Washington (CNN) – Gay and lesbian members of the military should think twice before participating in a Pentagon survey on the controversial "don't ask, don't tell" policy, according to a key advocacy group pushing to overturn the current law.
The Servicemembers Legal Defense Network - an organization that supports gays and lesbians serving openly in the military - issued a statement Thursday saying it cannot recommend that lesbian, gay, or bisexual service members fill out the Defense Department questionnaire.
"There is no guarantee of privacy and (the Pentagon) has not agreed to provide immunity to service members whose privacy may be inadvertently violated or who inadvertently outs himself or herself," said Aubrey Sarvis, the group's executive director. "If a service member still wishes to participate, he or she should only do so in a manner that does not reveal sexual orientation."
Washington (CNN) – The Pentagon is out to save $100 billion over the next five years in a major push to cut overhead costs, according to U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates.
Gates officially unveiled his plan at a Pentagon news conference Monday, announcing he is putting department acquisition chief Ashton Carter in charge of finding where the $100 billion will come from in the budgets beginning in 2012.
"The department's leadership has already taken strong action in this area, and needs to do more," Gates said.
"Other savings can be found within programs and activities we do need, by conducting them more efficiently. ... I'm confident we'll succeed," he said.
Washington (CNN) - President Barack Obama would veto a military bill that contains spending for programs he opposes, even if the measure also included a provision to repeal the "don't ask, don't tell" policy banning openly gay and lesbian soldiers from military service, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said in an interview broadcast Sunday.
Asked on "FOX News Sunday" about the matter, Gates said Obama was opposed to any move by Congress to fund the C-17 cargo plane or an alternate engine for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter aircraft.
"It would be a very serious mistake to believe that the president would not veto a bill that has the C-17 or the alternative engine in it just because it had other provisions that the president and the administration want," Gates said.
When pushed on whether Obama would veto the bill even if it also included the repeal plan for "don't ask, don't tell," Gates said "I think so."
Washington (CNN) - New documents released Saturday may add new fuel to the debate over Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan, a week before her Senate confirmation hearing begins.
The new documents focus on Kagan when she was dean of Harvard Law School. Pentagon officials had deep concerns whether she would cooperate with military recruiters, just days after the Supreme Court in 2006 allowed the recruiters back on campuses.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, said Saturday that Kagan acted responsibly and allowed military recruiters at the Harvard Law School. "The materials produced by the Department of Defense provide further documentation that military recruiters were never barred from the campus of Harvard Law School, neither before Elena Kagan became Dean, nor during her tenure," Leahy said in a statement. "The unfair charge made by some that Elena Kagan broke the law as Dean continues to have no basis in law or fact."
Kagan's strong views on the recruiting issue have drawn conservative criticism.
Washington (CNN) – The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff walked a fine line Sunday as he stressed the need to complete the military’s internal review of the effects of repealing the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy while remaining sufficiently deferential to Congress, which has taken significant steps in the past week to change the controversial policy.
Watch: Mullen on DADT
Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen and Defense Secretary Robert Gates have both expressed their personal belief that the Clinton-era military policy against gays and lesbians serving openly should be changed. But Gates, the military’s top civilian leader, and much of the military’s top brass, including Mullen, have also said that they believe the Pentagon needs time to survey its rank and file to determine how service members feel about the policy change and to identify potential obstacles and pitfalls in allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly. Under Gates’ direction, the Pentagon has begun a wide-ranging survey the results of which will not be available until December.
But, in a move that seems to be driven by this November’s midterm elections, both the House and a Senate committee passed measures last week that begin the process of repealing the law that created “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” The congressional moves got what can only be described, at best, as a tepid response from Gates and the service chiefs.
Asked about the hurry that the Democratically-controlled Congress now seems to be in to change the policy, Mullen said the military review still needs to be completed and factored into any decision to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
“I still think – and so does the Secretary of Defense – [that] it’s really critical to understand the points of view of those it will affect the most, as we look at the implementation challenges should the law change,” Mullen said Sunday in an interview that aired on CNN’s State of the Union.
“Ideally, I would certainly have preferred that legislation not be brought forward, in terms of the change, until we are completed with that review.,” he added.
Washington (CNN) - Secretary of Defense Robert Gates issued a lukewarm endorsement Tuesday of a newly unveiled Democratic plan to repeal the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy.
The proposed agreement - reached Monday by the White House and top congressional Democrats - calls for a repeal of the controversial policy to become final after completion of a military review expected by the end of 2010, followed by a review certification from President Barack Obama, Gates and Joint
Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen.
