM: Senators are filing in along with Secretary Gates, Admiral Mullen, and Working Group Co-Chairs Jeh Johnson and General Carter Ham. The hearing appears set to begin in the next 10 minutes. LGBT allies have certainly filled out much of the room- to my left are GetEqual Managing Director Heather Cronk, to my right are HRC President Joe Solmonese and Legislative Counsel Ty Cobb. Code Pink is also here. The line was 25 people long when I arrived at 7:57 AM and the room is now packed.