home about media center archive history links subscribe

Pentagon Briefing:
The State of DADT
Repeal Implementation

by

Danny Ingram
President, American Veterans For Equal Rights

In mid March, AVER was contacted by the Pentagon's Repeal Implementation Team (RIT), and we were invited to meet with the team for an update on the current status of the military's strategy to remove the ban on LGB service members. I traveled to DC on Friday morning March 18th  to attend the meeting.

In attendance along with AVER were representatives of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN), the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association, Human Rights Campaign (HRC), Outserve, Knights Out, Third Way, and Servicemembers United.  Both SLDN Executive Director Aubrey Sarvis and Servicemembers United Executive Director Alex Nicholson, both members of AVER, represented their organizations at the meeting.

The head of the Repeal Implementation Team is Marine Major General Steven A. Hummer, Deputy Commanding General, Marine Corps Combat Development Command. General Hummer has served in the USMC for 41 years as both an enlisted Marine and an officer. General Hummer assumed his most recent assignment as the Chief of Staff to Military Personnel Policy's Repeal Implementation Team with the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel & Readiness, in January 2011.

General Hummer reported that the Pentagon began rolling out a training package in January and February that includes all levels of the military, including families and Family Services. The military is also taking a very close look at revising all policies that may be affected by the change. Each of the services has now begun to train personnel. Individual services are implementing training in their own way. Training is scheduled to be completed by August 15, 2011. All military, including Reserve forces, National Guard, and individuals deployed "around the world" will be trained. The team is closely engaged with Congress, especially the offices of Senator Joe Lieberman and Congressman Steny Hoyer. The team gives regular briefings to Congress on how the training is going. Implementation efforts have a strong emphasis on leadership, discipline, mutual respect, and professionalism. General Hummer concluded his remarks by thanking the groups gathered for what we do for "our constituents and our military". He then asked for our questions.

The question was asked about Certification. When will it occur? Will Certification wait until everyone in the military has completed training? General Hummer replied that there is "no time line". Implementation will be "deliberate and responsible".

When will the media be allowed to cover training? SLDN reported that such coverage has been requested and has so far been denied. General Hummer reported that media coverage of training has now been authorized.

The military will not be designating LGB service members as a "protected class". This means that LGB service members will not have access to their unit's Equal Opportunity Officer if they feel they are being harassed or discriminated against. There was much discussion of this issue around the table. A service member will only be able to go to their unit commander if they have a problem. What if the problem "is" the unit commander? What if the individual responsible for investigating a complaint "is" the person against whom the complaint has been filed? General Hummer said that the service member would have the option of going to the Inspector General. Several of the participants stated that it is a very big decision for an enlisted person to go to the IG. It is very intimidating to consider contacting the IG. Enlisted personnel will "not have much recourse". Will IG be prepared to handle these issues? The general noted that this will be part of the training, including how to contact the IG if necessary.

I asked from the position of a veterans' service organization how the military's decision not to make LGB service members a protected class would affect the VA. A LTC on the team responded that he had been working closely with the VA and they had reached a decision to "follow the military's lead on the issue". The VA will not consider LGB veterans to be a protected class and therefore will not have any special liaison or designated office established to assist LGB veterans who may have a complaint against the VA. I asked if "sexual orientation" would be added to the list of groups that the military would not discriminate against. I received a response that the military does not discriminate.

General Hummer was asked about the Defense of Marriage Act. "We are looking at that", he said. He responded that they are aware that DOMA may be going away soon, but that the issue is "very complex". They "have frequent planning meetings to deal with that". There will be no change in benefits until after repeal is implemented.

Aubrey Sarvis asked about the paperwork of individuals who choose to come back into the military, will the codes for discharge under DADT be changed? Both AVER and SLDN is already getting many calls on this issue, and they expect the number will easily climb into the thousands once repeal is completed. If you add to this the number of people who do not plan to come back into the military but still want the discharge codes changed, the number will be overwhelming. General Hummer responded that they had received communications from SLDN on this issue and were setting up a special process to get the paperwork changed. He made a note that he will need to take a more in depth look into this problem.

I asked General Hummer if the DADT issue had "tarnished" the military's image as a champion of diversity as stated by such individuals as General Ann Dunwoody and Command Sergeant Major Hector Marin. Was the military considering any proactive program to repair its image? The general took offense to my question and noted that the military does have a strong priority on diversity and did not feel that their image had been tarnished. I reassured the general that, as veterans, AVER agreed with him, and we only wanted to help ensure that the military would continue its emphasis on diversity and take pride in its successes in that area. General Hummer noted that his team felt that the implementation was a real "success story" for the military and they were proud of how the military was "spending a lot of time on this".

General Hummer concluded the meeting by thanking us again for our participation and dedication to the repeal implementation effort. "Communities need to come together", he said. He thanked us for maintaining "open communications" and for how our groups had served to "help guide us". "You are our best conduit to active service members".

Upon leaving the Pentagon I watched a petite Asian woman unceremoniously jump over a chain fence on her way into the Pentagon. As she drew closer I saw 2 very large silver stars on her cap. I guess the military really is a champion of diversity.

I made my first visit to the Pentagon Memorial before catching my flight back to Atlanta.

Upon returning home I received an email from one of AVER's members deployed on active duty overseas. The member reported that they had been briefed by their commander that training on repeal will soon be available and that everyone was expected to complete the training. The commander planned to report full compliance to the DOD by mid-July, and they were very serious and professional about emphasizing the importance both of completing the training and meeting the deadline.

A question to me, raised by AVER Life Member Dr. Frank Kameny of DC, was the issue of Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) Article 125 dealing with sodomy.  Dr. Kameny noted that sodomy as a crime under UCMJ law must be repealed in order to implement any policy of LGB inclusion in the military.  The meeting at the Pentagon did not cover this issue specifically, although it is clearly an integral part of any repeal initiative.  It is possible that this is one of the issues covered by General Hummer when he said the military is "revising all policies that may be affected" by repeal.

The issue of "protected class" is one of great concern, especially to AVER since we are concerned with veterans as well as service members.  If a group that has been legally excluded from service to the point of firing is not eligible for official certification as a protected class then who should be so designated?  If LGB service members and veterans have suffered official discrimination for over 90 years, why is there reason to believe that discrimination will not continue?  The protection of a unit's Equal Opportunity officer may be the only recourse available to many LGB service members, especially during lengthy overseas deployments such as those currently being experienced by US military units in Afghanistan and Iraq.  American Veterans for Equal Rights will continue to work to protect LGB service members even following certification of repeal.  And of course our mission will not be complete until transgender service members, who have worked courageously by our side despite the fact that repeal of DADT would do nothing for them, are allowed to serve in the US military as they are in the armed forces of a number of our allies.

  2011 Gay Military Signal