Initial votes on the proposal in the Senate Armed Services Committee and the full House could occur as soon as Thursday, sources have told CNN.
Gates "continues to believe that ideally the [Defense Department] review should be completed before there is any legislation to repeal the Don't Ask Don't Tell law," according to a statement by Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell. But "with Congress having indicated that is not possible, the secretary can accept the language in the proposed amendment."
Updated: 1:24 p.m.
Washington (CNN) - Congressional Democrats were working toward an agreement Monday with the White House and possibly the Pentagon on a legislative step toward repealing the "don't ask, don't tell" policy that bars openly gay soldiers from the military, sources told CNN.
In a letter to President Barack Obama obtained by CNN, three congressional sponsors of legislation to repeal the policy outlined the proposed agreement that would set contingencies based on completion of a military review of the matter already underway and subsequent final approval from the president and military leaders.
"We have developed a legislative proposal for consideration by the House and Senate that puts a process in place to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" once the working group has completed its review and you, the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs certify that repeal can be achieved consistent with the military's standards of readiness, effectiveness, unit cohesion, and recruiting and retention," said the letter sent Monday night that was signed by Sen. Carl Levin, D-Michigan, Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Connecticut, and Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Pennsylvania.
Congressional Democratic sources said they hoped Gates himself would explicity support the compromise language because that could determine whether the measure will pass. Several Democrrats in the Senate and House have said they are reluctant to support any legislation that doesn't have complete backing of the Pentagon.
There was no formal comment from the Pentagon on a possible agreement.
"Given that Congress insists on addressing this issue this week, we are trying to gain a better understanding of the legislative proposals they will be considering," said a statement by Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell.
Washington (CNN) – U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates says he will urge President Barack Obama to veto a coming $726 billion defense authorization bill if it contains funding for unwanted projects Gates has been trying to cut for years.
Gates has been vocal about financial reform at the Pentagon, trying to rein in some big-ticket contracts and telling Congress to stop spending money on C-17 transport planes that are not needed and a $485 million alternate engine for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF). The JSF engine program - already delayed and over budget - could end up costing taxpayers billions of dollars, according to Gates.
But with jobs at stake, Congress has ignored those requests for years and continued to appropriate funds for the C-17 and a second F-35 engine.
"The detailed conditions they [Congress] have imposed on the overall JSF program would make it essentially un-executable and impose unacceptable schedule and budget costs," Gates said Thursday at a Pentagon briefing.
Washington (CNN) - The U.S. Army is under fire for reversing a decision to have three companies compete for more than $500 million worth of work in Iraq, and instead keeping it under an existing contract without any bidding.
The $568 million contract for support work in Iraq stayed with contracting giant KBR under the existing sole-source contract - known as Logistics Civil Augmentation Program III (LOGCAP III) - after the Army initially requested bids from KBR and its main competitors, Fluor Intercontinental and DynCorp International, under a competitive contract system known as LOGCAP IV.
The contract work, covering everything from cleaning laundry to preparing food and providing fuel for troops and contractors in Iraq, would be done between September 1, 2010 and December 31, 2011, as the U.S. military begins a massive draw down of troops in Iraq.
KBR won the LOGCAP III contract under competitive bidding in 2001 and military commanders worried about the effects of changing an already existing set-up to another company's set-up.
Washington (CNN) – Defense Secretary Robert Gates is pushing back against liberal criticism that he trying to slow walk the repeal of the military’s "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy. Rather, Gates told CNN the change needs to be done in a way that does not disrupt the armed services.
The Defense Department is currently conducting an internal review of the policy, which will eventually lead to allowing gays and lesbians to openly serve in the military. Late last month, Gates sent a letter to a leading Democrat on Capitol Hill where he urged Congress not to get out in front on the Pentagon on this issue.
"I know there's some that are suspicious out there that this is some kind of effort to slow roll this process," Gates says in an interview set to air Monday on CNN's John King, USA. "But as I said in that testimony, I've led several huge public institutions and I've led change in every one of them and there's a smart way to do change, and there's a stupid way to do change. This one has to be done smart.
"And I think it's only fair as we get ready to make this change that we give our force the opportunity to tell us how they feel about it, for us to find out their concerns, for us to identify the challenges we're going to face if Congress does change the law, and how we will go about doing that, and how we will mitigate negative consequences by what we hear from the force. And so I've said this is not about whether, but about how, and that continues to be our position."