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How Will ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ Repeal Be Implemented, Tailored?

December 20, 2010 at 5:03 PM EDT
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Judy Woodruff speaks with Bernard Rostker of the RAND Corporation and Tammy Schultz of the Marine Corps War College about how the repeal of the long-standing "don't ask, don't tell" policy banning gay servicemembers from serving openly will be implemented and how it might affect troops on the ground.

JEFFREY BROWN: And we return to one of those big Senate actions over the weekend.

Judy Woodruff looks at what the repeal of don’t ask, don’t tell will mean for the military.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Once President Obama signs the repeal legislation on Wednesday, it will be up to the Department of Defense to implement the changes, permitting gays to serve openly in the armed services.

For more on how that will happen, we turn to Bernard Rostker, who has held several high-level Pentagon personnel posts in the Carter and Clinton administrations, including undersecretary for manpower — he is now a senior fellow at the RAND Corporation, which has prepared reports for the Pentagon on don’t ask, don’t tell — and Tammy Schultz, the director of national security and joint warfare at the U.S. Marine Corps War College.

Thank you both for being with us.

Professor Schwartz (sic), let me start with you.What is it that the Pentagon is going to do now, starting now, to implement this plan?

TAMMY SCHULTZ, national security and joint warfare director, U.S. Marine Corps War College:Well, starting now, there’s basically going to be a review to see what sorts of procedures, laws, codes that need to be basically changed.

And then, immediately after that, there will be a certification process by the chairman, the secretary of defense and the president that will basically certify that unit cohesion and readiness will not be affected by the implementation.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And my apologies.I called you Schwartz.It’s Professor Schultz.

TAMMY SCHULTZ: Not at all.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Bernard Rostker, is this going to be done in phases? I mean, how do we look for this to unfold?

BERNARD ROSTKER, senior fellow, RAND Corporation:Well, I think there will be three additional efforts.One is to prepare a code of conduct that would be implemented without regard to sexual orientation to all service members.

The service members throughout the military will have to be told what is expected of them in terms of their behavior.And then leaders will have to be trained.It may take several months, but it certainly could be done within a six-month period.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, we’re talking about different training for officers than for enlisted members?

BERNARD ROSTKER: Senior enlisted and officers who manage small units will receive, I believe, some additional training.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Professor Schultz, what kind of training are we talking about?

TAMMY SCHULTZ: Well, as Bernie mentioned, it’s not necessarily that — there’s not — special treatment is not what we’re talking about here.We’re talking about equal treatment.

So, frankly, a lot of the laws and regulations that are already in place will be what the officers are trained on, so, for instance, no dating within the chain of command, for instance.And they will be given basically a toolkit to able to deal with any of the issues that arise, so they will be adequately trained and prepared to do so.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Are the — the — is it going to be different depending on the branch of the military? I mean, you serve at the Marine War College. Will it be different for the Marines than, say, it is for the Army, the Navy, and…

TAMMY SCHULTZ: I would — I have not seen the details of the implementation report, other than what the — was released generally with the 87 pages for the Pentagon.

However, one of the things I do recommend is basically service-specific, tailored to the culture of that service.So, for instance, the Marine Corps has honor, courage and commitment as core values.Linking the repeal of don’t ask, don’t tell to those values will help the Marine Corps better understand how it helps them serve their mission.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And speaking of the Marines, Bernie Rostker, the — much of the attention around this issue, at least the criticism of it, was in part because the Marines were the service who were supposedly the most opposed.So, is it expected there will be more difficulty?

BERNARD ROSTKER: There may be, but I think the big surprise will be, in units that are — have a negative attitude towards this, gay men and women, lesbians, will not come out.And, so, this will be a nonproblem.It has been a nonproblem in every country that has implemented this.

JUDY WOODRUFF: When you say will not come out, just to be clear, this new law doesn’t require individuals…

BERNARD ROSTKER: That’s correct.

JUDY WOODRUFF: … who have a different sexual orientation, who are gay or lesbian, to come out.

