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Gates' Choice: His Damage to the All-Volunteer Force

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
In this space a few weeks ago, we discussed the peculiar case of outgoing Defense Secretary Robert Gates. He has spent the past month warning about where the U.S. security posture is headed if President Obama has his way on further budget cuts, if forces are withdrawn from Afghanistan prematurely and if many of the NATO allies continue to shirk their responsibilities towards the common defense. "Headed south" would be a charitable characterization of his assessment of that direction.

Mr. Gates could not be more right, of course. It is deeply regrettable that all those in the executive branch, the Congress and the press who have, over the years, professed such admiration for him now seem so indifferent to his alarms. That is especially true of the Washington hands who so heartily welcomed the retention of the Bush administration's secretary of defense on the grounds that he was a "centrist," "non-partisan" and technocrat-turned-statesman. Bob Gates, we were assured, would serve as a brake on an untested new president with a record of problematic leftist proclivities. His own words now suggest that the brake was insufficient to the task.

Indeed, like the legendary Dutch boy - whose digits were insufficient for the leaks sprouting in the dike upon which his homeland's survival depended, Bob Gates is clearly frustrated by the lack to date of positive responses to his appeals for corrective action. His anger in a NATO ministerial and subsequent public remarks was palpable, a stark contrast to the stoical, if not flaccid, demeanor that has been his trademark.

Under present circumstances, however, there is not much the lame duck in the Pentagon E-Ring can do. Except that is in one area, one that just happens to bear directly on the future readiness of the U.S. military to fight the nation's wars. It may even prove decisive to the viability of the All Volunteer Force. That viability may, in turn, determine our ability to avoid in the years ahead, as we have for the past four decades, a return to conscription to meet our requirements for warriors in those conflicts.

The issue has arisen thanks to a shameful abuse of power perpetrated in the lame duck session late last year. President Obama rammed through a Congress repudiated at the polls legislation repealing the law that had since 1993 prohibited avowed homosexuals from serving in the armed services. Robert Gates and the also-soon-to-depart Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Michael Mullen, played decisive roles in allaying concerns about and otherwise justifying this step. The repeal was conditioned, however, on the defense secretary, the JCS chairman and the president all certifying to Congress that the military was prepared for this change.

An honest certification to that effect would not be possible at this time in light of much evidence that the military is not ready for the adverse effects that would flow from such a repeal. Of principal concern is the intractable nature of many of the problems with accommodating not just homosexuals but the radical Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) agenda in an institution like the U.S. military in which mutual trust, unit cohesion and the effects of protracted forced intimacy may determine esprit de corps and combat readiness.

Irony of ironies, a considerable amount of such evidence was buried in a lengthy report prepared by the Pentagon's own Comprehensive Review Working Group (CRWG) in order to justify the President's fulfillment of his promise to his LGBT political base. Predictably, hardly anybody on or off Capitol Hill actually read this massive tome. Most relied instead on the Obama administration's cherry-picked findings that were leaked pre-publication to friendly journalists in an acknowledgedeffort to obscure the myriad other conclusions that contradicted the party line.

One person who did read the whole Pentagon opus, though, was the inimitable Elaine Donnelly of the Center for Military Readiness. Her organization's comprehensive analysis of the CRWG report shows that there will be serious and adverse repercussions for the readiness and good order and discipline of the U.S. military if the ban on service by open homosexuals is repealed. Hard questions developed by Ms. Donnelly and like-minded members of the House Armed Services Committee have yet to receive satisfactory answers.

The need for such answers and for Secretary Gates to decline to give his certification during his last few days in office have been made all the more compelling by the problems now becoming palpable: direction (subsequently countermanded) to Navy chaplains to perform gay marriages; LGBT militants using secretly recorded audiotapes to harass, and perhaps bring legal action against, military personnel given the unenviabletask of providing sensitivity training to the troops to prepare for open homosexuals in the ranks; and service members' open appeals to Mr. Gates and the Congress not to take that step.

If Robert Gates is as serious as he seems to be regarding the future of the U.S. military, he has one last opportunity to prove it: By allowing his successor to make the decision about whether or not to certify that avowed gays can be imposed on the military without breaking it, a decision that will hopefully be approached only after a fresh, independent and rigorous appraisal of the true costs and real risks such a social experiment entail for America's armed forces.

Frank J. Gaffney, Jr. is President of the Center for Security Policy, a columnist for the Washington Times and host of the nationally syndicated program, Secure Freedom Radio, heard in Washington weeknights at 9:00 p.m. on WRC 1260 AM.

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