National Security Network

Ratify and Repeal

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Report 3 December 2010

Military Military DADT Don't Ask Don't Tell military New START treaty nonproliferation START


This week Capitol Hill, the White House and national media have been largely focused on two national security issues: ratification of the New START treaty and repeal of the Pentagon's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (DADT) policy.  START, which has the broad support of a wide range of national security experts, is awaiting ratification in the Senate.  Meanwhile, the Pentagon released a report this week that surveyed military personnel about on the effects of repealing DADT, finding that "the risk of repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell to overall military effectiveness is low."  Throughout the week, bipartisan military and national security experts as well as public polls continue to affirm the strong support for both ratification of the New START treaty and repeal of DADT. 

As the political debate over these issues unfolds, it is important to remember that behind these views are sensible policies that make our country more secure.  Ratification of the New START Treaty would result in inspectors on the ground and verification of Russia's nuclear armaments, enhanced U.S.-Russian relations and stronger security for our allies in Europe.  Similarly, the merits of repealing DADT are strong.  Not only does DADT contradict the military's culture of honesty and integrity, but it has meant the dismissal of thousands of service members, many of whom are critical to today's wars, has cost the taxpayers at least $10,000 per discharged member and sends the wrong signal for recruitment.  As the political debate takes place, let's remember that ratifying New START and repealing DADT makes good policy sense.

Ratification of New START is vital for America's national security:  

New START provides inspections and verification of Russia's nuclear program. This Sunday marks the one year anniversary of the expiration of the original START treaty, meaning that it has been a year since American inspectors have been on the ground in Russia to inspect their nuclear facilities.  New START reinstates an intrusive inspection and verification regime that gives the U.S. important insights into Russia's strategic arsenal.  The treaty also provides for data exchanges and notifications, two types of on-site inspections, exhibitions and as a transparency measure, provides for the exchange of telemetric information. [Rose Gottemoeller, 11/30/10]

New START fosters cooperative U.S.-Russian relations.  Since the "reset" policy began, Russia has helped the U.S. and our allies to isolate Iran-by both voting for strong sanctions and canceling its long-planned sale of an S-300 air defense system to Iran.  Russia has also provided overflight privileges for our troops and supplies headed to Afghanistan.  New START solidifies a strong foundation for this relationship-delaying the treaty jeopardizes our strategic partnership with Russia. [Samuel Charap, 11/1/10]

New START helps ensure the security of our allies. In recent weeks, U.S. allies have demanded that New START be ratified.  As Politico reported, "Foreign ministers from Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Hungary, Denmark and Bulgaria endorsed the treaty, known as New START, saying it is essential to the continent's long-term security.... Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski had endorsed the treaty ... saying a failure to ratify it this year ‘will embolden those in Moscow who would rather have the West as an enemy than as a partner - and who thus would like to see the tenuous progress made in recent months to be undone.'" [Politico, 11/20/10]

New START is accompanied by long-term investments in our nuclear weapons complex.  The administration plans to spend an unprecedented $84.1 billion over the next ten years to ensure our nuclear arsenal is safe, secure and effective.  Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has also said the U.S. will spend $100 billion over the next ten years to update our delivery systems and launchers.  Linton Brooks, the man who was responsible for our national labs under the Bush administration, said that he "would have killed" for this budget. [Lab directors letter, 12/1/10]

New START preserves our ability to deploy effective missile defenses. As Henry A. Kissinger, George P. Shultz, James A. Baker III, Lawrence S. Eagleburger and Colin L. Powell - secretaries of state for the past five Republican presidents - wrote yesterday, "The testimonies of our military commanders and civilian leaders make clear that the treaty does not limit U.S. missile defense plans. Although the treaty prohibits the conversion of existing launchers for intercontinental and submarine-based ballistic missiles, our military leaders say they do not want to do that because it is more expensive and less effective than building new ones for defense purposes." [Kissinger, Shultz, Baker, Eagleburger and Powell, 12/2/10. Howard Baker, 12/2/10]

Repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" would make America's military stronger and make America more secure. The military's extensive study of the impacts of repeal - based on survey responses from 115,000 members of the military - concludes that "the risk of repeal of don't ask, don't tell to overall military effectiveness is low."  The Washington Post says that, "The survey found that 69 percent of respondents said they had served with someone in their unit who they believed to be gay or lesbian. Of those who did, 92 percent stated that their unit's ability to work together was very good, good, or neither good nor poor... Combat units reported similar responses, with 89 percent of Army combat units and 84 percent of Marine combat units saying they had good or neutral experiences working with gays and lesbians."

