Commandant’s Testimony on Don’t Ask Don’t Tell

Adm. Bob Papp, Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard, sits with the chiefs of the Armed Forces before the Senate Armed Services Committee during a hearing to consider the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Patrick Kelley)

Adm. Bob Papp, Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard, sits with the chiefs of the Armed Forces before the Senate Armed Services Committee during a hearing to consider the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Patrick Kelley)

Posted by CDR Glynn Smith on behalf of Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Bob Papp following today’s Congressional testimony before the Senate Committee on Armed Services on possible repeal of the law concerning homosexuals serving in the military.

Earlier today, I testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee, along with my fellow Service Chiefs.  The purpose of the hearing was to allow the Committee to collect the Services’ views on the findings of the Report examining the impacts of repealing the law known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” – which bans gay and lesbian Americans from openly serving in the armed forces.

First and foremost, I want to let all of you know how proud I am of Coast Guard men and women, whose strong survey response rate helped inform the Report.  Our active duty response rate was 54%; our Reserve response rate was 39%; and our spouse response rate was also 39% – which demonstrates your understanding of the importance of this issue.

Adm. Bob Papp, Commandant of the Coast Guard, testifies before the Senate Armed Services Committee during a hearing to consider the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Patrick Kelley)

Adm. Bob Papp, Commandant of the Coast Guard, testifies before the Senate Armed Services Committee during a hearing to consider the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Patrick Kelley)

During my opening statement, I said to the committee, “I concur with the Report’s recommendations on how to implement repeal of the current law.  Allowing gay and lesbian Americans to serve in the Coast Guard openly will remove a significant barrier to those Coast Guardsmen who are capably serving, but who have been forced to hide or even lie about their sexual orientation.  Forcing these Coast Guardsmen to compromise our core values of Honor, Respect and Devotion to Duty to continue to serve is a choice they should not have to make.”

I realize, however, as with any controversial issue, that there are a wide range of viewpoints.  I also know that should Congress repeal the law, implementation will pose challenges – including challenges specific to units and localities.  Therefore, I told the Congress that if they repeal the law, we will need to proceed with caution, and ensure we fashion an implementation strategy that takes into account the attitudes that may relate to how our personnel at varying commands, and within varying communities, live and serve.

The bottom line is that if Congress repeals Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, I have absolute confidence that our officers, chiefs, and senior petty officers will provide the leadership to successfully implement this change.  Similarly, as I told the Congress, I do not harbor the slightest hesitation that Coast Guard men and women will be up to the task.  You prove every day that you are among America’s very best.  I have unshakable confidence in you, and your ability to professionally and effectively implement any change ordered by Congress.

I recommend everyone review the available information on this important issue.  My written testimony is available here, video of today’s hearing is available here, and the report is available here.

Semper Paratus,
Admiral Bob Papp
Commandant