Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Working Group Unaffected by Senate Vote, Spokesman Says

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 22, 2010 – Yesterday’s Senate vote that failed to begin debate on the defense authorization bill was an internal legislative procedural matter and does not change the Defense Department’s process on the possible repeal of the so-called “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law, a Pentagon spokesman said here today.

The bill includes an amendment for the repeal of the law that bans gays from serving openly in the military.

Jeh C. Johnson, DOD’s general counsel, and Army Gen. Carter F. Ham, commander of U.S. Army Europe, lead the department’s comprehensive review of the issues associated with repeal of the law. They also assess the effects that repeal of the law would have on military readiness, effectiveness, unit cohesion, recruiting, retention and family readiness, Marine Corps Col. David Lapan said.

Officials will use the information gathered by the Johnson-Carter group to plan implementation guidelines if the repeal happens, Lapan added, and Johnson and Carter are to submit a report to Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates on Dec. 1.

“Nothing from yesterday changes what the working group is going to do in the report they give to the secretary,” Lapan said.

The working group has sent surveys to servicemembers and their family members. A total of 115,000 servicemembers have returned their surveys – designed to gauge their feelings on the issue – for a 29 percent response rate. To date, 38,000 family members have returned their surveys. Family members have until Sept. 27 to return their completed forms.

Polling professionals said the response rate is above the norm, Lapan noted.

Johnson and Ham have conducted numerous information exchange sessions with more than 20,000 servicemembers and their families. In addition, more than 65,000 comments have been e-mailed to the working group.

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