Corps’ Gay-dar Pings Don’t Ask Don’t Tell

The Corps has strong interest in keeping the current defense policy on homosexuals in the armed forces unchanged according to a series of e-mails and sources in the know. The matter is of such significance that Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. James T. Conway raised the issue in a recent letter to his senior leaders.

In a Personal For (P4) that went to top brass, Conway sought input on a handful of issues.

“… I value your feedback for course directions and rudder steers to the direction of our Corps. On the occasion of this e-mail, I again ask for your thoughts.

To this end, I would like each of you to comment on the following four items and e-mail me your thoughts directly:

  1. As we anticipate dwindling DOD budgets, what USMC programs or enhancements do you consider top priority?
  2. How strongly should we, as an institution, challenge the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy?
  3. What is your opinion of Seabasing? Do you think it represents a vital cog in the future of the Marine Corps as a naval expeditionary force? Do you think our more expensive programs, such as the EFV, JSF, and MV-22 are correctly aligned as a prelude to Seabasing?
  4. Any topic that you think is important and should influence the course and speed of the Corps.

Your thoughts and opinions are vital to the betterment of our institution. Please be focused, and candid but brief in your response – I plan to read every one! As appropriate, include your chain of command. “

Budget and program concerns? Makes sense. Seabasing? Not our favorite topic, but we can see Conway’s tossing that out to the crew, especially in light of his Navy brethren’s search for purpose (and dollars and ships). But if you had three things you could bring with you on that desert island would the question of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” be one of them?

Conway did not just broach “Don’t Ask,” but queried how strongly the Corps as a whole should challenge the policy, or more specifically, intercede in efforts to repeal the policy. Challenge with a MEU? How about a platoon? Or maybe just a couple of guys in Ghillie suits? Possibly press Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Adm. Mike Mullen? Or Secretary of Defense (and Occasional Superhero) Robert M. Gates? Lobby lawmakers? Cut a deal with Murtha?

But we digress.

Do Conway and the Gun Club think the repeal of this policy will hurt the Marine Corps (even if the effects are temporary) and negatively impact its warfighting capability? Is this an indication of systemic homophobia, a cautious leader, or both? We’re told the homophobia may lie with the O-5/O-6 crowd. General officer and the gender-bending junior Generation X’ers and Generation Y-types may well roll their eyes at the very mention of what may be needless hysteria. (There was much panic at Headquarters Marine Corps when “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” first arrived on the scene in the early 1990s. Cue eye roll.)

Is the current policy regarding homosexuals’ military service a true issue for the Marine Corps? Maybe in his next P4 Conway could solicit input about the effect of combat exclusion of women on the Corps. “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” covers sexual orientation but does not bar anyone from an occupational specialty. Combat exclusion (legally) restricts a group based on gender. Concealing one’s sexuality may be a bit of a challenge. Concealing one’s gender is even more of a feat. Concealing one’s frustration over the long-standing endorsement of antiquated (and arbitrary) policies—priceless.

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