A three-gender military: Maybe so, maybe not
Until former President Bill Clinton (D) issued his “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT)” executive order, gays-in-the-military was not much of an issue. Recently, the Democrat-controlled, lame-duck Congress enacted legislation that appears to do away with Clinton’s executive order. Now, by statute, gays may be on a path to serving openly in the military.
House Republicans, however, insisted on an “escape clause,” requiring the military service chiefs to certify that the changes to the current policy “must not affect troop readiness, cohesion or military recruitment and retention.” The chiefs of the armed services have two months to decide what to say during the hearings planned by the incoming Republican chairman of the House Armed Services Committee who, like the current Commandant of the U.S Marine Corps, is stanchly opposed to gays in the military.
A recent Pentagon survey found active duty military and their dependents are two-to-one opposed to the dropping of DADT. Conversely, a full six-percent felt the change would make no difference. Among combat Marines, two-thirds said combat readiness would suffer. Moreover, 48.2-percent of combat Marines said they would either leave the Marines right away or accelerate any plans for ending their military careers.
Of the four, “escape criteria,” only “recruitment and retention” are easily quantified. Based on the Pentagon study that found 12.6-percent of active-duty personnel would flat refuse to serve alongside gay males, Senator John McCain says that computes to a loss of 264,600 military personnel. Of course, the only true test of unit readiness, which includes unit cohesion, is the “fight or flight response” in actual combat. For sure, the recently-adjourned Congress just handed the military a hot-potato issue while the military fights wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and must be prepared to engage radical Islam, world-wide.
Historically, military policy has been that personnel who are sexually attracted to each other are not housed together unless they are joined in a traditional, male/female marriage. Vice President Joe Biden predicts that gay marriage, “is inevitable,” meaning some on-base housing units will have to be set aside or newly-constructed for male/male and female/female married couples. In the forward areas, the study revealed that privacy issues with regard to the sharing of foxholes, tents, bunkers, slit trenches, latrines, and showers are major concerns.
Then, there is the issue of the battlefield supply of fresh, whole blood which the combat troops have, hitherto, refreshed with blood drives similar to those conducted by the Red Cross at home. But if the military tries to prevent those at the highest risk for HIV/AIDS from providing fresh, whole blood to the battlefield blood supply, law suits are almost sure to follow. Moreover, the career path to higher rank almost always runs through the combat arms of the Army and the Marines. Keeping gays out of the combat arms and back in the rear areas would be a form of promotion-retarding discrimination that is likely to invite law suits, as well.
Should one of their “straight” troops insult or do violence to a gay trooper, the immediate unit commander may find his or her career foreshortened. Any kind of ugly incident involving gays could result in a negative remark on the promotion-important officers fitness report such as: “rated officer does not support diversity and is not providing the kind of engaged leadership demanded by the new policy.”
The Army’s Chief-of-Staff and the Marine Corps Commandant say their services already have too much on their plates. What will be the reaction of the soon-to-be Republican-controlled House of Representatives? The House, which holds the power of the federal purse, must decide to fund the added housing and other costs that will be incurred by switching from a two- to a three-gender military, or not. Bottom line: No matter how one feels about gender orientation, the next two months should prove very interesting.
Nationally syndicated columnist, William Hamilton, is a retired infantry officer who spent much of his career with airborne-infantry, air-cavalry, and armored-cavalry units.
©2010. William Hamilton.