Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has let it be known where he stands on Don’t Ask Don’t Tell: wait, please. His legal counsel just released the Pentagon topper’s recommendation for repealing DADT, which goes like this: let’s give it another year.
Citing the “importance of winning the wars we are in, along with the stress on the force, our body of knowledge and the number of unknowns,” Mullen’s position is not terribly surprising. Back in May, Mullen said basically the same thing: About how “we’re in our sixth year of fighting two wars” and how he wants to “avoid a polarizing debate that puts a force that’s very significantly under stress in the middle” and how we needed to be “”deliberate.” His attorney’s comments included a request that Congress and senior military officials “act with deliberation.”
But that doesn’t make things definitive.
Mullen and other Pentagon leaders have quietly begun a new push to build consensus for the timing of a repeal that Mullen and others assume will come eventually. Strong opposition to swift repeal remains among top uniformed military leaders.
Capt. John Kirby, a spokesman for Mullen, would not discuss the legal advice and said there has been no decision among the Joint Chiefs about what to do or when. He would not characterize Mullen’s own views.
“They continue to have a dialogue about the policy and the law,” keeping in mind Obama’s “strategic intent” to lift the ban, Kirby said.
Mullen was unable to get the full backing of other senior uniformed leaders during an unusual meeting of the top officers from each branch of the military last week, U.S. officials said. He is expected to hold a follow-up session within days.
As for support in Congress? Rep. Ike Skelton, D-Mo., chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said Wednesday that Mullen’s legal team is on the right track: “It’s not a good idea to change the law right now.”
The memo from Mullen’s in-house counsel was obtained by the Associated Press. How the AP got it, we don’t know. But these things don’t leak for no good reason. Often, they are distributed surreptitiously to the press (“Here’s the document, but you didn’t get it from me”) in an orchestrated effort to put out feelers, nudge policy makers, and even make an official comment with some subtlety. And because DADT is such a sensitive issue, we have a hard time believing such a document would leak from the Pentagon without the White House’s approval.