Meanwhile, the current policy continues to be harmful for America's security.  The Center for American Progress lays out the facts:

DADT has meant the dismissal of thousands of service members, many of whom are critical to today's wars. At the Center for American Progress Larry Korb and his coauthors find that, "DADT has resulted in the discharge of more than 13,000 patriotic and highly qualified men and women since its enactment more than 16 years ago. At least 1,000 of these 13,000 have held ‘critical occupations,' such as interpreters and engineers. Moreover, approximately 4,000 service members leave the service voluntarily per year because of this policy." A particularly harmful example is that "a few months after the fall of Baghdad, the military had forced out more than 320 service members with vital language skills such as Arabic and Farsi."  [CAP, 6/24/09]

DADT has come at serious financial cost to the military. According to the Center for American Progress, DADT is a very expensive policy for the United States military.  According to the report, the policy of dismissing homosexuals from the military, "may have cost the U.S. government up to $1.3 billion since 1980."  The report further explains that, "The GAO found in 2005 that discharging and replacing each service member cost the federal government approximately $10,000..." but "...Researchers at the University of California, Santa Barbara found that the GAO's methodology did not include several important factors and that the actual number was closer to $37,000 per service member." [CAP,6/24/09]

DADT sends the wrong signal to young people interested in military service - straight or gay.   Korb and his coauthors discuss the effects this policy may have on young people saying, "Perhaps most important, this outmoded policy sends the wrong signal to the young people - straight or gay - that the military is trying to recruit. It tells them that the military is an intolerant place that does not value what they value, namely, diversity, fairness, and equality. What's more, military recruiters face generalized hostility and opposition everywhere from high schools to colleges and law schools over the issue of discrimination against gays." [CAP, 6/24/09]

Those numbers point to the importance, underscored by Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen in their testimony yesterday, of the imperative that Congress repeals the policy, rather than risk chaotic change if the courts - as they are likely to do - overturn the policy on Constitutional grounds.  As Gates said "Those that choose not to act legislatively are rolling the dice that this policy will not be abruptly overturned by the courts... it is important that this change come via legislative means," in order to ensure a "well prepared and well-considered implementation."  [Pentagon Report, 11/30/10. Washington Post, 11/30/10. Robert Gates, 12/2/10. Washington Post, 12/3/10]

What We're Reading

China's leadership ordered a shift from easy credit to a "prudent monetary policy" as Beijing steps up its fight against inflation and tries to guide rapid growth to a sustainable level.

Police in the Republic of Ireland arrested four men after finding a bomb in a car near the border with Northern Ireland.

The prime minister of the Hamas government in Gaza denied Israeli claims of an al Qaeda presence in the coastal strip, claiming there is no such thing.

The just-announced results of the Ivory Coast presidential elections failed to get an "OK" from the government body authorized to validate the results.

South Korea's next defense chief threatened that jets would bomb the North if it stages another attack like last week's deadly shelling as he outlined a tough new military policy towards the rival neighbor.

Iran's intelligence minister says the country has made a number of arrests following attacks on two prominent nuclear scientists in Tehran.

Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan solidified his alliance with the ruling coalition's junior partner, while facing growing difficulties in avoiding legislative gridlock in a divided parliament.

Amazon, an American provider of Internet domain names, withdrew its service to the WikiLeaks website after a barrage of attacks by hackers that threatened to destabilize its entire system.

This year is set to be among the three warmest since records began in 1850 and caps a record-warm decade that is a new indication of man-made climate change, the United Nations said.

While the results of Egyptian parliamentary elections may strengthen America's strongest ally in the region in the short term, the ongoing heavy-handed tactics of President Hosni Mubarak's regime could eventually undermine its grip on power.

Commentary of the Day

Michael Adler writes that stopping Iran from getting the bomb is an uphill climb, though possible, and may require embracing a Middle East tradition: haggling over the price.

Francis Njubi Nesbitt urge the Obama administration to be careful not to play into the hands of jihadists by overreacting or seeming to unfairly target Somali immigrants.

Marc Lynch and John Nagl argue that US commitment to Iraq emphasizing civil engagement will pay off across the Middle East.