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The Senate Armed Services Committe held a hearing today on “don’t ask, don’t tell” – the policy concerning the service of gays and lesbians in the United States military (Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill asked a few questions at 267 minutes into the hearing):

….Senator Claire McCaskill: Thank you Mister Chairman. Uh, I just want to make sure that we’re crystal clear about a couple of things here. First, are gay and lesbian Americans currently serving in our military?

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen: Yes.

Senator McCaskill: And in fact, isn’t the foundation of the current policy that we welcome their service?

Admiral Mullen: Yes.

Senator McCaskill: Are you aware of any morale issues or discipline, disciplinary problems surrounding the current service of gay and lesbian mem, members, Americans as members of our military?

Admiral Mullen: Certainly not broadly.

Senator McCaskill: Now, here’s my, I, I think what you’re, uh, embarking upon is important. I, I think it is welcome, but here’s my problem, we now have established that we have gay and lesbian Americans serving in the military, that they are not broadly causing any kind of disciplinary or morale problems, that we welcome their service, so the issue isn’t whether or not gay and lesbian Americans are serving in the military, it’s whether or not we talk about it. So, how are you going to get their input in this survey?

[sound of applause in background]

Admiral Mullen: Oh I, actually, I mean, my take on that is, um, well, hang on a second. Um. I think that, that we would have to, uh, look very carefully at, at how we would do that. [crosstalk]

Senator McCaskill: And that’s the point I [crosstalk] would like to leave you with today is that, um, unfortunately because of this policy, we welcome their service [crosstalk]…

Admiral Mullen: Sure.

Senator McCaskill: ….They’re serving bravely and well. We don’t have [inaudible] any kind of issues with morale and cohesiveness, uh, surrounding their service, but yet when it comes time to evaluate their service, um, they’re not allowed to talk about it. And so you have a real challenge in getting perhaps, uh, maybe some of the most important input you may need as you consider this policy. And I’ll be anxiously awaiting how you figure that one out.

Admiral Mullen: Yes ma’am.

Senator McCaskill: Thank you Mister Chairman.

Senator Carl Levin: Thank you, senator [crosstalk].

Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates: Uh, one approach, senator, is to talk to those who have been separated.

Senator McCaskill: And I think that’s terrific. I think the ones who have been separated would be a great place that you can get good information, but I don’t know that you’re going to be able to get at those that are currently serving, um, because obviously they’re not gonna be able to step forward and talk about it. So, but I, I agree Secretary Gates, that’s a great place, because so many of them voluntarily separated because of issues of integrity. Thank you….

Our previous coverage of DADT and Claire McCaskill:

Senator Claire McCaskill: “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in the news (March 15, 2009)

Claire McCaskill (D): “Kitchen Table Talk” in Kansas City, part 3 (December 2008)