Is it the DOD or the USAF That is SNAFU Over DADT Repeal?
By Attorney Tom Carpenter
The military loves acronyms. FUBAR (F**ked up beyond all recognition), FIGMO( F**k it, I got my orders!), DILLIGAS (Do I look like I give a s**t!) and of course, SNAFU(situation normal, all f**ked up).
What we are seeing unfolding with the continued delay in certification of the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT) is starting to look like SNAFU.
The Pentagon has had its way, delaying repeal until it can train the force. We have all heard the arguments about why there needs to be this program before the Secretary of Defense, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and President certify to the Congress that the military is ready for this long overdue change in personnel policy. Some of the arguments make sense, but many ring hollow. Remember this is something our British allies did overnight with a one-page memorandum. All our allies who did away with their bans on open and honest service told us this change in long standing policies was a “non-event.” The evidence from the field shows it is going to be the same when it finally happens in our country.
Of all the services, the United States Air Force (USAF) seems to be the most FUBAR. (Please note for the record, even though I have never worn AF blue, I have numerous family members who have served as officers in the Air Force from World War II through the present conflicts). After the repeal law was passed, their Chief of Staff, General Norton Schwartz, appeared the most reticent. They were slow in starting the training program and when he recently testified before the Republican controlled House Armed Services Committee, he was equivocal. While there have been no discharges since the law was passed in December of last year from all the other services, the Air Force has allowed 4 DADT discharges in the last months based upon the Airmen telling.
The first Airman we know about was Airman First Class Albert Pisani, a 28 year old munitions technician, who had served a tour in Afghanistan. In September of last year, during the period of uncertainty and confusion before repeal was finally and dramatically passed by Congress, he came out to his command and asked to be discharged. After the Federal Court decision finding DADT unconstitutional and legislative repeal, his discharge was put on hold until he reiterated his desire to leave the Air Force. In an interview with the Advocate, he would not talk in detail about why he still wanted to be discharged but mentioned a superior who said, “If [gays] get in the military, there may be more friendly fire down range.” He also felt as though the failure of the repeal bill to provide a nondiscrimination provision that would protect LGB troops under the Military Equal Opportunity Program would cause numerous problems after repeal was implemented.
The next three reported by the Associated Press last week were two Staff Sergeants and a Second Lieutenant. They also were permitted to leave the Air Force upon coming out to their commands and requesting discharge. We know nothing more about the reasons they wanted to leave the service. Were they being harassed? Were they afraid of career and assignment disadvantages because of the vestiges of DADT? Were they in a relationship were their domestic partners, spouses and/or dependents would not receive any of the many benefits provided to their straight comrades? Were they concerned that without a stated policy of nondiscrimination and the accompanying MEO protection, they would have limited remedies should superiors discriminate against them? The list of “possible” reasons goes on. What we do know, based upon their ranks, is these were neither recruits nor new Airman with limited experience. Even the Second Lieutenant would have gone through years of the Air Force Academy, Reserve Officer Training Course or months of Officer Candidate School.
It has been assumed by some, based upon no facts, that these three airmen were just using the “gay” card to avoid their duties and contractual obligations. What they were doing was “gaming the system.” Given the military’s past refusal to allow troops to miss movement or avoid deployment during the Iraq and Afghan wars by coming out, this seems highly unlikely. On the other hand, if the Air Force allowed these service members to shirk their duties, this situation is the making of the Pentagon by taking so long to recommend certification. They have created this loophole. The DOD has, by this drawn out process, allowed an unacceptable and untenable situation to exist that will have a negative impact on the morale, unit discipline and good order of the tens of thousands of LGB troops who want to serve, as well as their straight comrades. Allowing someone to leave using the “gay” card, would not be fair and everyone knows that.
What makes this situation even more FUBAR is that it appears from the statements of the DOD spokesperson that the Repeal Implementation Team (RIT), the Pentagon group responsible for the training and transition, was unaware that the Air Force had discharged these airman. I suspect the other services may also be processing discharges under DADT. These suspicions were confirmed on June 27, when Servicemembers Legal Defense Network reported it had senior clients in the Navy who wanted to stay in but were being administratively discharged. And if the facts behind these cases allow for honorable discharges, these sailors could turn right around and likely reenter the service after repeal of DADT is implemented. As a taxpayer who is concerned about the country’s fiscal crisis, this process is an expensive waste of much needed funds and is FUBAR.
What needs to be done to end this unsatisfactory situation is clear. The new Secretary of Defense, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and President must certify the military is ready for implementation, forthwith. With a majority of the force trained, and as expected, no negative impact on readiness, it is time to start the sixty-day waiting period required by the repeal statute. Why did Secretary Gates not finish the job before he handed the DOD leadership over to Secretary Panetta? What are they waiting for? The President in his speech during the signing ceremony on December 22, 2011 stated there would be no foot dragging. The force is now as ready as the rest of the country for this change. Delaying is continuing to create confusion, angst, anger, and the questioning of the intention of the senior military and civilian leadership. None of this is good for morale, unit cohesion or discipline.
Back to my original question: Is it the DOD or the USAF that is SNAFU? Right now in the public eye they both seem to be (and I fear the Navy may be close behind). But there is hope. The solution is simple. The RIT needs to provide proper direction and oversight of the services and stop these discharges and the Secretary of Defense, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and President need to certify to the Congress that the services are ready to implement repeal-NOW!