Joint Chiefs, McCain oppose 'Don't ask, don't tell' compromise


Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) is circulating a letter from the Joint Chiefs of Staff opposing the plan to repeal "Don't ask, don't tell."

Under the reported compromise agreed to by the White House and congressional leaders, Congress could vote this week to repeal the policy, but the changes would only be implemented after the Pentagon finishes a study on how to implement the new policy. Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, would have to sign off on the deal.

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But in a letter to McCain, the chiefs of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines urged Congress to hold off voting until the study is done.

“I believe it is important, a matter of keeping faith with those currently serving in the Armed Forces, that the Secretary of Defense commissioned review be completed before there is any legislation to repeal the DA/DT law," wrote Gen. Norton A. Schwartz, Chief of Staff of the Air Force.

That position was echoed in separate letters from Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey, Navy Chief of Staff Adm. Gary Roughead, and Commandant of the Marine Corps. Gen. James T. Conway.

“I also believe that repealing the law before the completion of the review will be seen by the men and women of the Army as a reversal of our commitment to hear their views before moving forward," Casey wrote.

McCain forwarded the letters Wednesday to Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.), who helped craft the compromise.

“I cannot over emphasize the importance of completing the comprehensive review prior to taking any legislative action,” McCain wrote to Levin.

Gates has said he prefers Congress to hold off as well, but also said he could accept the compromise if Congress insists on acting.