Collins supports repeal based on recommendations of Secretary of Defense, Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff

            WASHINGTON, D.C.--During a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing today, Senator Susan Collins questioned Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen and the co-chairmen of the Department of Defense Working Group that conducted a comprehensive review of the issues associated with repeal of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.


            Senator Collins was the only Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee to vote, in May, to include repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in the 2011 Defense Authorization bill subject to the certification by the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff that there would not be a negative impact on combat effectiveness and military readiness.


            During today’s hearing, Senator Collins challenged critics of the recently released Pentagon report who question whether it fairly represents the views of our Armed Forces.  Jeh Johnson, Defense Department General Counsel and Co-Chairman of the study group that issued the report, told Senator Collins that his group received 115,000 responses to a 103-question survey of service members.  In addition, it received 72,000 emails and had 24,000 personal meetings during which the discussion focused on whether the current law banning openly gay men and women from serving in the U.S. military was the topic of discussion.  The study finds 70 percent of service members responded that having a service member who was gay in their unit would have a “positive, mixed, or no effect” on the unit’s effectiveness. 


            “Given the extensive feedback that the task force received from tens of thousands of service members in the forms of survey responses, emails, and town hall meetings, the report in fact does convey a sense of what service members think about repealing the law,” said Senator Collins. 


            Senator Collins also asked the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff whether he believes the military is prepared to implement a policy change, such as this, during a time of war as it did during the Korean War, when the nation’s Army became fully racially integrated.  Admiral Mullen assured Senator Collins that the military is prepared to repeal the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy during a time of war.


            “I believe making a change like this makes us better, it doesn’t make us worse,” said Admiral Mullen.