WASHINGTON, D.C. (Observer Update) - When asked about a timetable on revisiting "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" this morning on Fox News Sunday, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said that he and the president have "a lot on our plates right now. Let's push that one down the road a little bit."
"Sec. Gates hardly gave a sound reason for kicking 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' down the road -- or essentially back tracking on a campaign promise made by his Commander in Chief," said Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network. "I trust the secretary was not speaking for President Obama, who, hopefully, will issue the call for repeal when he sends his Defense Department budget to Congress in a few weeks. This is about timely leadership."
Sarvis continued. "It's also called multitasking. Right now is the time -- while we're engaged in two wars -- we need the most qualified men and women serving. This is not the time to keep firing linguists and intelligence analysts because of their sexual orientation. The longer the president and Pentagon delay the issue, the fewer linguists and intelligence analysts the Pentagon will have to call on to fight terrorism in Pakistan and Afghanistan."
More than 800 hundred mission-critical service members (linguists, intelligence analysts) have been fired under the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" law. Almost 13,000 total service members have been discharged since 1994.
"It's not easy or cheap to replace mission critical personnel," said Sarvis. "And the serious felons we're now recruiting probably don't have a command of Arabic or Farsi, or know how to analyze intelligence."
Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (www.sldn.org) is a national, non-profit legal services and policy organization dedicated to ending "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." A journalists' guide is available here.
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