BERNARD ROSTKER: We surveyed a large number of serving gay members.And what they indicated in their surveys were, most of them will be very circumspect in who they reveal their sexual orientation to.And a large number have told us they will not change.They will not come out.

JUDY WOODRUFF: What is the guidance they will be given? Do we know?

TAMMY SCHULTZ: Well, right now, basically, they’re being advised not to come out, and certainly not to come out even once the certification takes place.There’s a 60-day waiting period, in effect.So, right now, service members should not come out.

But one thing to sort of add, leadership is so critical here.And just on Sunday, when the commandant of the Marine Corps said fidelity is what the Marine Corps is all about, which faithfulness, always faithful, semper fi, linking that and basically demonstrating the leadership means that, not only will it not be a problem, because, frankly, the service anthems are not going to be replaced with the YMCA bugle or anything like that, but that the leadership plays a distinct role in making sure that the implementation goes through very smoothly and without ill effects for the troops.

BERNARD ROSTKER: This is not about changing attitudes.It’s about adherence of behavior to the highest professional standard.

TAMMY SCHULTZ: That’s right.

BERNARD ROSTKER: We did focus groups throughout the military.And the one thing that came clear in the focus groups, that, if they are ordered to, as a matter of pride, as professionals, they will make this work.

JUDY WOODRUFF: One of the other reservations that was — that was public about this is — has to do with members of the service who are serving now on the front lines, whether it’s Afghanistan or somewhere else.

Is it — I mean, is there going to be a special training for those individuals?

BERNARD ROSTKER: That’s particularly where it wasn’t — it’s — people will not come out.

But we looked at this issue of cohesion.We looked at it in terms of combat units.What’s important in these units is people who can get their job done.They have a lot more important things to worry about than the sexual orientation of members of their unit.They will support anyone in their unit that they have to rely on that can get the job done.

TAMMY SCHULTZ: That’s right.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Professor Schultz, what about those who have left the military, either voluntarily, on their — of their own accord, or because they were kicked out because of their sexual orientation?Are they going to be now allowed to rejoin, to reenter?

TAMMY SCHULTZ: The report does a great job of addressing that question.And it essentially says that, yes, they can reapply.And assuming that all the other conditions are met, so, you know, physical tests, you know, et cetera, et cetera, they should be allowed to rejoin, which I think was the right choice.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Even if there was a dishonorable connected to this?

BERNARD ROSTKER: That’s a different story.But that goes to the reason they were separated.If they were separated just because of their sexual orientation, they will be given the opportunity to rejoin the military.

JUDY WOODRUFF: We — there were the critics who said this is just going to be much more complicated than anyone expects.And then the proponents were saying, oh, no, it’s going to be very simple.

Where do you see it on that spectrum?

BERNARD ROSTKER: Well, I can only tell you what the foreign countries we visited experienced, what was experienced by police and fire departments in this country.

In Australia, they called it the Y2K of personnel policies. In Britain, which was much more negative…

JUDY WOODRUFF: Meaning it didn’t materialize.

BERNARD ROSTKER: It didn’t materialize.

In Britain, which was much more negative, after six months, the — the reporter who was charged with reporting on this said no problems, and, after two years, stopped reporting.

JUDY WOODRUFF: What’s your sense…

TAMMY SCHULTZ: On — the numbers for desegregation were much, much worse. All the service chiefs were against it and the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Everybody…

JUDY WOODRUFF: This is back in the ’50s.

TAMMY SCHULTZ: Back in the ’50s.


TAMMY SCHULTZ: And I think everyone would look at our military today and say we have a stronger military because we desegregated, as well as allowing women to serve.

Today, the numbers that the report points to are much stronger.And, frankly, I think we have the most professional force in the world.I think they can handle this.

BERNARD ROSTKER: And, in the ’50s, it was actually because of the Korean War…

TAMMY SCHULTZ: That’s right.

BERNARD ROSTKER: … that forced people together to work in combat situations, that we ultimately had desegregation.

JUDY WOODRUFF: All right, we want to thank you both.Bernie Rostker and Professor Tammy Schultz, thank you.