Thursday, April 22, 2010

Me & Senator McCain

At least a month ago I sent Senator John McCain (R-AZ) an email via his web site about my belief that 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' should be repealed. I sent this to Senator McCain because of his position as Ranking Member on the Senate Armed Services Committee. I was particularly irritated at how he had seemed to reverse his own previous position on the subject. The heart of my email came out of my earlier post on the subject.

Below is the response, complete and unedited, I received today from Senator McCain's office.

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Mr. Erik Prince

Dear Mr. Prince:

Thank you for contacting me regarding the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy. I appreciate hearing your views on this controversial issue.

Recently, the Senate Armed Services Committee received testimony from Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and the Service Secretaries on the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, echoing the desire of President Obama to have it repealed by Congress. The committee also heard the personal views of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, several of the combatant commanders, and most recently, the Service Chiefs, who have responsibility for the organization, training, and overall readiness of their forces and for providing their best military advice to the President on matters that might affect their ability to ensure sufficiently trained and ready forces.

Each of the military's Service Chiefs has expressed his support for the comprehensive, ten-month policy review of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" that Secretary Gates has directed. However, each has indicated that he is not prepared to support a repeal of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy at this time. Based on their expert testimony, I am urging Congress to await the completion of the Pentagon's policy review in order to give the Service Chiefs the information they have asked for before any attempt is made to change law. I will strongly oppose any attempt to change the current law based on an incomplete and inadequate review of this policy, and I hope that my fellow Senators will also take this approach in the interest of national security.

With respect to the review itself, I have expressed my concerns about its focus and scope. Unfortunately, in his testimony earlier this year to the Senate Armed Services Committee, Secretary Gates described the mandate as "a review of the issues associated with properly implementing a repeal of the 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' policy."The guiding question, as Secretary Gates put it, should be "not whether the military prepares to make this change, but how we best prepare for it." This is consistent with President Obama's goals, but it seems to get things backwards: The current Pentagon review should be an objective study of the relevant military issues, not an implementation plan.

The issue that Congress must decide, and the issue the Service Chiefs should be asked to give their best military advice about, is whether the "Don't Ask Don't' Tell" policy should be repealed. We should ask that question to our service personnel and their families at all levels and genuinely consider their views in our debate.Clearly, there are many policy and logistical challenges that would have to be overcome if the law is repealed, but that should not be the primary focus of the ongoing policy review. I will continue to insist that we use the coming months to study not only how to implement a change to the current policy, but also whether and why the men and women of the Armed Forces - the generals, the officers, the NCOs, and the privates - support or oppose such a change. I would then expect the views of the Service Chiefs to incorporate this critically important information.

I am proud of, and thankful for, every American who chooses to put on the uniform of our nation and serve their country, particularly in this time of war. The "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy is not perfect, but it reflects a compromise achieved with great difficulty that has effectively supported military readiness. However imperfect, the policy has allowed many gay and lesbian Americans to serve their country. I honor their service, I honor their sacrifices, and I honor them. But we should not change the current policy until we are confident - from a military standpoint, with the informed advice of the Service Chiefs - that such a change is consistent with military effectiveness.

Again, thank you again for writing me on this issue. Feel free to contact me in the future on this or any other matter.


John McCain
United States Senator


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Below you will find my response, which I sent via the website earlier today.

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Senator McCain,

I appreciate your reply. I also appreciate that many feel an assessment is needed before any repeal is begun. But I fully agree with Secretary Gates that it's not 'if' it is 'when' the repeal is implemented. I completely disagree with your suggestion that we need to "ask that question to our service personnel and their families at all levels and genuinely consider their views in our debate." At what time in our history has the government of the United States ever polled service members and their families before implementing a necessary change in military policy?That strikes me as a very strange statement. The government decides, the SecDef directs and the Joint Chiefs inform their subordinates what changes are being made. In my 8 years as an Air Force Boom Operator I do not recall a single instance when I was asked what my opinion was of a policy change. My squadron commander informed us of the change along with how it would be implemented and when it would be completed by and it happened. It's called orders.

You say that "the policy has allowed many gay and lesbian Americans to serve their country. I honor their service, I honor their sacrifices, and I honor them." With all due respect Senator, forcing them to hide a significant portion of their lives in a dark corner so that you and a few of their comrades won't be made uncomfortable is hardly what I would term 'Honoring' them. It's more like 'using' them without having to actually give them the same rights as their fellow soldiers.

Here's what it all comes down to, as far as I'm concerned. It is Wrong to make loyal soldiers who are placing their lives on the line every day, live a secret life for no better reason than for the convenience of others. These men and women are American Soldiers, sir, and if you truly honor them and their sacrifice you would step up and do the right thing. Grant them the rights of every other America Soldier. The right to love who they want, within the bounds of military regulations and decorum. For just one moment, Senator, imagine you were unable to let anyone else know who you Loved or wanted to have a relationship with while all around you your comrades could not only date who they wanted but brag about it on a regular basis.

It's a matter of right and wrong. Don't Ask, Don't Tell is and has always been Wrong. It's that simple.

Erik Prince
US Air Force 1988 - 1996
Boom Operator

1 comment:

  1. You make an especially good point about the nature of opinion and orders. Funny that this whole 'let's see how people feel about this' comes from the party of 'hell no.'


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