A Smoking Gun: How Congress Was Duped into Repealing The Military's Gay Ban

Frank Gaffney

6/28/2011 11:43:00 AM - Frank Gaffney

One of the more sordid moments in recent congressional history came during last December's lame-duck session. Democratic majorities on both sides of Capitol Hill rammed through a controversial repeal of the 1993 statute (wrongly described as "Don't Ask, Don't Tell") which prohibited avowed homosexuals from serving in the armed forces.

The Senate and House leadership did so with scarcely any hearings and extremely limited opportunity for debate. This action amounted to a raw abuse of power, a last gasp by an Obama administration able and determined to appease gay activists - a key political constituency - before the setbacks of November's elections made doing so vastly more difficult.

We now know, however, that it was a gambit made possible by deliberate efforts by senior executive branch officials to mislead the Congress into taking a step that the administration's own surveys had established would be deeply injurious to the U.S. military. Thanks to the release of a previously undisclosed Defense Department Inspector General investigation report, recently analyzed by the invaluable Center for Military Readiness (CMR), legislators now have the proverbial "smoking gun" revealing politically motivated misconduct at the highest levels of government.

Evidently, this misconduct was deemed necessary because, even with control of both the House and Senate infriendly hands, President Obama required Republican votes in the upper chamber to secure passage of his repeal initiative. In order to garner the support of swing GOP senators, they would have to be given political cover on a key question: How would the military respond to such a dramatic change in its traditions, culture and code of conduct?

The IG report makes clear that a skewed response was manufactured and leaked to friendly journalists by top Pentagon and White House officials. Specifically, an executive summary of a Defense Department survey was written by the department's General Counsel, Jeh Johnson, before the survey was even begun on July 7, 2010. It prompted one reviewer - a "former news anchor" whom Johnson allowed to see his draft over the July 4th weekend - to tell the IG he was "struck by how many members of the United States Armed Services thought this was just fine."

The situation intensified further in November 2010 after Jeh Johnson briefed five top White House officials about the findings of the so-called Comprehensive Review Working Group (CRWG) - a Pentagon task force on the gays-in-the-military issue that he co-chaired. The CRWG had, in the interval, conducted the survey of some 400,000 servicemen and women, held scores of townhall-style meetings around the world and compiled a 300-plus page report.

Among the five presidential aides identified but not interviewed by the Inspector General was James Messina. At the time, Messina was Mr. Obama's Deputy Chief of Staff, and his portfolio included serving as "liaison" to gay activists and their community. Interestingly, one prominent homosexual group leader has described Messina as an "unsung hero" in the campaign to repeal the 1993 law.

The Inspector General's report nonetheless suggested that "the primary source of the information was someone who had a strongly emotional attachment to the issue" and "carefully disclosed specific survey data to support a pro-repeal agenda." Specifically, that source provided to sympathetic journalists at the Washington Post a finding that seventy percent of those in uniform thought it would be no problem to have avowed homosexuals in the ranks. Importantly, the IG report noted how percentages in this finding could have been presented to support the opposite conclusion.

The IG went on to say: "We consider it likely that the primary source disclosed content from the draft Report with the intent to shape a pro-repeal perception of the draft Report prior to its release to gain momentum in support of a legislative change during the ‘lame duck' session of Congress following the November 2, 2010, elections."

In other words, legislators were misled by this selective - and endlessly repeated - distortion of the Working Group's findings into ignoring some of its other, unpublicized and deeply troubling conclusions. These included a single sentence buried on page 49 of the CRWG report: "Our sense is that the majority of views expressed were against repeal."

Moreover, as CMR's Elaine Donnelly points out, the Working Group also found that "Nearly 60% of respondents in the Marine Corps and in Army combat arms said they believed there would be a negative impact on their unit's effectiveness in this context; among Marine combat arms the number was 67%." Tables that could only be found on the CRWG survey website also suggested that many in these vital elements would leave sooner than planned - perhaps as many as 36% in the Army and 48% in the Marines.

As Mrs. Donnelly puts it in an analysis of the Inspector General's report, "The gradual loss of even half as many combat troops and what the report described as ‘only 12%' of families likely to decline re-enlistment could put remaining troops in greater danger, and eventually break the All-Volunteer Force."

Even before the IG-supplied smoking gun, legislators in the current Congress - including members of the House Armed Services Committee led by its Chairman Buck McKeon and Reps. Duncan Hunter and Joe Wilson - have been warning that the U.S. military is simply not ready to have the gay activists' social experiment imposed upon it. Certifications to the contrary by the outgoing Secretary of Defense, soon-to-depart Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and President would compound the travesty of last December's abuse of power and must not happen, especially now that the true character of that outrageous gambit is public knowledge.