Jarrod Chlapowski

Teasing Accountability out of a Convoluted Situation

Filed By Jarrod Chlapowski | October 22, 2010 1:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics

Don't Ask, Don't Tell has always been inconsistently enforced. As a vaguely written policy based on a vaguely written law enforced at a very low level, the law was doomed to be a failed policy in a very true sense, regardless of one's stance on open service.

dadt2.jpgOne of the very few positive changes DADT provided in its implementation is the fact that all DADT discharges - unless associated with compiled charges - are by default honorable. While an excellent change for those who did go through the discharge process, this also meant that the discharge process would be dealt with as an administrative separation, which is dealt with at the company level for investigations and battalion level for signing off on the discharge.

Administrative discharges at the company level have very little oversight due to the sheer number being conducted, and with a policy that leaves a ton of room for interpretation, a situation is created where a lot of leeway is given on what is considered enough evidence for discharge. Battalion commanders are also relatively low level, one of their primary roles being processing paperwork sent up from their company commanders, so that most discharge paperwork sent up to battalion commanders are not challenged.

It's not set in stone that administrative discharges have to be conducted at the company level, rather it's convention. This technicality gave Secretary of Defense Robert Gates the leeway to adapt the implementation of DADT last March so that the investigating authority was bumped up from company commander to battalion commander, and the signing authority to at least a one star general (likely a post or garrison commander), along with further restrictions on evidence able to be used for discharge under DADT.

Since we're still in fiscal year 2010, discharge numbers after this adaption of DADT are unknown and cannot be FOIA'd, so all we have are anecdotal evidence that at best demonstrate true adaption within the units to these new regs are questionable. Chances are, however, that at least the investigating and signing authorities have been upgraded, as that aspect at least remains pretty clear. From my own experiences and those who are members of SU, this likely significantly increased the number of service members who decide to be open in their units.

Now, here's where it gets interesting: because of the turmoil over DADT repeal has become complex and involves all three branches of government (in case you're wondering, discharges are temporarily allowed to continue), Gates announced that the discharge signing authority is upgraded from a one star to one of the three service secretaries (Army, Navy, and Air Force) in conjunction with the Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness - Clifford Stanley - and the DOD general counsel. The investigating authority is presumed to remain at the battalion level. The idea, here, is that this would effectively severely stall discharge paperwork, which would both limit the amount of discharges processed or submitted. The number of open service members are likely to increase here as well.

There are two problems however. First, if it was within Gates's power to upgrade to the Defense secretaries, why wait until now to do so? Second, if he can effectively encourage open service during this temporary period, why all the bloviating on legislative repeal (which, by the way, more than respects the timeline for Gates's precious study) getting in the way of the Pentagon review process and sending the wrong message to the troops? We almost lost legislative repeal in the House in May because of Gates's letter to Ike Skelton. We did lose the September vote because both the Pentagon and the White House were at best absent from the vote, with less than quiet grumblings from Gates that he wanted the review done before legislative repeal.

Within the context of the already messy situation DADT repeal is in, the interpretation can be that the lawsuits and pending midterm party turnover were not anticipated by both the Pentagon and the Administration, and yet they are still pushing ahead with the same path, only grudgingly making small adaptations to unforeseen circumstances. Try as I might, I don't see how this stance is good for the military. This is not leadership, but stubbornness. This is not progression, but stupidity. It's about time our leaders grow up and realize that it's now or never. Just do it already.

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"We did lose the September vote because both the Pentagon and the White House were at best absent from the vote, with less than quiet grumblings from Gates that he wanted the review done before legislative repeal."

No, it's because of those "60 Votes." We don't have 60 votes in the US Senate and until then we will have to wait for the Courts to end DADT. A President can't change a Senators mind or vote on what they believe is a "moral issue." LGBT-issues continue to be "moral issues" for most politicians.

After the mid-terms we'll have even fewer supporters in the Congress (as few as 50 in the Senate). The last year we have had to endure the ill-conceived Aravosis-Spaulding-GetEQUAL strategy of "embarrassing Democrats." It has hurt our community and it has helped Republicans.

The focus needs to be on those 60 votes if we want to succeed legislatively. Otherwise, just look to the Courts. The President doesn't have a "magic wand" to make laws or end laws. It's silly to continue to believe he does.

Great post, Jarrod. Thanks for explaining some more about what's happening - I was looking just this morning for a mainstream publication that actually understood the announced policy changes.

Actually, at first implementation DADT discharges were supposed to be higher than the command level but the shear number of discharges at the time seemed to pull the authority from higher levels back to the command level.

During the same period, discharges at the descretion of the Commanding Officer were being withdrawn.

In the command I was in at that time, our new CO head hunted nearly 30 people simply to flex his new command muscles.

With all 3 branches stating that this law is unconstitutional, you would think that Congress would simply stand up and vote en mass to recind it. You'd think the DoD would have already sent out training because its obvious that this law is going to be struck down.

You'd think someone would do something. But everyone is waiting from someone else to do it.

This just keeps getting murkier with more details.

...but, if there are more open soldiers...doesn't that mean there will be enormous consequences? But the study!!